Dodger Stadium Video Upgrade, Part 1

To welcome baseball season, Dodger Stadium has gotten a complete makeover including all new video displays with massive LED screens, videowalls, and ribbon displays. 5/02/2013 7:19 AM Eastern

Dodger Stadium Video Upgrade, Part 1

May 2, 2013 11:19 AM, With Bennett Liles

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To welcome baseball season, Dodger Stadium has gotten a complete makeover including all new video displays with massive LED screens, videowalls, and ribbon displays. ANC Sports came in for the job and Chris Mascatello is here to give us a look at what’s there and how it was all set up, coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Chris, thanks for being with us on the SVC Podcast from ANC Sports. A big installation project at Dodger Stadium, but big jobs are nothing new for ANC Sports. What’s been happening there and what all does the company get into?

Chris Mascatello: Well, thanks for having me. It’s good to be back. ANC Sports is a multimedia integrated display solution provider for sports and entertainment venues around North America. We’ve been really in a boom over the last 12 months, having the opportunity to design and integrate some of the largest and most unique sports signage systems in the U.S. We did, on our last call, talk about the largest end-zone video screens in the world for the Tennessee Titans. Since we’ve spoken, we also installed a very large rectangular scoreboard that stretches from foul line to foul line for the Indiana Pacers at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, and we now have a really busy slate of major league baseball projects that are going to be very intriguing for us, and looking to take the LED technology to the next level. [Timestamp: 1:55]

A timely topic with baseball season cranking up. The video displays project at Dodger Stadium was part of a massive overhaul of the whole place. What did the Dodgers organization want from the video upgrade? I think they already had some display technology in there from back around 1980.

The stadium just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. In 1980, the Dodgers replaced their left centerfield message board with, at the time, what was one of the first full-color video screens in sports. Yeah, that was 1980 and that screen deviated from the previous shape of the scoreboard structure, which is what they call the iconic Dodgers Stadium Chevron; or basically it’s a hexagonal design. So they had a rectangle in left center field and the chevron shape in right center field in 1980. They updated their video board in 2003 to an LED display that at the time was one of the largest in major league baseball, at roughly 26ft. by 46ft. Now we’ve gotten into the era of high definition and 1080p, and in some instances we’re really talking greater than HD and starting to look at 4K resolutions in the coming years. So the Dodgers, under new ownership from the earlier part of last season, really decided that they wanted to shape that iconic ballpark while maintaining the sort of retro stadium charm that’s always been part of that iconic facility. [Timestamp: 3:27]

And so they called in ANC Sports to bring the stadium displays up to modern-day standards and what did they want to set up in there to replace the old screens?

The first design architectural thought was from the folks at Dodgers Stadium, including Janet Marie Smith, who has helped and worked on Fenway Park master renovation plan that just wrapped up last year, being part of the Oriole Park at Camden Yards team that really kicked off the renaissance of baseball park design. So she was brought on to bring Dodger Stadium up to current-day standards and really push the envelope. So one of the first orders of business, as they looked at what they could do from a video board perspective, was they knew they wanted to go back to the iconic Dodger Stadium Chevron shape on both the left-center and right-center field scoreboards. So that was their first step. They really had a vision for what the outfield display areas were going look like, and then it was a matter of really looking at what was possible from an engineering standpoint in a ballpark that was 50 years old located in a seismic zone like Los Angeles, as well as trying to keep some semblance of a video display that fits with the rest of Dodger Stadium. They didn’t want to put in the world’s largest video screen because that wouldn’t fit with the look and feel of the ballpark. So we started doing some studies with them and looking at the engineering, and we really came to what was a nice, mid-ground of a larger video display—about 20 percent larger on both structures. And these new structures the face is entirely LED, so they’re very technologically advanced at that level, and also maximizing what the existing foundations and structural steel concrete footer uprights could sustain so they didn’t have to invest millions and millions of dollars to put in new support members. And so starting with that as the second point, we wanted to go [with a] chevron design and they didn’t want to go too big and they wanted to maximize what they could do with the existing structure. We then looked at and worked backwards from the approximate height and width that we were able to work with and came to the conclusion that a 10mm videoscreen was going to be the option that got them above 1080 resolution, which I think is crucial in this day and age with everyone’s home TV now being 1080p. What that did is really it makes the Dodgers the first team in major league baseball to go to a primary videoscreen, and in this case, two primary videoscreens utilizing 10mm LED spacing. The industry standard right now is somewhere between 16mm and 20mm. So the metaphor that I’ve used in the past is they’ve installed the first retina display in baseball. The dots are going to be so close together that almost every fan in the seats, including the ones in the bleachers below the scoreboard, that they look back at the screens, they’re going to just see image. They’re not going be able to see any of the individual LED’s that are making up the display. So we’re excited to debut this technology into major league baseball. [Timestamp: 6:43]

Dodger Stadium Video Upgrade, Part 1

May 2, 2013 11:19 AM, With Bennett Liles

Of course LED screens aren’t that new, but the newest technology in those is the surface-mount design. Now what’s the difference between the surface-mount LED screens and the older ones that were already in a lot of stadiums?

In the outdoor marketplace, the traditional LED displays—and probably 80-90 plus percent of what you’ve seen over the last few years—utilized discrete LEDs or LED lamps, as they’re called in the industry. They basically look like the Christmas tree lights that everyone’s familiar with. They are individual little bulbs with one single color filament—LED diode—inside and you have a red, a green, and a blue. Put them together, then you get one pixel that gives you the ability to do all the colors of the visible spectrum. The surface-mount LED takes all three colors, so all three LED elements, and packages them in one very small, self-contained package. What that lets you do is you have much tighter placement of the actual colors. So again the eye, from a similar distance and similar product, a traditional lamp display, you can see a red, a green, and a blue, almost like you’re looking at a Lite-Brite light display. And with a surface-mount chip, it’s nearly impossible, even at very close distances, to see anything but the exact blend of color that’s coming out from the red, green, and blue within the very small chip itself. And in the case of this 10mm display, that chip is only a few millimeters on each edge, so [it’s a] very, very small surface. And what you get is a good blend of the color, unbelievable viewing angles because there are no lamps and no chance for one bulb to block the other. This display is actually providing clear images to a much wider stretch of the stadium. Deep in the foul lines, both the upper and lower levels are now going to see a video screen, whereas before or even with another technology that’s current in today’s market, they wouldn’t have a display to see; they would be outside of the parameters for a visual image. That’s really a big advancement, similar technology to what we used at the Titans this past fall, and all of our outdoor projects are moving in the direction of the surface-mount LED. [Timestamp: 9:01]

OK, they knew what they wanted and you knew what you were going to put in there. What did you have to do as soon as you first got into the stadium?

The first step when you go into a stadium like this is demolition. It’s pretty much brute force; tear down what’s there. In some cases, although not the case of the Dodgers, but in some cases you do need to save certain components as you bring them down, whether they’re being sold to other facilities that have similar or identical models that they can use as a spare parts package, or in certain instances displays or scoreboards are also donated to colleges, high schools, other facilities that might be able to get use out of something that just isn’t up to the professional level any more. So once you get the display down, if in this case they’re being scrapped, we do it in an environmentally-responsible manner and everything that’s recyclable is reclaimed and what’s not reusable is disposed of in the proper manner. And at that point, then, you begin to do all of the necessary treatment work to the primary steel that remains, get it ready to support the secondary structure that is actually going be the mounting point for the video display or other signage that’s going up, and basically build out like an erector set. And after a month or two months, the LED panels will show up and they go up almost like you’re building with Legos. Now in the case of the Dodgers, and one of the things that added a little bit of complexity to this project was how, exactly, do we build out a hexagonal almost diamond shape using square panels? And these panels are usually 3ft. or 4ft. tall by about 3ft. wide. So we went into our 3D modeling program and AutoCAD and started to lay out the various display cabinet sizes to try and maximize the visual area without having to do too much masking of the jagged edges where a panel meets a panel—the stair-stepping along the edges—with flashing. So in this case, although it’s probably not the most economically-efficient way of doing it, we wanted to make sure that there was as little overlapping flashing or scoreboard cladding as possible. We designed eight different panel sizes to allow as little stair-stepping as possible on the diagonals of the hexagon. So the end result is really going be something to behold and we’re glad we took the extra time to make sure that it was done the right way. [Timestamp: 11:39]

Well, when you actually get into the nuts and bolts of it you never know what you’re going to run into so sometimes you have to get a little creative. I guess you had to put in all new cabling. What type of video format are you feeding the screens with?

We back pulled and disposed of all the existing cabling. What was there was a mix of coaxial cable from 1980 and fiber optic from 2003. But the fiber optic that was actually in place was low bandwidth that was meant for standard definition. So we ended up pulling probably to each structure something in the magnitude of 48 strands of fiber-optic cable able to carry well beyond HD bandwidth. So we’re feeding the main videoscreen as well as a pretty large 6ft. or 7ft. tall line score, just a rectangular ribbon that’s going sit below each of the chevrons, which also needs its own data feed, and did the identical thing in left center field for those displays. The broadcast room is being built out at the same time, so as part of the Dodgers upgrade on the audio/visual side of it, they did a brand new 1080p broadcast control room, replacing what was there, which was pretty dated, and they’ve done some audio improvements as well. So the room itself is fully 1080p. There may be one or two straggling pieces of equipment that are not available in 1080p at this point, though single path and workflow is going to be all1080p. We’re going to feed a native resolution one-to-one to the videoscreen, and then what ANC likes to call our “special sauce” is our digital playback system, VisionSoft, which is the first fully 64-bit playback system rendering engine of its kind in the multimedia entertainment industry, and it allows us to do greater-than-HD resolution images at one-to-one resolution with absolutely no compression. So the images that come out are better than anything that can be seen at the consumer level. Blu-Ray has compression on it, certainly your digital cable or DirecTV, even on the newer high-def channels, can still have a pretty heavy dose of compression on the signal. What we’re feeding these displays is absolutely uncompressed from VisionSoft, so it really takes everything to the next level. [Timestamp: 14:06]

Well, I know the fans are going to have a real blast with the new video displays and the whole stadium renovation. I’ve seen some online videos of it and it’s really going to be great for everybody coming out to the games. Chris, thanks for being here to tell us about it and in part two we’ll get more into the VisionSoft and the ribbon displays but for now, thanks for taking time to tell us about it.

Thanks for having me.

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