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NAB Perspectives: Click Effects’ Wight on Simplifying Graphics Workflows Via Master Controller

April 30th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Karen Hogan

Long known throughout the sports-venue community for the CrossFire and Blaze systems, Click Effects showcased something new at NAB 2015: a way to connect them. With Master Controller, venue operators with multiple CrossFire and Blaze systems can combine them under a single user interface. SVG caught up with Click Effects founder/President Cliff Wight to discuss what Master Controller can do and how it will simplify graphics workflows in venues, along with the company’s recent expansion in the Asian market.

Tell me a little bit about the Master Controller.
The Master Controller [manages] all of our servers and technology. In the past, for the Philadelphia Eagles, [which] have 11 Blaze systems and 14 CrossFires, working them all together and having to load content [required treating] them as individual machines. The Master Controller completely takes away the concept of, there’s a rack full of equipment in the back [controlling the systems individually]. It’s just one user interface that has all of the boards and all the video that pop up at the master-control level, so the operator just deals with one user interface, or multiple depending on the logistics of their organization. They can have custom profiles. [For example], the Eagles can have a profile for game day and another profile for corporate day, [when] they don’t need to fire all the boards. They have another profile that shows only the boards they’re going to use for a corporate event and things like that, so it’s a much more consolidated user interface. It ties the complexity of multiple systems in the background, and it gives so much more flexibility and its synchronicity.

Were many customers looking for this single-interface functionality, or were you anticipating a need?
We were more anticipating a need because, when our systems were first developed six or seven years ago, we didn’t really anticipate [that people would buy multiple systems]. Before., we were selling one and two Blazes; now we’ve sold 11 to the Philadelphia Eagles. We thought, wait a minute, we’re putting so many [systems] out there, we need to find a better way to control them. We see the industry is just blowing up: the boards are getting bigger, and [there are] more of them in a venue. So, if we can find a way to control them a lot more easily using our current technology — by putting a frontend on it to simplify and spearhead everything — that’s where we got the idea to do that.

Also, we can sell either a single-channel or a dual-channel CrossFire. In the past, if somebody said I need eight channels of CrossFire, we’d have to go, OK, that means we have to sell you four dual-channel boxes. Now we just look at it as channels. How many channels do you want? You want eight channels? We’ll sell you a Master Controller, and we’ll put some computers in the rack so [you] don’t have to think about it as separate computers. It’s all basically built to get the user interface fast so it’s a lot easier for the customer.

You’ve been expanding quite a bit in South Korea and Japan. What does expansion mean for Click Effects?
It just means more global exposure for us and bringing technology to markets that didn’t have it in the past. Obviously, they’ve had baseball in Japan and Korea for many years, and they have videoboards, but their technology is very limited. We kind of joke a little bit around the company because almost everybody we talk to in Korea and Japan wants everything to be like the Los Angeles Dodgers, and so they look at Click Effects as a vehicle to get there. Because anybody can put up videoboards, but how do you control them? How do you interface them with the stats? How do people that are not very experienced in [creating] nice player headshots and graphic elements [accomplish that]? And that’s the core of our system. We already had Opening Day at the Rakuten Eagles, which is the first team in Japan to do that, and we just got a report from Panasonic Japan that they already have five other teams interested. That’s only been two weeks after Opening Day, so, even though Japan’s not a big market, it’s a springboard into other Asian markets.