Before the puck dropped on the 2011-12 NHL season, the Philadelphia Flyers rookies took the ice against the Washington Capitals rookie squad for what has become an annual event. Although the game was a successful event in its own right — the Flyers squad won 3-2 in front of 10,000 fans at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and, in true team fashion, dropped the gloves a few times — the game held special significance for those involved in the arena’s control-room overhaul.
The rookie game marked the debut of the Sony HSC-300K and PDW-700 cameras recently purchased by Comcast-Spectacor, the group that owns and operates the Flyers, 76ers, and Wells Fargo Center, as part of the venue’s upgrade to HD-video production and LED technology in the scoreboard control room.
Watching the game from the press level, Comcast-Spectacor Director of Video Production Matt Coppola noticed that highlights of the live (untelevised) game were playing back on Comcast SportsNet’s Daily News Live.
“It dawned on me that that was our HD footage that they were capturing in their control room,” he recalls, “and, as the game was going on, they were keeping fans at home [involved]. I was proud of the fact that it was our HD cameras, it was our HD feed that [CSN] was able to grab, cut together, and push out to the fans.”
Once Again, Sony Delivers for Philly Fans
The upgrade was made possible by Sony Electronics. Less than a year after completing a similar upgrade at nearby Citizen’s Bank Park, Sony Electronics assembled, designed, and served as primary contractor and consultant for the Wells Fargo Center project, with Diversified Systems providing integration services.
In addition to new Sony HSC-300K and PDW-700 cameras, the Wells Fargo Center’s new HD control room has a Sony MVS-8000 production switcher, FWD-S42H1 LCD professional monitors, and HDW-M2000/20 studio recorders. The equipment captures and produces video for playback during games on the center’s LED screens and HD displays throughout the facility.
“The entertainment happening on the ice or the court during a game is a terrific show, but we always want to provide more for our guests,” said Peter Luukko, president of Comcast-Spectacor, in a press release. “This HD-technology upgrade will create a whole new level of enthusiasm and excitement and raise our level of production values. This all translates into a total and memorable entertainment experience for fans each and every time they visit the Wells Fargo Center.”
A new EVS system expands the room’s replay capabilities, enabling the operator to access multiple angles and feed them quickly to the center-hung scoreboard. A Harris Inscriber G7 provides more-dynamic real-time graphics and saves rendering time by not requiring that each headshot be created individually. Rather, player images are loaded in separately from name, number, and background and combined as needed on the scoreboard.
“Overall, [the upgrade has] created a denser, more dynamic show,” says Coppola. “[The video board] was always HD, but [now] we’re sending it an HD signal. The colors are richer. The orange of the Flyers jersey is true Flyers orange.”
Comcast-Spectacor also strengthened its postproduction backbone with an Avid Isis, which serves the production needs of the Website, broadcast commercials, and in-game presentation.
The upgraded technology debuted on Oct. 12, when the Flyers defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-4.
After a handful of games, Coppola believes there is still more to learn. “We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of the capabilities of this room.”
A Dynamic Show for Dynamic Fans
Although the control room upgrade certainly enhances the in-game experience, CSN’s decision in late 2008 to telecast all Flyers, 76ers, and Phillies games in HD provided additional motivation for the transition.
CSN broadcasts from its studios in the Wells Fargo Center and, before transitioning to HD, seamlessly shared footage with the analog arena control room. Once again, the two can share content back and forth without worrying about downconverting from HD to analog. In addition to the video control room’s camera complement, the operator has access to the six to eight cameras that CSN deploys per game to enhance the in-game story.
Says Coppola, “We wanted to continue to offer the best fans in sports the best show in sports.”