Venue Technology Summit: In the IP Era, Convergence Is King

With its center-hung scoreboard and hundreds of LED screens, Barclays Center boasts nearly 8,000 sq. ft. of surface space for video — and that’s not counting the myriad mobile devices that come through its doors each night. From video-production teams to IT professionals and everyone in between, it takes an army to produce and distribute content and a robust IP infrastructure to make it possible. At last week’s Venue Technology Summit, convergence — not to mention, cooperation — was undoubtedly the theme of the day.

Lorraine Spadaro, VP of technology and ebusiness for TD Garden, described the gradual convergence of the AV/broadcast team, IT team, and data/integration-solutions team.

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TD Garden’s Lorraine Spadaro explains her venue’s approach to IP, alongside Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment’s Robert Jordan (left) and moeBAM! Venue Media Services’ Rick Price.

“We’re a 19-year-old facility, and it’s remarkable how diverse and independent those were 19 years ago and how remarkably converged they are today,” she said. “My audio/visual production people are talking to my IT people; my IT team is having to understand that we’re going to be pushing video throughout the stadium as we contemplate all of our upgrades. Skills have had to be adjusted. We’ve all sort of had to get out of our comfort zone and our wheelhouse and learn how this converged world is going to live together and build an infrastructure for the future.”

The University of Washington recently underwent a massive transformation in which a centralized control room was built to support every sports facility on campus. An IP infrastructure supports the control room’s ability to serve several remote productions but first required extensive training.

“We had individuals on the network side that had never seen encoding and decoding like we brought in,” reported Robert Jordan, SVP, Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment, who spearheaded the project. “They’d just never seen bandwidth that we started pushing around. They’d never seen WiFi get pushed out as far and as dense as we pushed out. … We’re now talking about how we’re starting to switch shows and create the [mobile-device] show and the IPTV show. We’re switching in IP. It changed their workflow completely.”

Harris Broadcast's Kerry Wheeles offers the manufacturer perspective.

Harris Broadcast’s Kerry Wheeles offers the manufacturer perspective.

In order to push out the vast amount of video content needed to populate LED screens and mobile devices, production and IT teams need to be well-versed in each other’s workflows and troubleshooting methods. For example, said Spadaro, Cisco’s StadiumVision takes a production team to build video and an IT team to support the video player, leaving a gap in the middle. The answer isn’t creating a third team to bridge that gap but, instead, finding commonality between the skills of the production and IT teams.

Understand your team’s vision, the panelists urged, and know your audience.

“From a manufacturer point of view, when you go into a new customer or you’re talking to a systems integrator, some of them are still coming from a broadcast perspective; some of them are coming from the IT perspective. You’re either teaching the IT guys how to do video or teaching the video guys how to do IT,” said Kerry Wheeles, CTO, Harris Broadcast. “Everybody wants to keep it simple. Don’t make it hard to figure out where the problem is; don’t make it hard to figure out how to get a signal from point A to point B. Change your bit flow but not your workflow.”

NBA's Mike Rokosa discusses the league's player-tracking technology.

NBA’s Mike Rokosa discusses the league’s player-tracking technology.

The NBA recently added another data source to its workflow, adopting STATS SportsVU player-tracking technology league-wide. Six Prosilica gc1600ch cameras will be mounted high above each NBA court, tracking players and delivering detailed statistics to the league, teams, and fans through Web platforms.

“We’re putting cameras up. We’re doing visual tracking of players, we’re attaching data to it, we’re going to derive a whole lot of different metadata from it,” explained Mike Rokosa, VP of operations and engineering, NBA. “First and foremost, it’s going to be for the coaching. … From that, we’re going to hopefully derive a number of things that we can do to drive NBA.com and tell more stories from that information.”

By installing and leveraging an IP infrastructure, venues can embrace additional data-collection technologies, such as player tracking, and incorporate them into video-production workflows. Rick Price, president of moeBAM! Venue Media Services and committee chair of SVG’s Venue Technology Committee, serves as an IPTV consultant for the Denver Broncos and has seen firsthand the amount of data now available for teams and their efforts to repurpose for fans.

“Between all the statistical data just coming from courtside to now all the cameras in ceilings and the motion-tracking data and all that [and] being able to capture that data and repurpose it not only for coaching aspects [but] also delivering the fan experience through that data — integrating [that] has become really a major opportunity,” he said. “I think we’re just scratching the surface on delivering data-driven experiences to all of the visual devices in a venue.”