Video Revamp at Southern Illinois University, Part 1

Chris Hagstrom, director of video services for the Southern Illinois University Athletics Department, talks about the upgrade of SIU’s football stadium and basketball arena. 7/21/2011 3:00 AM Eastern

Video Revamp at Southern Illinois University, Part 1

Jul 21, 2011 7:00 AM, with Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

With two sports venues, Southern Illinois University had to stretch its video dollars to best cover football and basketball. They built a control room common to both and linked them with the Copperhead system from Telecast Fiber, and Videos Services Director Chris Hagstrom is here to tell us how they set it all up. That’s coming up next on the SVC podcast.
Chris, it’s great to have you with me on the SVC podcast and you’re coming to us from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale where you’re obviously big into football and basketball and video on those events. What’s the university like up there? How big a place is it?

Well the university itself is about a 20,000-student campus. It’s very well-centralized as opposed to some of the campuses that are more spread out—the buildings are all over the place. The campus itself has a lot of their student buildings all focused with central student housing—beautiful area. You really couldn’t ask for a more beautiful campus in my opinion. You’ve got wonderful trees and foliage around. They do a really good job of maintaining the landscape of campus, of course the new additions of facilities makes things look a lot nicer when you’re coming into campus. Originally, you used to see our old stadium, which was a big rust bucket frankly, when you’re coming into campus but now with the renovations that are happening, the campus is really taking a turn to beautify it more than just the landscape. [Timestamp: 1:45]

Of course you’re with the video services team and it sounds as though you guys are very busy, especially when you’ve got sports events going on. So what all does the video services team provide for the university?
Well, we handle all the athletic events that require any kind of video streaming, asking us to come out and video their events, interviews, and really the department just formed almost a year ago next month. There was no such thing as a video service department in athletics for the entire history. They just recently developed the position due to the new video boards that were being constructed and the renovations of the arena and the new stadium being built, but we’ve also been asked by other campus entities to help them out in the system in filming other events and functions like our chancellor's installation…we were asked to help out with some other productions for our on-campus television station. So we really became a part in just a short year…have become a part of not just athletics shooting football, basketball games, volleyball matches, softball and baseball games but also becoming a part of the campus itself and helping out other departments who are looking to break into the video area. [Timestamp: 3:01]

And a pretty distinguished outfit it seems, because I understand you have a video there that was nominated for a national sports award.
We…actually was just nominated for our introduction that we use for our football team. It’s called Saluki Football-Ladies and Gentlemen. It plays off the song “Ladies and Gentlemen” by Saliva, and we were just nominated just a few weeks back and excited to head on down to Atlanta, Georgia for the sports video group awards the College Sports Video Summit so we’re anxious and we’re hoping to claim out the victory on that one. [Timestamp: 3:35]

Well we hope you have a good time here in our town when you get here.
I appreciate it.

So this upgrade was obviously substantial. This was a really big deal so how did the upgrade come about for the SIU athletic department? What did you already have there and what did you need to improve on?
Well, really it started back in 2005 when the chancellor at the time unveiled at multimillion-dollar project called Saluki, and part of the reason for the development of the project was not just for athletics but also for academics and student services. So the plan was unveiled in 2005, which the first phase included a new football stadium and renovated SIU arena and new classrooms, student services building, and a track and field complex now the initial first phase for the football stadium, the renovated arena and a new building for athletics cost right about $83 million and that was the initial cost for the entire project for athletics and our old stadium, as I mentioned earlier, was just very old it was built in 1938 and had very, very limited upgrades to it since then so there was no real way to rehab the facility anymore, and they decided it was time for a brand-new stadium with the new luxury boxes, a new video board, a new surface, and a little more of an inviting atmosphere. Whereas our old football stadium had the track around it, our new stadium does not have the track and it’s a much more closer environment and the fans can really be on top of the opposing team and really make their voices heard. The arena that was renovated was built in the 60’s—1962—and greats like Walt Frazier was an SIU alum. He played for SIU—other players like Larry Bird have come through the arena. I’ve seen a lot of great events at the arena and again the same thing is it really has not seen a whole lot of upgrades since then. So they tore up all the seating, the resurfaced the floor, hung a new video board, added an actual concourse because they was no physical concourse in the arena either, so that was added as well as the Boydston Center, which is an administrative building for football and basketball with new locker rooms, coaches offices, screening rooms, a video department for going over game film for football and basketball, so the overall athletic side of it was a huge, huge upgrade that all started just from the plans to revamp campus and we’re really excited to now be benefiting from the fruits of that labor. [Timestamp: 6:05]

And I think the fiber optics were a big part of this—feeding video to some big displays in the stadium. How big are the screens in Saluki Stadium? It sounds to me like you’ve got the crowd really into video so how do you get the video to the screens?
Well, to the screen we use fiber cable that…it’s a single mode fiber that goes from football and it actually goes to our arena, which is about 750yds. away. We only have one control room that controls both basketball and football video so that was a big challenge to pull all that fiber into one room, having to go around different buildings and finding all the right conduit but at again, single channel fiber between the Saluki Stadium and the arena and the video board itself is a great, great jewel for the stadium—22ft. tall by 32, almost 33 ft. wide and the screen itself is 20 ml’s so again it’s a really, really nice screen and our basketball facility which we will get to later on is very similar to that but we’re so pleased just with the…the key ability of fiber now. I mean you see fiber being used more and more in new facilities but just the speed of transmission is fantastic and all the different things you can do with fiber have really made my job a lot easier. [Timestamp: 7:25]

Video Revamp at Southern Illinois University, Part 1

Jul 21, 2011 7:00 AM, with Bennett Liles

Right, and you're feeding video by fiber back from the cameras?
Correct, we feed the fiber not just from the video board to the control room but also we have a three-camera system set up utilizing the Copperhead system from Telecast fiber where we are able to control our cameras. We control the…all different aspects for us with color correction, the iris, black level and of course our headset system as well plus the video itself. We have three different positions for that our high camera of course on top of the press box, our south end zone camera and we also have a field cam as well. Those are all controlled by fiber. We do have a fourth camera that utilizes a wireless system but that’s just over component cable you can definitely tell there’s a slight difference in quality but it’s…as long as you are wide balancing and you do all the right things that a video person should know and should do you don’t notice too much of a difference. [Timestamp: 8:19]

Now who did you call for all the installation work on that?
We utilized Texas Star Sports out of Dallas and they were just…they’ve been phenomenal. I’ve actually worked with them on a previous project with the Southern Illinois Minors and a baseball team in Marion which is about 13 miles away from Carbondale, but they were fantastic to work with. They had great competitive pricing. The quality of their products, I thought, were just above the other competitors that we had. Ron Stevens and Steve Hutchins were both guys that I’d worked with, with the project and Jason King—who is our senior associate athletic director for facilities and game operations—he was working on this project since day one so he was really the point person that handled a lot of…not the video side but more of the physical facilities and working with all three of those individuals really made this such an easy transition—getting all the components, people trained and everything you need to know just made it so simple. [Timestamp: 9:14]

Now how do you do the cameras for the games? Are those manned cameras or PTZ remote? What’s the situation on that?
Our cameras are manned by students and it’s unique for us—a lot of venues are starting to pick up on…if you’re on a college campus you’ve got this huge crop of students that want to learn this business and they want to learn how to get involved in video so what we’ve done is we’ve partnered with our college of mass communication and media arts. And I actually graduated from Southern Illinois so I have a great repertoire with that college. So we developed a class called “Sports Venue Production” where students who understand the basics of camera work come in, they learn the cameras, they learn how to produce a athletic…an athletic event for the venue…not just for the venue but also for webcasting purpose as well. So we get a great amount of students that come in this first year we’ve maxed out our classes both years. Its 15 students—we actually had to turn some people away from the class in its first year so that just, to me, shows that there’s an interest here on the campus and the quality of the production is just fantastic. A lot of people have commented that our students…or just the games overall are so well done and that just a testament to our students and their hard work that they put in. [Timestamp: 10:31]

Yeah, I can imagine you’ve got a waiting list for that because that would be something the students really want to get involved in. You mentioned earlier though, a basketball arena upgrade that you had done at the same time. Now I thought that was a great idea having one control room for both since you’re unlikely to be having basketball and football going on at the very same time. The fiber lines were a good way to allow a single control room for both venues. So what was going on at the basketball arena upgrade?
Well, the basketball arena upgrade was completed about a month after football was completed. We have all the same equipment that we can utilize. We have the 3play system that we have implemented for our replays, all of our directors features, switcher across fiber and blaze controlling the boards themselves and really the only thing that I have to do on a game day, there are times we’ll have a football game one day and a basketball game the next day. I just go to my fiber patch panel, re-patch from football to basketball and utilizing the same…that as the same room we can do football games and basketball games with ease. In basketball we have a high camera and two courtside cameras and again we use that fourth wireless cameras wherever we need to whether its…the transmitter will be up high and the camera can go all over the concourse in the arena. Great…great signal strength which I was honestly surprised a little bit about that we didn’t have too much signal degradation when we went underneath the stands into the concourse area but again, utilizing the same equipment we’ve purchased three cameras, three JVC HD cameras which Fujinon lenses. I began using the Copperhead Telecast system and being able to have high-end equipment…oh but granted you’re only using limited equipment—we only have three cameras but the fact that we’re able to utilize them for two different venues on different days makes it so much easier. And the decision was easy to purchase that equipment going high-end with fewer pieces as opposed to purchasing more pieces goes lower end so we were really happy that we could utilize all the HD qualities for both football and basketball. [Timestamp: 12:41]

Yeah that’s a pretty competitive field on the fiber transmission. Why did you choose the Copperhead system from Telecast Fiber?
When we were doing our research we talked with…we were with Texas Star—went through the different other competitors out there. Copperhead was—I thought when we were going through this—a fantastic product for what we needed. Now there are other systems out there that are a little more expensive but they also do more—for what we needed for our university Copperhead made the most sense. We also worked with a group called Media Support Group that did the actual installation oversaw by Texas Star but they did the actual installation of the system and we felt that utilizing those SDI feeds with all our intercom and CCU signals really just made the most sense. We didn’t need to utilize some of the PTZ zooms and focus—while that would be fantastic to have we’ve got the student bodies to use to actually man the cameras so we didn’t feel that we needed to remotely control them but Copperhead made the most sense to me as well as Texas Star for what our capabilities were. [Timestamp: 13: 46]

Well, this is going to be interesting in Part 2 when we get into the details of what goes on on game days and exactly how you pull this off, because sports obviously has some rabid fans and they don’t want to lose a second of it and I know the stakes are really high. I really appreciate you being here Chris. Chris Hagstrom from the video services team at Southern Illinois University, thanks for being here.

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