Instant Replay in College, Part 3: Dixon Sports Offers Software Solution

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 their use and to constantly upgrade to the highest-available quality. SVG is profiling the major players in the instant-replay–software market.

When Dixon Sports Computing was founded in 1992, its first client was the Los Angeles Rams. A great deal has changed since then, but the company is still competitive in the instant-replay-software market, offering a video-server broadcast system that interfaces with five of the top servers in the marketplace.

“We work with Grass Valley, Harris, EVS, Doremi, and Abekas,” says Brad Wille, VP of Dixon Sports Computing. “All of those have different advantages at different price points, so we can work with any client, from a small college to a major stadium.”

Two decades ago, working for the Rams, Dixon could record up to 16 camera angles on videotape, controlling 16 tape decks at once and logging everything on a time code. Today, Dixon’s replay software still comfortably handles 16 cameras, although most stadiums do not have that many at their disposal. Typically, a single operator records up to eight cameras in — or however many are available from in-stadium cameras and the broadcast feed — and play eight cameras back out. The operator also logs the type of play, players involved, statistics, and the start and end of the play over each of the camera feeds.

“We have many data points, and we track rosters, so an operator clicks buttons on the screen as things happen to log the plays,” Wille explains. “Our software keeps everything in sync with a single mark-in, so he doesn’t have to log things multiple times. And it can be more than eight cameras; we can control up to 16 cameras if that’s what they have.”

When a play comes up for review, the operator simply has to cue up the play and any of the recorded angles can be played back individually, in sync, or back-to-back.

“We can show forward and backward slow motion, frame-by-frame, and jogging,” Wille says. “If they want to see another angle or the first angle again or go backwards within the clip, we can do all of those motions with one operator.”

Where other companies offer a hardware-based instant-replay product, Dixon’s solution is completely software-based, so only a keyboard and mouse are required to operate it, instead of a separate mechanical device.

“Our claim to fame is that anybody can learn to use it within 10 minutes,” Wille adds. “Years ago, in Tampa Bay, the replay operator called in sick. The director’s brother-in-law was in the stands, so they called him in, and he ran all the replays during the game. It’s that easy to learn.”

Another advantage to a software-based system, Wille says, is that it’s less expensive to hire an operator to run than it would be to run a hardware-based system. Where an operator for a mechanical interface charges about $300 for a few hours’ work, a software operator charges closer to $150.

Dixon Sports generally sells its replay software through a one-time sale, without charging a licensing fee, but the software is also available as part of equipment-rental packages. The software works with both SD and HD camera feeds and is in use in multiple college arenas, such as at LSU, which deploys it in a single control room that powers the football, baseball, and basketball venues.

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