Appalachian State Thinks Big With Abekas Mira Server

Appalachian State University currently uses three cameras for its football-stadium video-board production, but the Appalachian IMG Sports Network is always looking to the future and thinking bigger. With that goal, as part of a control-room upgrade in the summer of 2010, the Appalachian IMG Sports Network installed an Abekas Mira instant-replay server into its football-stadium control room. It has a three-in, one-out configuration but is upgradable to six-in, two-out.

“Previously, we had a very old one-channel replay deck that really only allowed us one angle of replay,” says Chandler Harkey, director of video operations for the Appalachian IMG Sports Network. “With this new Mira, we are able to simultaneously record on all channels and pick the best angle to replay on the in-stadium video board.”

He plans to upgrade additional on-campus operations so that the Mira server can be used for basketball and baseball productions as well, but, on the immediate horizon, the football production is expanding to four cameras for the 2012 season. That need for expansion was one of the driving forces behind Harkey’s decision to install the Mira.

“With Mira, we have the ability to upgrade when we move to a five- or six-camera shoot. We wouldn’t have had that option with other replay products we looked at,” he says. “With those products, they may be cheaper today, but, as we go forward, in five years, they don’t have the ability to expand. We plan to move to four cameras next year and to continue to grow after that, so we wanted a replay server that could grow with us.”

The nonstop recording of the Mira server has been a big advantage to Harkey and his team, whose productions have improved considerably since the upgrade.

“Because we’re always recording, we never miss anything,” he explains. “You can scrub backwards or forwards from any of the angles without stopping and re-starting the recording. That’s one of the things we didn’t have in the past, and this has really helped us out over the past two seasons.”

Harkey’s team has also been able to monetize the features of Mira over the past two years, adding more sponsor segments and, at the end of each quarter, selling highlight packages, which were previously infeasible to produce.

“The Mira has a feature where you can create playlists and push out a melt at the end of the game,” Harkey explains. “We can create first-quarter and first-half highlights that we can sponsor and make money from, which we hadn’t been able to do in the past.”

Because many of the game-day production responsibilities for the Appalachian IMG Sports Network fall to student interns, the ability to quickly and easily train a constantly changing workforce was extremely important to Harkey. Abekas was able to train him and two student interns on the full operations of the Mira replay system in less than a day, and those students have become teachers to a new group of interns.

“To have all of the interns be able to pick up on how to operate the Mira with the DNF controller in minimal time is a real plus,” Harkey says. “We’ve had multiple interns operate the server during football season. It’s really helpful to be able to rotate people and to know they can learn how to operate the Mira in less than a day.”

He began doing research about the Abekas Mira online and learned more about the product at last summer’s SVG College Sports Video Summit in Atlanta. So far, the Mira has done everything Harkey’s team has demanded of it, and more.

“The ability to push out a melt at the end of the game to a digital file and take that to our office without having to print to tape and log back to tape has been fantastic,” Harkey says. “So far, we’re very pleased.”

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