Baltimore Ravens Look To Soar With NFL’s Best After Upgrading Video Production at M&T Bank Stadium
The team is adding two 4K video displays, upgrading video-control room in first phase of a project to enhance fan experience
With two Super Bowl victories and a wealth of playoff appearances in their 21-year history, the Baltimore Ravens continually prove that they’re among the NFL’s best on the field. Behind the scenes, that commitment to being a league leader is abundantly clear in the organization’s approach to in-game entertainment at M&T Bank Stadium.
Located in downtown Baltimore, M&T Bank Stadium opened in 1998; its video-control room, on the stadium’s press-box level, was upgraded to HD in 2010. Two videoboards, each measuring 100 by 24 ft., sit low in the stands in both end zones. Though HD, the videoboards don’t have the real estate to show the live game content, fan prompts, out-of-town scores, and fantasy stats that today’s fans expect.
To revitalize the fan experience and reclaim their position in the upper echelons of NFL game-day entertainment, the Ravens have embarked on a three-year, $120 million, self-funded upgrade of M&T Bank Stadium. The first phase, which will be completed in time for the 2017 season, includes two new 4K UHD video displays and an expanded and renovated video-control room.
“What drove this was that the Ravens have a commitment to always be a leader in game-day entertainment and presentation for the fans. That’s what it comes down to for us,” says Jay O’Brien, VP, broadcasting and gameday productions, Baltimore Ravens. “Adding larger video screens was really important to us. I believe where our video screens are located is the best place for a video screen to be located for a football game, because we’re down low [in the bowl]. We wanted to keep that.”
The new video displays, designed by PrismView – A Samsung Electronics Company, will occupy that location: below the upper level in each end zone. But, at 200 by 36 ft. each, they double the width of the old displays and give the RavensVision production team a significantly larger canvas. An LED ribbon display, circling the stadium at suite level, will also be added before phase one is completed in late July.
“We wanted the highest-resolution boards we could get,” says O’Brien. “We wanted the brightest boards that we could get because of the way the sun hits our stadium, and we wanted [them] to be as big as we could get while still maintaining great views for our fans and certainly not obstructing or removing seats. We filled basically every inch we could fill.”
The display’s location, says O’Brien, is particularly beneficial as a competitive advantage: not only can players see each other and energize the crowd and each other between plays, but O’Brien’s team can easily use the boards to play back multiple angles of a critical play for Ravens coaches to view and potentially challenge a referee’s call. In fact, the RavensVision crew will have 11 manned cameras — nine Sony HDC-4300 hard cameras, two Sony HDC-2400 wireless — and five Evertz DreamCatcher operators at each home game to capture and play back these angles. The team is upgrading its existing DreamCatchers (the team was an early adopter of the popular replay server) as part of the control-room renovation.
“For us, replay is a home-field advantage,” explains O’Brien. “With the number of camera angles and the number of replay operators we will have, we will be prepared to get a critical replay to our RavensVision screens very quickly. If that leads to our team’s challenging a play, then we have impacted the game and created an extra home-field advantage. We also think that these new boards are going to increase the energy level at our stadium, which is already rocking. We want our fans to be loud, and we think the boards are bring that excitement.”
With two new 4K video displays to populate (four additional 4K displays will be installed prior to the 2018 season), the Ravens needed a control-room overhaul. The team was able to expand the footprint of the existing control room, server room, and storage area while maintaining the control room’s view of the team’s extravagant player intros before kickoff, a Ravens home-game tradition.
The team needed to expand its router capabilities as well. Its previous baseband router had filled up even before any 4K production was introduced, requiring either a much larger baseband router or a different approach to routing. Working with systems integrator BeckTV and Evertz, the Ravens opted for an Evertz EXE router and a hybrid IP infrastructure.
“It’s a hybrid workflow, so there is conversion from IP to baseband for a lot of the gear and there’s a lot of pure IP,” explains BeckTV Systems Engineer Peter Dernbach. “Replay is pure IP, monitoring is pure IP, signal processing is pure IP. Then, when we get into cameras and graphics, it’s hybrid: it’s baseband that we’re converting into IP. The router fabric is all pure IP.”
The Ravens also worked with Ross Video, selecting an Acuity production switcher and XPression graphics. A Viz Arena system is also in use serving up the 1st and 10 line. Going into year one, O’Brien plans to have two technical directors manning the production switcher: one will be responsible for the live game coverage, including pregame and halftime; the other will handle full-screen takeovers, fan prompts, and commercial elements. When the four additional 4K displays, each measuring 33 by 44 ft., are installed atop the stadium’s four “Corner Notch” suites, a third TD will be added. In total, the Ravens will have 60 people working on the RavensVision game-day production.
In addition to the 11 manned cameras, the Ravens will have around 10 robotic cameras contributing to the game-day production. And, for the third year, the Ravens will leverage Intel’s freeD 360-degree replay technology as part of its game-day production and give fans one more reason to see their team play in person.
“We want M&T Bank Stadium to be the place that you watch a Ravens game,” says O’Brien. “We want our experience to be better than the home experience — the home experience is great, the national networks do a great job covering the game — but, with 11 manned cameras and a number of robotic cameras around the stadium, we want to give our fans in the stadium more than what they’re getting at home. … We always want to have a ‘wow factor’ for our fans.”