Fly, Eagles, Fly: Lincoln Financial Field Soars with 4K, Venue-Wide Upgrades
Every two weeks for the past year and a half, Philadelphia Eagles President Don Smolenski and SVP of Operations Jason Miller have taken a walk around Lincoln Financial Field. They watched as two new corner bridges took shape and sat in added seats to gauge sightlines. They oversaw the building’s upgrade to HD, comprising impressive new video displays and the latest in control-room equipment. But most important, they imagined how fans — among the most passionate in the NFL — would react.
Last week, when Smolenski and Miller again walked around the Linc’s concourses, club levels, and control room, they were joined by members of the media. The Eagles will officially unveil the $125 million renovation to fans on Sept. 7, the team’s regular-season home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It’s really exciting,” says Smolenski. “Yes, I work with the team, but I’m a fan as well. … I’m anxious and excited and eager for the fans to come. I want them to see it because this is their home. It’s our team, and we’re all going to take it in to experience together and enjoy it for the next number of years.”
From SD to HD With Panasonic, Click Effects
Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003 and, for the first 10 years of its existence, delivered SD content to SD videoboards in the north and south end zones. Prior to the 2014 season, the Eagles partnered with Panasonic to design and install videoboards; according to both, the new end-zone displays boast the highest resolution in the NFL.
The north–end-zone videoboard measures 27 ft. tall x 192 ft. wide and the south–end-zone board 27 x 160 ft., totaling more than 9,400 sq. ft. of viewing area. Both boards boast 10-mm resolution and the ability to play 4K content.
Panasonic also installed several 20-mm displays, including 11 fascia-mounted ribbon boards totaling more than 2,000 ft. long, one 335-sq.-ft. display in Headhouse Plaza, and two 334-sq.-ft. and two 546-sq.-ft. marquee displays at street level outside the stadium. The Eagles Nest, located at the north end of the stadium adjacent to the north–end-zone video board, was upgraded with a 45- x 18- ft. display, a 15- x 30-ft. display, and a 390-ft. circular ribbon display.
In total, the Eagles added nearly 22,000 sq. ft. of videoboards, more than tripling the venue’s previous square footage for video.
In addition, Panasonic installed 1,185 new HD TVs throughout the stadium, including concourses, club areas, and luxury suites.
To synchronize content to the videoboards and TVs, the Eagles will rely on a combination of systems from Click Effects: CrossFire, Blaze, and Data Hub.
“Eagles fans will be amazed to watch the entire stadium instantly light up to celebrate touchdowns, great plays, or other crowd prompts and then settle back to the default game look,” says Cliff Wight, VP/founding partner, Click Effects. “This is all easily orchestrated with the click of one button.”
Eagles, Evertz Make In-Venue 4K a Reality
With two 10-mm video displays at their disposal, the Eagles plan to make ample use of 4K as part of their game-day video-presentation plans. The team added seven Sony F55 cameras — five hard, two wireless handheld — with Canon lensing, which will capture content and feed directly to four Evertz DreamCatcher replay systems, bypassing the switcher.
According to Eagles Event Production Manager Eric Long, three DreamCatchers will be configured for 1080p in/1080p out, and one will run 4K in/4K out. In the 1080p configuration, four 1080p images will be stitched together to create a 4K image; with 4K in/4K out, the team will be able to display a single 4K image on either display.
“When you have multiple DreamCatchers on a network, an operator can control any input on an entire network from a single location,” explains Nima Malekmanesh, senior engineer/product specialist, replay systems, Evertz. “Let’s say an operator sees a touchdown or an event on one of his inputs and he clips it, he’s actually clipped that across every single input coming into every single machine from that one system and because we have all the DreamCatchers connected over a 10-gig backbone.”
Two DreamCatcher operators will provide live replays to the videoboards; a third operator will be responsible for video packages to be played back throughout the game. The operator of the 4K-configured DreamCatcher, according to Evertz, will keep an eye out for any replay that would benefit from enhanced panning, zooming, or tracking.
“The way they have their 4K set up will be a pan-and-zoom type of 4K, where you can zoom in on a key moment: if someone stepped on a line, dropped the ball, or something along those lines,” explains Malekmanesh. “Also, [with] player-tracking, which is one of the major features of the 4K, [the operator] can actually follow any play and zoom in and follow a specific player, the ball, anything that happens on the field through a very easy-to-use interface.”
The NFL’s Game Statistics and Information System (GSIS) will be integrated into the DreamCatchers, which will be directly connected to the Eagles’ media-asset–management (MAM) system. This will allow the operators to transcode and export files directly from the DreamCatchers to the MAM with all the GSIS metadata intact.
In total, the Eagles allocated $5 million of the $125 renovation budget to control-room technology. The control room, integrated by Diversified Systems and located on the venue’s press level, now features a 3.5M/E, 80-input Sony MVS7000 switcher, Evertz 288×576 EQX video router and Magnum control system for router/multiviewer control, ChyronHego character generators, RTS intercom systems, and VISTA Spyders. A separate, climate-controlled room was constructed to house server racks, and miles of fiber was added throughout the stadium.
Because of the dimensions and format of the new end-zone videoboards, the Eagles will now be able to take video replays from the television broadcast, upping the number of available replays to around 20. Thirty staffers will be on hand in the control room each game, more than double needed for the team’s previous SD presentation.
A Super Future?
As the tour wound around Lincoln Financial Field, Smolenski and Miller pointed out bridges that now connect the southwest and northeast corners, enabling fans in the upper concourse and the club level to easily walk from one side of the stadium to the other. Working with Turner Construction and Gensler, the Eagles filled those corners with 1,626 seats on the lower, mid, and upper levels, boosting stadium capacity to 69,176.
The Eagles’ WiFi network, installed last summer as part of the project’s first phase, was enhanced to accommodate up to 45,000 concurrent users. Approximately 700 access points constitute the venue’s distributed antenna system, supported by Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint.
Lincoln Financial Field, a state-of-the-art venue when it opened 10 years ago, will once again be among the more technologically advanced stadiums in the NFL. Which brings up the question: could a Super Bowl bid be in the works?
“That really wasn’t a driver at all,” says Smolenski. “This has all been about the fans of Philadelphia [and] their home. We think that the building was in a great place for a Super Bowl bid before, but certainly bringing it up to state of the art with the technology certainly makes us as qualified as any venue in any other city.”