Alpha Video, KU Collaborate on HD Control Room at Allen Fieldhouse

Continuing a relationship that began in 2005 with the integration of a standard-definition control room in historic Allen Fieldhouse, Alpha Video returned to the University of Kansas last year to upgrade the home of Jayhawks basketball to HD. The Minneapolis-based systems integrator had also worked with the university on integration of the high-definition replay control room at Memorial Stadium, home of Jayhawks football, in 2010. Built in 1955, Allen Fieldhouse is named for the late Dr. F.C. “Phog” Allen, the Jayhawks’ men’s basketball head coach for 39 years.

Allen Fieldhouse sports Daktronics HD displays added to the existing center-hung scoreboard.

Allen Fieldhouse sports Daktronics HD displays added to the existing center-hung scoreboard.

“The fiber infrastructure here basically necessitates that we have two control rooms, so we have one control room for football [with] a studio next to that one where we do our coaches shows, and then we have a totally separate control room for men’s and women’s basketball and also baseball,” says Mike Lickert, director of Rock Chalk Video in the Kansas Athletics Department. “We decided to upgrade to HD for our basketball and baseball programs, and it turned out really good.”

KU originally planned to hold off on the upgrade of Allen Fieldhouse until after the 2012-13 season, when the university planned to replace the video boards at the venue. However, after some number-crunching and a discussion with video-board–supplier Daktronics, the university opted to take on the project last summer. As a result, Alpha Video had 11 weeks between the beginning of the project and the first, limited use of the system, planned for Oct. 12.

“The timeline was between a third and a half of what we would normally use for a project of this type, so the timeline was extremely tight,” says Jeff Volk, director of Alpha Video Sports & Entertainment Group. “They had two mandates: one, we had to have a system working partially for their ‘Late Night in the Phog’ [annual basketball-season kickoff event], and then we had to have the whole system working before the start of basketball season [on Oct. 28]. Mostly, they just wanted to, as a part of their video-board upgrades, upgrade their control room to HD, as well as match what they were doing in [Memorial Stadium].”

The upgraded HD video-replay control room at Allen Fieldhouse was built on the same footprint as the existing SD control room, requiring Alpha Video to gut the space and rebuild from scratch.

“We tore out their existing equipment racks, shipped them back to Minnesota, built the system in Minneapolis, and then shipped it back down to Kansas and did the final connections there,” explains Volk. “We were limited to the number of racks that we could have in the system, and that was based on the number of racks they already had existing in the system, and so we had to maximize every square inch of those racks because, when they did their upgrade, they also expanded the capabilities of the room. Not only did they go from SD to HD, they added some production capability that they did not have before.”

At the heart of the Allen Fieldhouse control room is a Ross Vision 3 production switcher and a Harris Platinum series audio- and video-routing switcher with integrated HView multi-image viewers. Alpha Video also installed an Abekas MIRA eight-channel slow-motion system, a dual-channel Click Effects CrossFire clip server, a Chyron LEX 3.1 character generator, and Sony XDCAM HD and EX playback/recording equipment.

KU selected four new Daktronics HD video displays, each measuring approximately 18 ft. by 10 ft. with 6-mm line spacing and added to the existing center-hung structure, and five Sony HXC100 HD studio cameras.

The equipment complement largely mirrors the technology, functionality, and workflow installed in Memorial Stadium. This decision was made by the university to support the students who operate the control rooms.

“We do in the neighborhood of 75 live events per year — men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, football, Kansas relays, commencement — and in those live events, students are an integral part,” says Lickert. “They run, almost exclusively, our cameras at every event; they run replay, they run character generator. It really gives them an opportunity to use professional-level equipment. When we decided to upgrade to HD in basketball, it was important that we used a lot of the same and similar, although not identical, equipment because that would give the students the ability to switch back and forth from room to room and not have to learn all new pieces of equipment in each venue.”

The upgraded control room supports the live video production for Kansas basketball — both men’s and women’s — and baseball, which also has a video board.

“The draw of Kansas basketball is obviously the team, and our goal is to support that and make [the fans] have a very entertaining night when they come to visit,” says Lickert. “This has allowed us to upgrade their experience, to upgrade our equipment. The video board looks great, and the equipment has been working very well.”

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