Nashville Predators Take a Big Bite of Video With New Centerhung Board at Bridgestone Arena
The new scoreboard is just part of a broader, multi-year AVL upgrade at the venue
The NHL’s Nashville Predators have a lot to look up to as the season starts this week at the city’s downtown Bridgestone Arena. A new centerhung four-faced Mitsubishi scoreboard is almost 300% larger than its predecessor (22 x 34 ft. vs 12 x 20 ft.) with a super-tight 4-mm pitch (6-mm on the scoreboard’s signature “fangs”) that offers nearly 450% higher resolution.
“With that level of resolution, we really didn’t have to go beyond 1080p HDR for video here,” confides David Graham, Director of Technical Operations for the team and venue.
The new scoreboard and its two underbelly screens that cover the first 20 rows of seating, as well as 56 additional Eaton Ephesus LED light fixtures throughout the bowl (which conform to recently updated lighting values issued by the league) were part of the second phase of the Bridgestone Arena’s planned upgrades; summer 2018 saw the venue install new 10-mm LED ribbon boards, now synced to the new scoreboard, and a new d&b audiotechnik J series line-array sound system.
There was also a complete renovation of the venue’s video control room, from a design by Anthony James Partners (AJP, which designed all aspects the $8 million, two-year-long AV systems upgrade) and integrated by Atlanta-based CTG, which is now centered around a Ross Video Acuity 3ME switcher, an Evertz EMX multiviewer, and a Ross XPression graphics system. Replay is accomplished using an Evertz Dreamcatcher system. Video sources consist of four hard cameras, including a wireless camera system for both in-bowl and plaza areas; three robotic cameras; and 11 point-of-view cameras. LED front-end equipment employs the Ross XPression Tessera multi-display real-time graphics designer and controller platform, which controls all centerhung, ribbon board, and building auxiliary LED, including the locker room 360-degree LED display. Tessera was also used to drive ice projection for the pre-game show.
Production audio mixing is done by a DiGiCo S31 mixing console connected to a DiGiCo back end that includes MADI conversion to feed house audio to broadcast trucks at the dock over 12-strand, single-mode fiber, with Dante network transport throughout. An S21 console feeds the radio broadcast. Intercom is through a Riedel Artists System.
The Crown Jewel
But the new primary scoreboard is the “crown jewel” of the venue’s and team’s AV, says Graham, noting that Predators’ CEO Sean Henry, who had previously served as COO of the Tampa Bay Lightning, relied on that experience to decide to put the new control room and its systems in place a year before the new scoreboard arrived.
“He wanted to make sure that the staff was fully up to speed before the new screens came in, so they would have developed the expertise needed to drive them to their maximum potential,” explains Graham.
Regarding video resolution, Graham says the tight pitch not only makes them ready for 4K, as does the control room’s technology complement, but that it also maximizes the existing 1080p resolution.
“The biggest challenge for 4K is that the broadcast production is still going out at 720p, so moving the back end to full native HD is plenty,” he says. “The fans would never be able to see the difference.”
That strategy, of designing the video to the building’s needs versus pursuing ever-larger LED video for its own sake, extends to the scoreboard’s physical form factor. While the new board offers vastly higher resolution and brightness, its 55,000-lb. weight is barely more than the 53,000-lb. scoreboard it replaced. That meant that they could continue to use the arena’s existing chain hoists. (“We actually gained seven feet of vertical height trim,” says Graham.) Adding new hoists for an even larger screen would have taken the entire arena — which entertainment-venue trade magazine Pollstar identifies as one of the five busiest in the nation — offline for several weeks.
“We’re not the size of the United Center [in Chicago], for instance,” he says. “We looked at three different scoreboard sizes and chose the one that gives the fans the best experience.”
The scoreboard design was chosen over a year before it was put in place, so the AVL systems around the space it would ultimately occupy could be flexibly installed to accommodate it. That includes the positioning of eight line-array hangs comprising 94 loudspeakers and a dozen flown subwoofers. That applied to the lighting, too — the Predators were part of the NHL’s Green Program and in 2016 were among the first teams to install LED fixtures. Graham says that level of preplanning assured that each phase of the upgrades is implemented smoothly and cost-effectively. (A third phase is in the planning stage, which Graham can’t discuss, but he did nod knowingly towards the increased amount of player and game data now displayed in the bottom of the new screens.)
“When We Score, You’ll Know It”
The venue’s video elements and its tightly integrated control room are now a single unit that considerably enhances the Predators game experience, says Graham.
“We’re not just driving the scoreboard and the ribbon boards but also the concourse TVs and the [outdoor] screens, all as single proposition,” he explains. “It’s all designed to create a moment of exclusivity — when we score, you’ll know it.”
And the Predators want everyone to know it. Graham says they have deepened the connection between the venue and broadcast, sharing all of the house camera feeds, including a downconversion of the 1080p video to 720p for television, and vice versa, such as tapping into broadcast shots like ankle cams.
“We want the broadcast to be an extension of the bowl experience,” he states. “We want the viewers at home to be able to see FangVison. We want to drive them to come see the game in person. That’s the ultimate goal.”