Video Production Upgrade at Carver Arena, Part 1

Bennett Liles talks with Frank Blain, owner of Pro Video Productions in Peoria, Illinois about the complete video production upgrade in that city’s Carver Arena. 11/22/2011 6:28 AM Eastern

Video Production Upgrade at Carver Arena, Part 1

Nov 22, 2011 11:28 AM, With Bennett Liles

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The Carver Arena in Peoria, Ill., has a very busy game schedule for hockey, basketball, and other events. It got a complete video production upgrade for cameras, control room, and a new scoreboard, but it all had to be done in a week. Frank Blain of Pro Video Productions is here to tell us how it all came out and how it all works, coming up next on the SVC Podcast.
SVC: Frank, it’s great to have you with me here on the SVC Podcast, and we’re talking about the Carver Arena in Peoria, Ill., and a big facility revamp they had there. It involved their control room, scoreboard displays, and video production. Tell me a little about the Carver Arena and what you do there.
Frank Blain:
Sure, I thank you Bennett for having me. I am the video coordinator there. I direct and produce the sporting events in the arena and that can be from rodeo to hockey to basketball, monster trucks—you name it. We do a wide variety of things—some concerts, too, of course, and as far as the major project that we just concluded, we replaced their video board. But it’s interesting in that the control room is a long ways away, so we had to run fiber optic to the menu board in order to maintain quality instead of just running coaxial and we also have a camera mounted on the scoreboard as well. So that’s also an extremely long run, so again we used fiber optic for that. It’s a remote-controlled camera that we use for crowd shots, and for hockey, it makes an excellent goal camera. Also for basketball and hockey, it makes a really good face off or tip off shot. You’re looking straight down into center court or center ice, and you’re getting the face off and the tip off of the ball is coming straight up to the camera—it’s a cool shot. But then the camera does fantastic work for crowd shots. One problem we’ve had in the past is people when they look at the video board can see themselves, they look at the board and wave. Well, if the camera is to their side, you end up with an arm in front of the face and then people are confused. But when the shot comes from the video board itself, they’re looking directly at the camera as they look at the video board, so that’s been a big plus. [Timestamp: 2:47]

And what was the situation before the upgrade? What all did you have there before?

Well, we actually came off of a fairly good situation. We had nice cameras—a good control room before, but it was standard definition 4x3 and we’ve upgraded to 16x9 HD. The video board itself is not complete HD. It doesn’t really require an HD camera, but it does require a 16x9 format, and the old cameras were 8 years old. They were good, but they were eight, and we were looking. This purchase was going to last us another eight years, so we didn’t want to be down the road with 16 year old cameras. It made sense to purchase everything at once, and the only real trick there is we had a one-week install window for everything—for the video board and the control room. [Timestamp: 3:36]

Yeah, and that’s a real hurry up job.

Yeah, it was pretty fast, so I had to go to more of an overseer role where I was working with the electricians and the sign company and the engineers from Daktronics, that’s the company that made the video board, and then Exo’s Technologies who built out the control room. Since everything was happening at once, it made sense for me to be not as hands on as I like but worked out very well to get it done in a very narrow window of time. Our arena’s busy and taking the arena down for any length of time can be expensive, so we did it as efficiently as we possibly could. [Timestamp: 4:19]

And you used the Broadcast Pix Slate 3016 live production system. You probably auditioned several production systems, so is there a particular reason why you went with that one?

Yeah, I went out NAB and looked at all the production switchers and machinery available. We were actually really replacing our server and the Broadcast Pix, which has the 2-channel server built in plus a 2-channel still store, and a CG was really less money than a 2-channel server, so in a way it was a free switcher and a free character generator and a free router, so I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking on that. We got an awful lot of bang for our buck. Our old switcher was pretty decent, but it only had one key whereas the Pix has three to six, depending on what you want, and that made a big difference. Also the ability to do a clean feed or you can exclude one key or all keys—that was a real big feature for us because I can send effectively a Fox box with a score clock and a shot clock out on one feed, which would be the Internet, and maybe to my concession stands and maybe the club rooms and things like that. But I don’t have to send that same signal out to my main video board where it would be redundant with the scoreboard itself, so that clean feed capability was a real big plus of the Broadcast Pix and then the router was extremely handy and that’s with a 30/16 head. Now that Granite series, the new series, has that built in. At the time we bought ours, the Granite was just coming out so that wasn’t really available and we had a very narrow window to go, so I couldn’t wait, so we went with the Slate at that time. [Timestamp: 6:19]

You mentioned before that the control room is some distance from the scoreboard. What about the cameras? What kind of cable runs do you have on those?

Our cable runs are about 450-600ft. They’re all triax. Our old system was coaxial, and we did certainly have some signal loss with that, but with the triax, we don’t. Big improvement in quality. We had SDI/HDI cameras, and that makes a huge difference in the quality, and the Broadcast Pix switcher of course is native SDI , so it does an outstanding job with working in with the new cameras. [Timestamp: 6:55]

Video Production Upgrade at Carver Arena, Part 1

Nov 22, 2011 11:28 AM, With Bennett Liles

And you’ve got fiber to the scoreboard.

Right, yeah, we have the triax in cameras, but fiber to our scoreboard and fiber from one of our cameras, which is the scoreboard-mounted camera that is fiber because it’s such a long run. [Timestamp: 7:08]

So how many people does it take to do all of this during a game?

Thanks to the Broadcast Pix, our crew is really small. We really run with a director, technical director, so I’ve punched my own show and then I also control the server because it’s all part of the Broadcast switcher and it’s fairly easy to do for one person. Then we have the shader who runs a remote camera as well and then we have a replay person in the control room. So we typically have three camera people and three people in the control room, so our total crew is six. [Timestamp: 7:42]

And that makes coordination a lot easier. When you got all of the Broadcast Pix gear in, what was the learning curve on all of this stuff? Did you get training provided and how fast did you pick up on it?

It was a very easy system to learn. There is a lot to it of course because it’s complex, but the training was excellent from Broadcast Pix. We had a two-day training session with their trainer, and it was quite sufficient for that, and of course their online support is excellent so even if you call them up and you have a stupid question, they’re more than happy to answer it. They’re very easy to get a hold of and work with, so I’ve had no problems with that. [Timestamp: 8:22]

You know, on most of these things when I talk to people, the system is still brand new, and it’s still pretty much a guess as to how things are really going to work, but this one’s been in for a while and you’ve had the time to get used to using it. You said that the upgrades—the scoreboard, control room, the cameras and all that—happened at the same time?

Yeah it was all the same week—all exactly at the same time. [Timestamp: 8:42]

Well, I know that was a fun week.

Oh, it was. Yeah it was a good time. We were real fortunate. We did have good people that came in. The people that were doing the sheet metal work were outstanding, and the electricians did a great job and the Exo’s people were great to work with and I really felt sorry for them because I built the control rooms—I had built the old. So really these poor guys are working for someone who does what they do and I tend run and gun a little bit like mess with the sound board here and then when we lay it out then, ”That’s not going to work; switch the sound board.” So they were very good to work with and very understanding and they moved along fast. They had a three-person crew, so that really was nice. [Timestamp: 9:28]

Well, even though it sounds like it was pretty hectic in the beginning, I’m glad that you’ve had some time to use this in actual game situations. So have you had to make any significant changes or modifications along the way?

No, it’s all worked out well. The Pix is working extremely well—we’re getting into it. We have pre/re-play from NewTek and that’s working pretty well, so the learning curve and of course ever popular unlearning curve because that’s not the way we used to do it. Well of course not; we do it better now. So the Pix is a very powerful machine and once you get use to using it and taking full advantage of it, it’s really nice. [Timestamp: 10:11]

And in part two we’re going to get into the Fluent Watch Folders and how you use the Pix Pad and do some of the audio stuff, but I’m glad you were here to tell us about the Broadcast Pix video upgrade at the Carver Arena and thanks for being here.

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