Instant Replay in College, Part 1: Pioneer DVSport Launches HD Offering

For college football, instant-replay software has transitioned from luxury to requirement. Conferences are now expected not only to provide instant-replay systems but also to train technicians in how to use it and constantly upgrade to the highest-available quality. Over the next two weeks, SVG will profile the major players in the instant-replay–software market.

“DVSport was really the pioneer in terms of replay in the college market,” says Dean Blandino, founder of Under the Hood Inc. and an instant-replay consultant to several college conferences. “When the Big Ten started its replay experiment in 2004, the conference was using two TiVos. DVSport had a software solution for coaches and editing, so they introduced their replay system with the Big East and SEC originally. Then XOS created their replay system, initially working with the Big 12. At this point, the market is almost a 50-50 split; half of the conferences are using DVSport, and half are using XOS.”

DVSport has been providing standard-definition instant-replay systems for five years. The MountainWest Conference and Mid-American Conference are using SD instant-replay systems from DVSport for this year, but both are looking to upgrade to HD as early as next football season.

“For some of the non-BCS conferences, SD made sense,” says Brian Lowe, president/CEO of DVSport. “Their decision was based on how many games they’re going to have broadcast in HD. Over the next few years, more and more games will be broadcast in HD, and, with all of the fans watching in HD, it will soon make sense to upgrade.”

The Debut of HD Replay
Four conferences decided to make that upgrade this season, which marks the first in which DVSport has implemented HD instant replay at the conference level.

“We have been doing HD replay for the last three years, mostly in the post-season,” Lowe says. “The last two national-championship games and the last three Fiesta and Orange Bowls were all done with our HD Replay product. People were confident in our product.”

The ACC, Big East (including Notre Dame), Big Ten, and Pac-10 conferences are all confidently debuting DVSport’s HD Replay this year. To get the HD picture from the television-production truck to the replay booth, the stadiums had to install fiber lines to help the signal travel the 300-plus ft. from truck bay to booth.

“In order to use HD, we have to have an HD signal from the TV truck, and we can’t run that through the old copper lines on the standard-def system,” Lowe explains. “We assisted each school to get all the necessary pieces together, and then they ran the fiber.”

Dual fiber runs allow the system to have both a primary line and a backup line. DVSport also installs a converter box on both ends of the runs, one in the truck bay and one in the replay booth, to convert the signal from fiber back to HD-SDI.

Touch From the Get-Go
“From our perspective, it was all-new versus the SD system,” Lowe explains. “In all of these cases, we had taken out the standard-def system and replaced the screens, servers, and converters for the signal. We put in primary and secondary servers and five panels with new touchscreens. Essentially, you’re left with the same footprint that you had before, except that everything is brand new and has been upgraded to handle the HD video.”

The DVSport system is designed to help users make decisions faster, better, and more easily. Five years ago, the company introduced a touchscreen with its SD system and has stuck with that model for six seasons of successful replay-system installation.

“Going in, not all vendors in the market used a touchscreen,” Lowe says, “but I know that they’re all using it now. I think we had the right solution when we started, so we’ve just taken what we’ve done and improved upon it. The HD system not only offers a better picture, but we’ve made the workflow better, easier, and more accommodating to the different conferences’ needs.”

Inside the Numbers
Each conference staffs the replay booth with different individuals, often with different job responsibilities, so DVSport added a statistical-Input feature to its replay product.

“What DVSport did, which was unique to replay, was allow the technician to input the time at the start of the play and the ending yard line, and the system would then calculate the position of the ball,” Blandino explains. “If it was 1st and 10 at the 20 and the technician put in 26, the system would know that it’s now 2nd and 4 at the 26. That was a nice feature because, when you overturn a review and have to go back to the previous spot, that feature allowed the official to know immediately where the ball was.”

The input feature also allows the technicians to add in penalty information, which is imperative for college games, where, unlike in the NFL, there is no separate on-field observer focusing on the fouls.

“In most college conferences, the replay official is also tasked with foul-observation duties,” Blandino points out, “so this makes it a lot easier for that person to keep track of that statistical information within the software.”

That penalty information can also be printed at the end of the game and given to referees and conference offices for evaluation purposes, saving a second step in the process.

Replay DNA
In addition to its success across college conferences, DVSport also works with the NCAA to provide HD Replay systems for all FCS, Division II, and Division III football championships.

“We feel that replay is a large part of what we do,” Lowe explains. “We work with the coaching end of it as well, but this is another segment of this market that is very near and dear to us. One of the things that separates us is our attention to detail and our focus on what we’re trying to accomplish: to help make the right call, using the best picture.”

A DVSport HD Replay system is priced at $30,000-$40,000.

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