PNC Park Scoreboard Operations Keep Pace With Red-Hot Team

Pittsburgh Pirates’ home gets new HD control room

It’s only fitting that the resurgence of the Pittsburgh Pirates on the field is matched by a resurgence of scoreboard operations at PNC Park, the team’s home beside the Allegheny River.

After working with an all-SD control room, the team has finally made the move to HD, the first step in a move to all-HD that will eventually include an HD scoreboard. WJHW was hired as a consultant and ultimately tapped Alpha Video and Sony to design, construct, and build the control room.

On the bank of the Allegheny, PNC Park has converted its scoreboard to HD.

On the bank of the Allegheny, PNC Park has converted its scoreboard to HD.

The old system was based on a Ross Video Synergy production switcher, an Avid Deko for character generation, an Avid Thunder for clip playout, and an EVS replay system. A Daktronics Venus 7000 scoreboard-control system was used to reconfigure the look of the scoreboard.

The new setup, however, changes all that, thanks to the use of five Ross Xpression real-time motion-graphics systems. Three of them are used for the main scoreboard presentation, and two are dedicated to creation and deployment of L-shaped graphics on the in-house TV system. Other new gear includes a Sony MVS-7000 production switcher and two Evertz DreamCatcher replay servers, each with six channels of input and two channels of output as well as the ability to play back clips. The team added four Sony HDC-2570 HD camera systems and two Sony PDW-850 XDCAM camcorders.

“Everything we do in the show now is dynamic, as our old Daktronics Venus system was limited to breaking up the scoreboard into separate windows,” says Matt Zidik, manager of in-game entertainment, Pittsburgh Pirates. “But, with the Ross Xpression system, we can put any element over anything, and we are not constrained by a box.”

Replays, for example, can go from a portion of the screen to full screen at the push of a button. And graphics elements and crowd prompts can be layered on top of other images on the scoreboard.

“It makes crowd prompts really dynamic,” says Zidik, “and we also have Twitter integration and scoreboard graphics that look amazing. They are the best I have seen in baseball.”

Inside the PNC Park scoreboard-control room

Inside the PNC Park scoreboard-control room

Ross Video’s “Rocket Surgery” creative-services team was also involved and helped Zidik’s vision become a reality.

Zidik and the team had some aggressive ideas for the use of graphics, says Kevin Cottam, business development manager, sports and entertainment, Ross Video. “Matt did the design and the artwork for all of the graphics,” he points out, “and our team took those elements and brought them into the Xpression and built out all the templates.”

Cottam adds that the use of a virtual set has jazzed up the look and feel of the production. Graphics are layered within a virtual set, and 3D-camera moves within that set fly to a different object. “You see all the 3D elements kind of zipping by. It’s really neat.”

The production team is still getting used to all the new firepower in what Zidik calls a “constant learning process” since the system was up and running only a week before the season started. Next offseason will offer an opportunity to learn how to get the most out of the system, although, he adds, learning to use some tools, such as the DreamCatcher, took little time.

“Evertz purposely built it to be very similar to the EVS, so the learning curve is quick to do standard replays,” he explains. “And, with two servers that each have six inputs and two outputs, there is a big difference in what replays are available to show.”

For example, the team previously would take the program feed out of the broadcast-TV production truck and also make use of the camera feeds from the scoreboard production. But now the production team can bring in other camera outputs from the truck in addition to the four camera feeds captured by the scoreboard-production team.

Audio has also gotten a lift. A Dante system delivers multichannel audio signals with low latency throughout the building via a standard Ethernet network. “It has really helped with special events on our club level,” says Zidik. “We can have three separate event areas and connect or separate the audio for each at the click of a button using Dante.”

He adds, “We try to do as much as we can with our in-house team; we have three full-time staffers and one part-time staffer. We will produce all of our own graphics and videos and occasionally go outside for graphics from Pittsburgh’s own New Perspective and Phenomenon.” Cake Studios in Burbank, CA, and Baker Image Group in Kansas City, MO, also support the productions.

Adds Sony Electronics National Sales Manager Chris Sullivan, “Pittsburgh’s always been near and dear to our heart as that is where we had our TV plant. It closed down seven years ago, but we still maintain a very good relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates. So we were happy to get an opportunity to continue that long relationship that we have with the Pirates and put together an offer that they want to go forward with.”