Dallas Cowboys Pave Way to 4K Future With Canon, Grass Valley, Evertz

Investment in 4K lenses and other gear will enable better-looking HD today

Ever since the Dallas Cowboys unveiled their one-of-a-kind center-hung videoboard at AT&T Stadium (then Cowboys Stadium) in 2009, the team has continued to push the envelope with their video-production efforts and to seek new ways to entertain fans. They’ve also kept an eye to the future, investing in 4K technology that sets the team up for success in the years to come.

Prior to last season, the Cowboys added two Grass Valley LDX 86 WorldCams outfitted with Canon UJ90 4K lenses, feeding into an Evertz DreamCatcher.

“We figured, if we were going to the trouble of buying 4K cameras, we might as well get the best 4K lenses available to take advantage of the effect. That’s why we decided on the UJ90’s,” says Dwin Towell, director of broadcast engineering services, Dallas Cowboys. “Just looking at them in the demo: the pictures were incredible, and they proved to be throughout the season. It’s really been an added plus, not just the range of the lens but the overall clarity.”

The Dallas Cowboys’ center-hung videoboard at AT&T Stadium

The Dallas Cowboys’ center-hung videoboard at AT&T Stadium

Currently, the Cowboys are taking the 4K feeds from the camera into their existing Evertz EQX. According to Towell, the team already had a fairly large router that could accommodate the four HD inputs from each camera that comprise the two 4K feeds. The 4K feeds are routed to the Evertz DreamCatcher and used on the stadium’s 1080p video display for replays and zoom-in capabilities.

Because the Cowboys designed their video display as a center-hung instead of the end-zone display prevalent throughout the NFL, the team needed two cameras to shoot the action from each sideline.

“We actually shoot a slightly different show from each sideline, from each 50 on both sides of the stadium, so [that, when] people are watching the live play and then looking up at the screen, the players will always be running in the correct direction. Otherwise, it’s disorienting,” Towell explains. “What that means is that we always have a reverse shot, which is great for replay, and that’s really where those 4K cameras and UJ90 lenses come into play: we can get incredibly close with them to cover the action and yet not so close as to worry about missing the play.”

However, investing in 4K technology isn’t simply the first step toward building an end-to-end 4K workflow. Similarly to how sports venues and broadcasters dabbled in HD technology while still producing content in SD, 4K technology like the Grass Valley cameras and Canon lenses enables teams like the Cowboys to create better-looking HD.

“When you get these lenses, obviously, you want the very best from them for a 4K camera, but you also want to use those lenses on existing HD cameras,” says Larry Thorpe, senior fellow, Imaging Technologies and Communications Group, Professional Engineering and Solutions Division, Canon U.S.A. “The lens camera mounts are standardized, they’re the same, so you can put our lenses on the standard HDTV camera and make better HDTV. It’s a win on any front that you can improve today’s HD with these lenses, and, of course, you can match the capability of the 4K cameras. So it’s a solid investment for folks like the Dallas Cowboys to do this.”

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