Live From Final Four: AT&T Stadium Delivers Top-Notch In-Venue Experience
It’s AT&T Stadium’s calling card, a monstrous 180-ft. by 72-ft. centerhung scoreboard that simply begs for your attention.
At this weekend’s Final Four, the shock value of the Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision structure is only amplified hovering above a tiny basketball court.
For Dwin Towell, director of broadcast engineering for the Dallas Cowboys, all those eyes being drawn to that board post a challenge: to put on the best show possible.“It’s funny, the board here has been an on-going saga,” says Towell, sitting in a radio box on the press level overlooking the massive video screens. “It’s become a benchmark. People have built bigger boards in various areas, but I think the way this board is laid out makes a big difference. The fact that it is appropriately sized for the venue, the fact that it is suspended in the air, makes it the crown jewel of this stadium. It’s always the center of attention so we have to make a show as good as its position in the building. We’re obligated to put on a show and not just supplement what’s going on.”
With added seating at field level, AT&T Stadium actually had to add four extra LED screens to the main structure’s base so those down in lower seating along the sideline and baseline can actually see the video screens.
The in-venue production team puts out 10 of its own cameras to standard positions throughout the bowl and cuts a show while also using 10 additional feeds from the television compound.
Those cameras and graphics program a board that, this week, is suspended noticeably lower than normal. The structure was lowered to 70 ft. above the court, but, with the added boards underneath, the whole board is just 45 ft. above the court. For Cowboys games, it is 90 ft. above the playing surface.
The NCAA and the Dallas Cowboys have been in planning and discussion on this weekend’s events for over a year. Included in the general live game show are an in-venue studio show and a strong social-media campaign conducted with partner VIXI, a social-media–software platform.
“I used to have one computer in the corner that was for monitoring social media. Now I have an area I call ‘laptop lane,’” laughs Towell. “It’s a row of laptops, and they’re all doing something different, and it’s getting incorporated into our show.”
This weekend’s events also benefited for a major upgrade in the stadium’s WiFi and 4G LTE Distributed Antenna System (DAS). For the 2013 Cowboys season, AT&T, fresh off the signing of its sponsorship deal with the stadium, radically enhanced the building’s wireless-service capabilities. According to Towell, the project quadrupled the capacity of the WiFi inside AT&T Stadium.
“We added some additional fiber [for the Final Four],” he says, “but it’s amazing how little change to the basic infrastructure we had to make here because we have a lot.”