Venue Technology Summit: Miami Franchises Share Video Philosophies

Local sports franchises took to the stage at the SVG Venue Technology Summit at Marlins Park in Miami to discuss how the in-venue video experience has evolved in a market known for flash, sizzle, and style.

NBA champion Miami Heat reported on a video department that addresses the needs of fans not only in the venue but also across the globe.

“In 2008, we were the worst team in the NBA, but we worked harder and created just as much content as we did in 2006, when we won the NBA championship,” said Ed Filomia, senior director of broadcast services, The HEAT Group. “In 2012, everything changed, and we had to do things like hire Chinese producers for a Chinese Website that could reach out to fans halfway around the world.”

From left: Miami Marlins’ Larry Blocker, Miami Dolphins’ Bryan Lykins, The HEAT Group’s Ed Filomia, Conference Chairman Rick Price, who moderated the panel.

The staff for the Miami Heat has continued to grow, producing more than 150 pieces of original content each month. Key to that process is the use of an Avid Interplay server system.

“It allows us to share assets as we grew from a facility with four edit suites to one with 17 editing stations: 12 desktop stations and five full editing suites,” he says. “And we are tailoring content for the Internet so that a piece can reach the maximum number of eyeballs.”

The Miami Marlins’ video-production team, led by Larry Blocker, director of game presentation and events, just finished its first season in a new home that is a vast canvas of Daktronics scoreboards and digital signage systems.

“Daktronics also gave us 5,000 hours of content-creation support,” Blocker noted, “so we use them for content for the ribbons and menu boards.”

One of the challenges facing venue content creators is that many of the screens are not the same size. Blocker said it is getting easier to take a piece of content and reformat it and centering graphics is always one way to make sure an experience works on different-size screens.

Whereas the Marlins are settling into a new home, Bryan Lykins, director of broadcast engineering, Miami Dolphins, has a mix of an older stadium with newer display technologies, such as ribbon boards and a massive six-year-old Daktronics display that allows a large 720p image to be located between two pillars of video board that can provide graphics and statistical information.

“A couple of years ago, we rebuilt the control room to streamline our operations and condense our game-day staff with things like automated stats,” Lykins added.

One luxury the Dolphins team has is that the marketing-partnership team is responsible for bringing together the videos and graphics from those who advertise, allowing the creative team to focus on internal content needs.

“We’re a cohesive team,” Lykins said, “and we have more confidence that we can get the marketing team what they need.”

The next need for the marketing department may be less about the big screen and more about the small one.

“Mobile devices are a really big deal, as every one wants to be on their phone,” said Lykins. “So we are thinking about different types of content and integrating camera angles.”

Filomia noted the need to push content to mobile devices: “It’s what fans are craving, and the number-one complaint is not getting good cellular service.”

Although the video-production teams at MLB, NFL, and NBA franchises have similar goals, league policies differ on replays that can limit (or expand) the fan experience.

The NBA, for example, pushes the use of video and limits showing things like flagrant fouls or other images that may incite fans. MLB’s philosophy, on the other hand, is to not show up the umpires. That means no replays of called strikes or slow-motion replays of close plays. And that does pose a challenge for venues trying to get fans in the seats.

“Fans get a better feed at home [of the replay of a home run under review] while, at the ballpark, the fans have to wait,” said Blocker.

The NFL policy, meanwhile, allows the in-venue video team to show the instant-replay feed that the head umpire is watching beneath the instant-replay hood.

“They can see what the referee is slowing down and zooming in on, and that keeps them coming to the stadium,” said Lykins. “We don’t play flagrant fouls, but we do show as many replays as we can. The NFL is a fan experience, and it shows the fans that the league is open with them.”

Click here for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the Sports Venue Technology Summit in Miami!