ANC Aces Digital Signage for Tennis
Digital signage made its debut on the tennis court on Monday at Madison Square Garden, with ANC Sports Enterprises providing more than 300 ft. of LED signage around the court perimeter at the BNP Paribas Showdown. The event, which was televised on ESPN2 (and streamed on ESPN3.com) and featured tennis legends Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, and Ivan Lendl, marked the first-ever pro tennis event to feature LED signage right on the court level.
In partnership with sports-marketing and -management company StarGames, ANC Sports installed, operated, and created content for six sections of LED signage (69 total cabinets) that measured 310 ft. around the perimeter of the court for the event on Feb. 28. The original layout called for 324 ft. of signage (or six 54-ft. sections), but adjustments were made on the fly to accommodate for last-minute court access points, TV camera placements, and judges chairs.
“We’ve been pulling and adding cabinets because the specs were slightly skewed from what we originally received,” said Operations Manager Joe Matrone just hours before the event began. “A lot of times, you have the luxury of a day or two to set up and test this stuff. But we have to do this in a matter of hours on the day of the event.”
Multiple Displays, Single Control
Driving the signage at the event, ANC’s VisionSOFT operating software provided the operator with a 3D interface that controls multiple displays through a single console. Content included dynamic animations, sponsor acknowledgments (about 40 sponsors), player introductions, and event information. ANC also deployed specific moments of exclusivity across every display for more than a dozen event sponsors.
Although ANC has provided signage for events in a variety of sports (including X Games and Major League Soccer), tennis was a very different beast.
“The boards are a lot closer to the action for tennis than other events we normally do,” said ANC Executive Producer Chris McClave. “We have to take that into account when we’re building the graphics. We can’t use any small text that might be hard to read when you’re right up on top of the sign. We also have to cater to the TV audience and consider how close the cameras are going to be to the boards.”
A Mad, Mad, Mad Madison Square Garden
The biggest challenge for ANC proved to be the venue itself. Madison Square Garden is one of the busiest venues in the country, and the extensive renovations currently under way added complications. A three-game Rangers home stand forced ANC Sports to set up, operate, and strike its entire installation in a single day.
“This is a very busy venue, and all the construction going on is just another added bonus,” Matrone joked. “They just had a hockey game and have another tomorrow night. Usually, we have some time the day before to test the equipment at the venue and make any necessary adjustments. Not here, though.”
From Atlanta to NYC
As a result, ANC ingested the graphics content into the VisionSOFT system and ran tests on the equipment at its Atlanta offices on the Friday before the event. The equipment was then trucked up to the New York over the weekend and arrived at Madison Square Garden early Monday morning.
“Our setup and our mock run was done in Georgia rather than on-site,” said McClave. “Typically, we don’t load content into VisionSOFT prior to the event, but we had no choice this time. We loaded everything on the server on Friday in Georgia, which is usually something that we do on-site.”
Cutting It Close
Mixed in with the many curveballs thrown ANC’s way on the day of the event was a lack of power. Although setup began at 6 a.m., the displays did not receive a power hookup until 3:30 p.m. because of various delays, including a layout change (11 cabinets were used instead of 12 along the sidelines) and a change in floor height. This gave ANC just a few hours to reformat and test the final versions of the content in time for the MSG’s 6 p.m. opening.
“The designs were all nailed down over the past three or four weeks. But we still make changes right up until the event starts,” said McClave. “We can’t really finalize anything until we see the boards live [at the event]. Once everything is turned on, we look for anything that needs to be tweaked.”