3D Intro at Center of Revitalized Fan Experience for New Jersey Devils
It’s just before the opening faceoff in an early-November matchup between the Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils, and the entire arena goes pitch dark. Here it comes: CJ Davis’s favorite part of his job.
The principal designer at Quince Imaging is one of the brains behind the new in-arena video technology that has been generating significant buzz across the sports world. The innovative projection system essentially turns the playing surface into a 3D/4K video screen.
It has blown fans away at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland; Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia; Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, CA; and here, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
As the ice turns a fiery lava red and a trail of “ice” follows a skater carrying a large Devils flag, the 14,000+ fans respond like children mesmerized by their first Fourth of July night.
“The fan reaction is my absolute favorite part of doing this,” says Davis. “That unexpected moment where there’s this theatric element of a person moving and graphics following them is completely unexpected by the audience. That was a special moment for me to watch.”
The Wow Factor
The Devils partnered with Quince in the offseason to install 12 26,000-lumen projectors that display images with a brightness of 20 foot-candles blended together on the ice to create a stunning display. The show includes the ice surface’s “shattering” and “falling away,” vivid graphics, and videos and images from the Devils’ 32-year history.
“We wanted to figure out the best, most impactful way to create a ‘wow factor’ for when people walk in our doors,” says Hugh Weber, president, business operations, New Jersey Devils. “With the Devils as the key property in [Prudential Center], when you look at the technologies and the things that are happening around sports, this is obviously one of the most innovative.”
On the technical side, the backend is run by a Coolux Pandora’s Box media-server tool, a real-time compositing playback device designed for this kind of application. The projections create a 4K display of 4000×1700 pixels across a 200-ft.-wide surface.
“Our approach is really driven by our understanding of the science of light,” says Davis, “and we determine what level of brightness in foot-candles and what contrast ratios is really going to be needed to get the effect that we want out of our 3D.”
From a creative perspective, a high-end 60-second show takes the Quince team about 45 days to design. The process begins with a vector or CAD (computer-aided–design) drawing of the playing surface. From all of that information, Quince designers are able to extract a template and input it into the 3D software. From there, designers can manipulate the geometry of the surface, be it an ice-hockey rink or a basketball court.
A hockey surface is particularly challenging because the corners of the rink are rounded and not the sharp edges that one would prefer for a 3D image. Also, the surface is a bright white.
“You get a lot more reflection off of it and more brightness out of it,” Davis says of the ice surface. “There are a few different challenges with contrast ratio, which is really the big determining factor. With a projector, you have to manage all of the ambient light and watch for light polluting your surface.”
Quince worked closely with the Prudential Center video and entertainment teams in designing the turnkey solution that is now completely in the control of the Devils. Drag-and drop-templates allow content to be added without affecting the general animation and presentation of the show.
A New Fan Experience
This is all part of a larger plan at the Devils under the new ownership of David Blitzer and Josh Harris, who bought the club from the NHL in August 2013, to revitalize the in-venue fan experience.
“We took a look at the history and tradition of this franchise and the building — which was a spectacular new building — and one of the [flaws] was, the fan experience was really an afterthought,” says Weber. “We started looking at that experience which we refer to as ‘door-to-door.’ What are the reasons people come to games? Is it just about the hockey, or is it about the whole experience? This was part of a much bigger play for us in transforming the way people looked not only at Devils games but also at the Prudential Center.”
Included in the re-imagined Prudential Center are new food and merchandise options. The arena partnered with Legends and redesigned menus from every concession stand and club. The team has made a commitment to locally grown and sourced items and have themed many of the concession areas to reflect New Jersey culture, including two diners, a Boardwalk/Shore-themed area, and a section that pays tribute to the Ironbound section of Newark.
Prudential Center also partnered with apparel and sales company Fanatics to remake the merchandise experience with the opening of two additional stores within the building.
The entire Prudential Center staff also trained during the offseason with Ritz Carlton to improve morale and customer-service skills.