Minnesota Golden Gophers Go for HD With Alpha Video
In 2009, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers left the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome for a new on-campus home. Three years later, that home is getting an expanded and upgraded control room, integrated by Alpha Video Sports and Entertainment Group.
Looking to enhance the in-venue experience for its football, basketball, and hockey fans, the university issued three requests for proposal prior to the 2012 season: one for new video boards in Mariucci Arena (men’s hockey) and Williams Arena (men’s and women’s basketball), a second for new sound systems in both arenas, and a third for an HD control room that could handle in-game HD video for all three venues.
Although the university installed a Daktronics HD-X LED video display during TCF Bank Stadium’s construction in 2008, the control room supporting the board was SD. Thanks to the HD upgrade, the university is now able to utilize the 48- by 108-ft. video board’s full potential.
“The new HD control room makes a substantial amount of difference for what they’re able to do at their football venue,” says Jeffrey Volk, director, Alpha Video Sports and Entertainment. “By changing the video boards and sound systems at their other two facilities and by upgrading the control room to feed all three of the facilities, they’re really doing a great lot of work to increase and enhance the in-venue experience for the fans.”
Because the control room would be supporting multiple venues, Alpha Video needed to ensure that it could support multiple events simultaneously. The company installed two Ross Video Vision switchers, a Harris router with integrated multi-image viewers, Click Effects CrossFires for clips playback, Ross Video BlackStorm video-playout server, Chyron LEX character generator, and two Tightrope Zeplay systems capable of eight channels of replay.
Alpha Video also added a complement of Sony HD cameras supported by Telecast Fiber Systems, Sony transport equipment, and Sony recording and playback devices to support legacy footage.
The university’s editing capabilities were expanded with the addition of several Apple Final Cut Pro workstations, Square Box Systems’ CatDV asset-management system, and StorageDNA archival system.
“They were archiving all of their footage on these little FireWire drives, and they realized that that probably wasn’t the most effective method,” says Volk. “The CatDV asset-management system tied with the StorageDNA archival system will give them a lot better scenario in terms of being able to browse footage, search footage, put packages together, and really enhance what they’re able to do from a creative standpoint.”
TCF Is NFL-Ready
The Minnesota Vikings reportedly will play one season, and possibly two, at TCF Bank Stadium while their new Minneapolis stadium is under construction. Although the need to host an NFL franchise was part of the venue-upgrade discussion, it was not top priority for either Alpha Video or the university.
“The control room was built to handle our events,” says Tadd Wilson, scoreboard and video operations manager, University of Minnesota Athletics. “We have a lot of events that happen simultaneously just because of the amount of arenas we have, so that was our main goal. The Vikings were in the back part of our mind, but we didn’t make any decisions based on the Vikings coming here.”
Fiber, Fiber Everywhere
The control room, located on the press level of TCF Bank Stadium, is connected to Mariucci Arena and Williams Arena via a new fiber-optic network. The stadium had existing fiber connecting the central camera locations to a central control room, and the limited amount that extended to Williams Arena was intended for television-broadcast needs. Mariucci Arena had no fiber connectivity.
“We did work with the university on putting together an infrastructure plan,” explains Volk. “Their internal IT services group ended up doing that work and pulling out fiber [and] providing that testing, but [it] was a collaborative effort that we sat down and did the infrastructure design for all of the fiber with the university and their IT services group.”
Upgraded Sights and Sounds
As part of the venue upgrades, Mariucci Arena and Williams Arena will be outfitted with new center-hung LED video boards and LED fascia, designed and installed by Daktronics, and a new sound system from Parsons Electric.
The video board at Mariucci Arena will measure 11 ft. 6 in. by 14 ft. 9 in. and debut on Oct. 6; the video board at Williams Arena will measure 11 ft. 7 in. by 13 ft. 8 in. and debut on Oct. 31.
The university is busy adding the finishing touches to the various venue upgrades. However, after the three football games at TCF Bank Stadium, the changes are already apparent.
“It’s been night and day compared to what we’ve been doing the last three years,” says Wilson. “You learn some things along the way, you make a mistake here or there, but, overall, it’s been wonderful.”