Portland Trail Blazers Manage LED Screens at Moda Center With Variant Systems Group’s Envivo Studio

Portland Trail Blazer fans know the team’s in-arena host Todd Bosma and his high-energy contests and promos, but what they don’t know is how he and his team prompt the perfect video, audio, or graphic element to run just after a dramatic dunk or winning half-court shot on screens throughout the arena. That magic is courtesy of a new live production system from Variant Systems Group (VSG), designed with the needs of the Trail Blazers’ fast-paced objectives in mind.

At the start of the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Trail Blazers began using VSG’s Envivo Studio production suites for in-arena fan engagement video and graphics. One system sits in the control room tied to a video switcher, and the other on the arena floor where Bosma, the Game Operations Director, controls the big screen action from his laptop. The systems are used to playout clips on the large stadium screen, screens throughout the concourse and in-suite screens.

Envivo Studio includes a clip player, still store, shot box, live switcher, internal keyer, coaching review tool, Ross Talk/VDCP control, 24hr loop record inputs, and slow-motion replay.

In one night, from the time doors open to when fans leave Portland’s Moda Center, the control room operator could use over 250 different elements – full-screen art, graphics, sponsor elements and audio. The operator must have immediate access to the head shot of the player who’s just made a basket or an audio clip celebrating a three-point shot. Both the operator in the control room and Bosma on the court have eight-channel Envivo Studio systems for the live show.

Ease of use was the most critical must-have for the Trail Blazers, according to Olaf Bahr, VP of Marketing, VSG.

“Since we were working with the team as we were designing Envivo Studio, much of the feedback from the Trailblazers is incorporated into the software,” he says. “Because they’ve got so many elements and retrieval must happen immediately, our GUI is extremely intuitive. It’s all about how fast the users can respond and change to what’s happening next. Thanks to all of the input from the Trailblazers, we’re confident Envivo Studio addresses everything necessary for the greatest fan and audience engagement experience in live production.”

Phil Beard, the Director of the Trail Blazers’ Scoreboard show appreciates the ease of navigation, ability to sort clips and customize their playlist. “We always wanted thumbnails so that we can easily pick, sort and retrieve clips. We’ve got nine bins where we store clips, with each bin containing 99 slots to place our content. Most NBA teams can have several graphic looks they’ll use in one night. Each has its own artwork, headshots, etc. I need our operators to be able to get to the right clip quickly. With Envivo Studio, we can make a customizable playlist. We can create a game day folder and get to anything we need immediately.”

Beard was quick to point out how receptive the VSG team was to any concerns or suggestions they posed. “We want to see the title of the clip and be able to count up and count down from my monitor in the studio. They’re going to add this for us. They’ve really tailored the software to fit our purposes. If you’re a smaller team or a college and trying to do a number of things – sending video to the big screen, to suites, to a video wall, to the concession stand, with this you’ve got four to six channels of output. It’s just matter of clicking and swiping.”

The Trail Blazer’s control room operator who’d been using another system for 20 years picked up the Envivo system in a matter of 45 minutes. When Beard directs games for Portland’s Winterhawks WHL hockey team, he also loads the Envivo Studio with content. “It’s so easy to load materials,” he said. “We have a shared server that all graphic artists with the Trail Blazers or Winterhawks organization can drop files into. If I want to import anything, I know where to go to find it quickly.”

Beard states that the intuitive nature of Envivo Studio has decreased his pre-gram prep time by approximately 40 percent. “It’s really smoothed out the process for us,” he says.

Bosma, a master of fan engagement, generates excitement through trivia contests, interaction with the team mascot, and calling up content through his Envivo Studio. “When he sees there’s a changeover from defense to offense, he can call up an offense animation on the big screen,” Beard explains. “If he feels a lull in the crowd, he knows exactly which material to bring up. Because it’s so easy to use, he’s able to call up the content he needs and entertain everyone at the same time”

In the control room, the Trail Blazers’ Envivo Studio has two channels each of key and fill for the big screen and screens throughout the stadium. On the court, Bosma uses two of his four-channel Envivo Studio – one key and one fill. The other channels are open for logo or sponsor video loops.

Envivo Studio, there’s an internal keyer for multi-layer overlays. Key and Fill elements are “paired” for automatically synchronized playback, even if the content was imported or captured as separate elements. The fill and the transparency (the key) are sent to two different outputs simultaneously. When a file is generated in an edit system, a video and a key are created as a single file with key data within it. This allows for a transparent graphic. One file is retrieved instead of two. The file acts as one clip with two sources – a video and a key.

For more information on Variant Systems Group, please contact Adolfo Rodriguez at adolfo@variantsystemsgroup.com.