Sports Venue Technology Summit: Venue Control Rooms Grow in Scope, Complexity as Video Demands Explode

Once upon a time, a venue control room was a fairly straightforward facility with a fairly straightforward function: serving video to a big board and audio to a big PA system. Today’s control room, however, is responsible for much more, said Alpha Video VP Jeff Volk, during a panel discussion at the SVG Sports Venue Technology Summit at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on June 23.

“It’s more of a fan engagement center than a control room,” he said, adding that not only are in-venue displays part of their purview, but handheld and forward-facing mobile devices as well.

Duane Yoslov, VP, Diversified Systems, concurred, adding that the production team needs to feed social media and also take from social media, as well as address the needs of the marketing department and even point of sale.

“Once a control room would have one edit bay and now we are getting to having a half-dozen edit bays associated with the production,” he added. “The San Francisco Giants even formed a group, San Francisco Giants Production, that does commercial work and has become a revenue center.”

From left to right: BeckTV's John FitzRandolph, Ross Video's Kevin Cottam, and Diversified Systems' Duane Yoslov discuss maximizing control rooms.

From left to right: BeckTV’s John FitzRandolph, Ross Video’s Kevin Cottam, and Diversified Systems’ Duane Yoslov discuss maximizing control rooms.

And pro teams (especially NFL clubs), added Volk, are adding production studios in order to produce coach and highlight shows, while colleges, increasingly, are meeting the needs of conference-wide college networks via multiple control rooms, multiple studios, and multiple edit bays.

“That is because there is such a large demand for content,” he added.

That is one of the reasons Kevin Cottam, business development manager, sports and live events, Ross Video, said the most important part of venue operations is integration of products, as the goal, ultimately, is to streamline operations.

“The production switcher is the main piece in the control room to trigger elements,” he explained. “And graphics have taken off, and there is data integration, so that information can be taken in, parsed, and displayed.”

He pointed to Ross Xpression, a real-time motion graphics system and clip server that has taken off and has a dashboard control system for triggering animations within templates.

For example, PNC Park in Pittsburgh has a channel of Xpression that controls 3,000 objects within one scene. With automation those objects can be controlled without operator intervention.

Broncos' Pat Jordan, Alpha Video's Jeff Volk, and SVG Venue Initiative Chairman Rick Price joined in on the control-room conversation.

Broncos’ Pat Jordan, Alpha Video’s Jeff Volk, and SVG Venue Initiative Chairman Rick Price joined in on the control-room conversation.

Automated tools go a long way towards taking a piece of technology and turning it into something valuable to the organization across the board.

“Don’t lose track of who you are,” added John FitzRandolph, VP of Engineering, BeckTV. “You are supporting an organization and that’s what you do. You want to take technology and use it to support the organization.”

Another trend is the area of asset management, as Volk said that upwards of 80% of new projects include some form of shared storage and archiving. Two years ago, only 60% of projects looked for asset-management solutions.

“It is difficult to get funding, as it is harder to prove the return on investment than it is for a control room,” he explained. “But [organizations] are seeing the value as more and more content is created.”

The Denver Broncos embody that shift as Pat Jordan, director of technical and broadcast operations for the team, said the Broncos have 48TB of shared storage from Facilis, 96 TB of NetApp tier 2 storage, and six Adobe editing systems on hand to meet those needs.

It’s all part of the process to monetize the entire venue more effectively.

“We monetize our IPTV system on a daily basis,” he said, adding that the south scoreboard is best bet for doing so. “There is a heavy price tag on that for anyone who wants to put their logo up, but you cannot find anything close to it in this region.”