University of Arizona Upgrades Video Offerings with Souped-Up Control Room

When the newly crowned National Champion Arizona Wildcats baseball team returned to Tucson earlier this week, the campus was ready for a party and the school’s athletics video department arm, Catvision, was there to capture the celebration.

Working out of their, now, one-year-old control room, the production team was able to broadcast live to the school’s athletics Website as a cameraman followed the team from their bus across campus to their welcoming party. The show gave fans a unique way of experiencing the celebration.

Only a year ago, this was a broadcast that never would have been possible.

“We would cover our events but we would shy away from any special event that people wanted to do because we were just afraid we wouldn’t be able to get it done or we didn’t have the capability to pull it off,” says Matt George, director of video and information technology for University of Arizona Athletics. “Now we jump into anything that we can do to utilize our equipment and put it to good use. It’s a world of difference.”

The centralized control room is located in the McKale Memorial Center and supports a number of Wildcat teams beyond football and basketball, including volleyball, baseball, softball, and gymnastics. It is directly connected via fiber to McKale, as well as Arizona Stadium (football) and Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium (softball).

Arizona’s campus offered a unique fibering opportunity where, as opposed to digging up part of the campus or lighting up dark fiber, the department utilized the campus’ famed Utility Tunnel system.

Built in the 1950s as air raid shelters, the University of Arizona’s elaborate system of bunkers runs underneath its surface. Over the years, they have carried electricity lines, telephone lines, heating conduits and in some cases, water lines. The system runs from building to building and inlets to the buildings are in the basements of the structures. The Utility Tunnels served as perfect avenues for the broadcast facility’s new fiber infrastructure.

Arizona handled their build out, as George says, “a little bit differently than other people.” The facility was built out to about 90% capacity, leaving the video team with the flexibility to build out the final 10% over the course of the past academic year, allowing them to adjust their needs as they worked and experimented through their first season in the facility. This summer, George and the team are using the off months to finalize the last 10% of the project.

The control room is outfitted with a load of Ross Video gear, including a Vision 2M Control Panel, a SoftMetal Video Server, XPression graphics, and the NK Series routing system. The school also invested in four new Hitachi 5000 cameras and coupled them with Fujinon 50x lenses.

The University of Arizona's control room, constructed last summer, serves all of the major event facilities on the school's Tucson campus.

The core component assembly was wrapped up with the purchase of a Tightrope Media Systems’ ZEPLAY multichannel slow-motion instant replay system. George admitted that he didn’t know anything about Tightrope before attending NAB in 2011. He ended up purchasing two units, giving him eight channels of live replay, a built-in multiviewer for studying angles, and multiple tagging options for storage, recall, and creating highlight packages on the fly.

“We build profiles for each sport, and operators can just pull down the home team, type in the player number and use the hot button to tag a play,” said George. “This is especially ideal in basketball, where fans are close to the action. If a player has a scoring spurt, we can throw together a quick package during the break to keep the crowd pumped up. We couldn’t do that without the tagging options.”

This new control room is a major step up from the previous facility – a unit George called “pitiful.” The analog-based center was constructed in 2001 with a budget of $100,000. The new center was erected at a whopping $1.2 million.

“The new control room is an improvement over the previous one in the way that driving a jalopy on a racetrack would compare to having a brand new Corvette,” cracked George.