Cleveland Cavaliers Lead Videoboard Arms Race
Upgrades at The Q provide the largest center-hung display in the U.S.
Despite falling short in the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers gave fans plenty to get excited about in the 2014-15 season. Not just on the court but above it: the largest indoor center-hung videoboard in the country.
Prior to the season, the Cavaliers tapped ANC Sports Enterprises to design and install the record-breaking board at Quicken Loans Arena. With two sideline screens stretching 31.5 ft. high by 57 ft. wide and two baseline screens measuring 30 ft. high by 33 ft. wide, the Cavs’ new center-hung display bests recent recordholders Pepsi Center (Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche), Banker’s Life Fieldhouse (Indiana Pacers), and Toyota Center (Houston Rockets).
Although the recent trend in center-hung display is to install smaller screens inside the center-hung structure for fans in the first few rows, ANC Sports and the Cavaliers opted for a different approach. The screens that make up the center-hung at “The Q” are curved and angled downward, giving every fan, regardless of seat location, an optimal view. Flaming sabers added to the four corners of center-hung structure further draw the eye.
“The trend in [sports] arenas has been this large video screen, and everyone’s been kind of running off what the [Dallas] Cowboys did years ago,” says Jerry Cifarelli, co-founder/president/CEO, ANC Sports. “We did an installation a couple of years ago with the Indiana Pacers, and, when we saw that installation, we were thrilled with what we did there. We started looking at the different-design side of it and started thinking about how [to] create a video screen that every seat in the house has a clear view of. … So we came up with this curved concept.”
ANC worked with a 3D model of Quicken Loans Arena to ensure that fans in front row center and the last row in the corner — and everyone in between — would have a clear view of one of the displays.
“Our design team came up with this great design, and we did all the sightline studies on it. We built it, and our in-house engineering department spec’d out the design from a build perspective, and, sure enough, when we saw this thing, the viewing angles are just fantastic,” says Cifarelli. “When I see it, I’m not sure why anybody would ever select another-shape video screen.”
The Q’s four corner boards and 360-degree ribbon display were upgraded as part of the project, totaling more than 11,682 sq. ft. of new LED displays.
Control-Room Creativity at The Q
A revamped video-control room, located on the arena’s main level next to the Cavaliers’ locker room, was completed in January. Because the room was under construction during the first half of the 2014-15 season, the team’s in-house QTV production team — headed by Senior Director of Broadcast Dave Dombrowski — had to get creative.
QTV Engineering Manager Joe Frietchen and Coordinator Ken Barski contracted a Classic Teleproductions truck to trigger the show opens, run the LED displays, and effectively run the entire in-arena video production from the truck compound.
“It was right up to the minute, but, as we say here, we know the show is going to happen, and we always make it happen,” says Frietchen. “It was a challenging, fun time of our lives as engineers to make a truck produce a whole in-arena show, and it all worked.
“The truck had a lot of Grass Valley equipment in it, like Dyno [replay servers],” he continues, “and we were able to network the truck with our Grass Valley Stratus [production-management system] and with our SAN and were able to push and pull files to the truck. That allowed us to be able to bring in all of our graphics and things that we needed. It was fun, definitely challenging, and definitely lasted right up to the minute we hit the button.”
Besides the Dyno replay servers, the truck featured other Grass Valley gear, including a Kayak switcher, enabling Frietchen and Barski to integrate the truck into The Q’s existing Grass Valley infrastructure.
QTV moved into its permanent digs at the beginning of 2015. The newly HD video-control room, integrated by CTG, features a Grass Valley Karrera production switcher and K2 Dyno replay system, as well as Edius and Stratus for editing and asset management; ChyronHego graphics engine; Evertz router and terminal equipment; and Wheatstone audio console. ANC Sports also added its VisionSOFT technology and Christie Spyder to control the look of the main videoboard. CTG upgraded the existing coax RF-distribution system from analog to HD and remodulated the Cavs’ existing feeds.
CTG worked alongside ANC and Cavaliers to configure the video workflow and ensure that the uniquely shaped boards could accommodate an uncompressed 1080p image at 6-mm resolution.
“There’s always a lot of workflow conversations to figure out,” says Josh Shibler, integration manager, CTG. “The board itself is actually 4K, but they don’t have a 4K control room, so some of their really high-end content comes from VisionSOFT, which can do 4K RAW. There’s a lot of workflow [conversations] about getting the best image on the available board real estate and then [determining] what that should come from and which products are best suited to provide a moment of exclusivity versus live content.”
Plenty of Cameras To Cover Cavs Basketball
Prior to the video upgrade, QTV relied on downconverted truck feeds to populate an aging SD videoboard. Today, the team treats truck feeds as backup in case its own impressive complement fails, choosing to rely on its own cameras to cut the in-arena show.
QTV has 12 cameras at its disposal to produce the in-venue show: eight Grass Valley LDX hard cameras; two Grass Valley handheld cameras, including an LDX 86 XtremeSpeed super-slow-motion camera; and two wireless Grass Valley cameras with VisLink INCAM wireless camera transmitters. Because the control room does not have line of sight with the court, the team relies on four Grass Valley robotic cameras mounted in the center-hung videoboard and three robotic cameras on the suite level for reverse-angle shots, which can be used in the in-venue show as well. Rounding out the complement are a robotic camera in the pressroom for pre/postgame interviews, a slash camera for beauty shots, and an additional camera for coaches’ video.