Click Effects’ Next-Gen Systems Take In-Venue Graphics to the Next Level in Dallas

American Airlines Center, home to the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and NHL’s Dallas Stars, welcomes thousands of fans through its doors each year for more than 200 events. Getting those fans the stats and information they need – and the immersive, exciting graphics they want – is Click Effects.

And Click Effects, a key player in the live-event A/V space since 1993, is raising the bar with its next-generation CrossFire and Blaze systems.

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American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX

Rather than targeting a trade show or industry conference to unveil its newest gear, Click Effects chose to demo the new-and-improved CrossFire and Blaze systems in their natural habitat: the sports venue.  Click Effects took over American Airlines Center in Dallas last week, transforming the Dallas arena – the first to install the next-gen systems — into a full-scale, live demo.

From a laptop computer located on the club level of American Airlines Center, Click Effects demonstrated how every screen in the arena – including the center hung video board, end displays, digital signage, and ribbon boards – can be controlled through five Click Effects Blaze systems and two Click Effects CrossFire systems.

“The hallmark of everything that we developed has always been with the idea that an operator doesn’t have time to be wrestling with technical equipment,” said Click Effects President Fran Kowalski. “It’s their job to be putting on the show and entertaining fans, and so they want to be able to do that. They need to be tuned into what’s going on and react instantaneously. They need it to be as simple as possible so they can do the most that they possibly can in the easiest fashion.”

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Built in 2001, American Airlines Center upgraded its primary video control room to HD in 2009. At the time, the arena also tapped Dallas, TX-based TS Sports to upgrade the arena’s video displays and Nashville, TN-based Click Effects to power them.

“We were the first major arena that came and put in a graphics solution for display in an arena, and we have been very pleased,” said Randy Breedlove, manager of broadcast services, American Airlines Center. “[Click Effects] has stuck with us every step of the way, helped us work out things the teams wanted to do [and] the way they wanted to have a game presentation, and its worked out very well. We’re really excited about the new generation of graphics.”

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Click Effects’ Cliff Wight demos the next-generation Click Effects gear through a laptop with a remote connection to the graphics control room.

Located on the event level, the American Airlines Center primary video control room features a Sony MVS-8000 switcher and XD Cam recorders, Chyron HyperX graphics engine, and 12 channels of EVS replay. (The venue replaced its outdated router with a PESA Cheetah router and Touch72 router control panel earlier this year.)

In addition to the event-level space, a secondary control room located adjacent to the video control room powers an exterior video display located in the AT&T Plaza. A third control room, located at the top of the arena with a view of the court/ice, houses graphics operators. Those graphics operators, who must be able to react to the game action and the crowd, will now have the added benefits of the next-gen Click Effects systems, including automated data triggers – a new feature that allows operators to pre-program complex events based on game clock and scoring information.

For example, the Mavericks could program the systems to automatically alert fans when franchise star Dirk Nowitzki passes the next player on the all-time scoring list without dedicating an operator to follow his stats.  Or, when the score jumps by three, the systems can be programmed to blast any number of screens with a ‘Three-Point Shot’ graphic, sponsor logo, scorer headshot, and more.

“We can have anything you can think of that has data coming into the building,” explained Cliff Wight, VP and Founding Partner, Click Effects. “Whether it’s game clock, whether it’s clock coming in from the scorers table or out of town scores — we can have a thing where, [if a rival team] falls behind in a game, [the Mavericks] can light up the whole building and say they are losing. That can be an automated thing.”

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American Airlines Center’s event-level primary video control room

During the offseason, the American Airlines Center also converted its closed-circuit TV system, which feeds the displays in the concourses, luxury suites, and more, to a digital QAM system.  The digital QAM system, which runs on existing coax and delivers select DirecTV channels to nearly 700 TVs in the venue, is also tied into the Click Effects systems.

“In the past, [the televisions showed] isolated stand-alone channels of their broadcast with no interaction with the game. We’re now controlling all that — that’s coming off of one of our systems — so now, when there’s a three pointer, we can put up logos on the L bar [on] systems that are in luxury suites and concourses at the concession stands,” continued Wight. “All of that can be interactive now with the game and on an automated basis.”

In addition, Click Effects’ systems enable venue operators to take advantage of display areas previously off-limits; namely, the scoreboard itself and advertiser signage.  Because the systems allow for overlay graphics, a quick ‘Three Point Shot’ or ‘Defense!’ graphic can be pushed to the scoreboard or 360-degree fascia without removing the existing graphic, and dissolve automatically within a few seconds.

“Probably the biggest improvement with the new generation is dynamic ability to do multiple layers,” said Breedlove. “With the new version, [we’re] going to be able to have everything be animated and moving and bring on layers of information, crawls, and just continue to layer new information on top and have kind of an unlimited canvas on which to display without worrying about taxing the engine…  It’s really going to take it to the next level.”