Alpha Video, GamePlan Join Forces for 360º Solution
By Carolyn Braff
For video directors in college athletic departments, choosing a hardware partner is hard enough, without having to ensure that the chosen hardware will work with existing — or new — software. With that challenge in mind, hardware integrator Alpha Video has teamed up with software provider GamePlan to offer what the companies are calling the 360º Solution, ensuring that hardware and software components of the fully integrated video system work together.
“To date, there’s been a very limited number of places people can turn to get turnkey solutions to coaching-video and facility needs,” explains Jeffrey Volk, director of Alpha Video Sports & Entertainment Group.
“We’ve heard from the market that what people are looking for is a platform,” adds GamePlan CEO Dave Glover. “That platform would include hardware and software that would be integrated and supported for all of the teams, sports information directors, training room, and any place else where they need to utilize technology in the athletic environment.”
The 360º Solution covers all multimedia needs for an athletic department, including television production, Web and camera systems, digital signage, and coaching software. The solution makes it easier not only for sports-specific staff to do their jobs but also for the entire athletic department to work together.
Cooperation Born From Competition
Ironically, the partnership came about as a result of Alpha Video’s and GamePlan’s competing, not cooperating. Bidding against one another for a project last spring, Volk and Glover began discussing each other’s assets and found that they were complementary. Alpha Video’s strengths in facilities, hardware integration, and digital-media distribution systems go hand in hand with GamePlan’s forte in recording, editing, analyzing, and managing sports-specific video assets and Web content.
“As we were working through the bid process for this particular job, Jeff and I sat down and said it makes more sense to work together than compete,” Glover says, “because we don’t truly compete; we actually complement.”
Adds Volk, “We would run up against a wall in solutions where we were missing complete components in our product offerings. GamePlan has products that are really unique in the marketplace, so this partnership solves a lot of those obstacles.”
Any Price Is Right
With the financial crisis now trickling down through athletic-department budgets, Alpha Video and GamePlan offer solutions that run the gamut of pricing, from systems for top-tier football programs to those for newly developed volleyball and diving teams.
“The solutions that we provide are really tailored from a video-technology and -hardware standpoint to fit just about anybody’s budget,” Volk says. “We can be a technological resource not just for football but for all of the different technology elements within your athletic department, and into the academic realm as well.”
In addition to the technical and economic advantage of one-stop shopping, there is a workflow advantage of having the hardware and software providers working together.
“Athletic departments don’t have the luxury anymore of putting blind trust in one vendor’s word and writing them a blank check,” Volk explains. “In the technology world, people are a little more technically savvy and are doing a lot more upfront research to make sure that the money they spend delivers what they need today and gives them the ability to expand into things that they might need down the road.”
Room To Grow
The 360º Solution is designed to leave room to evolve, especially as athletic departments begin their transition from SD to HD.
“Our products will handle the evolution of the video requirements of our clients,” Glover says. “As those needs change, our open-platform software evolves with it, which feeds pretty effectively into what Alpha Video is promoting: plan for HD and, if you can’t afford it today, just know that what you put in place now will upgrade to HD when you are ready.”
Says Volk, “Because their software is not really tied to hardware, we can design essentially HD infrastructures for people right now and run standard-def video over them using GamePlan systems. At the date that the client can afford, they’ll have the system ready to run in HD; it’s just a matter of changing the software component on the game-plan side.”
Deploying Their Strengths
For a given integration project, Alpha Video takes care of the video and distribution hardware, while GamePlan provides the software necessary to capture, edit, and deliver that video. Engineering teams from both companies work together to ensure interoperability between the systems.
“In our standard software packages that we integrate for Alpha, we have a very intriguing MPEG-4 capture system, so that we’re not capturing traditional DV for any of this,” Glover says. “It’s all on MPEG-4, which means the file sizes are a tiny fraction of what most providers can support today. We get a massive amount of video online for a very low dollar amount, and we automate an instant-replay system on Alpha hardware with GamePlan video that is just short of amazing.”
GamePlan software systems are designed to be open-format, so the platform — rather than just a product — can be deployed across multiple sports within the athletic department. Likewise, Alpha Video, which has been in business for nearly 40 years, is, at its core, an A/V company that only in the past 10 years branched out into sports.
“We’re an A/V company that’s now doing sports, as opposed to a sports company that’s trying to do A/V,” Volk says. “We feel that the hardware solutions that we’re offering are of better design and better value because of what our core competencies are.”
Indeed, the aim of the 360º Solution is to bring together the core competencies of both companies, and college athletic departments get to reap the benefits.