Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's been a while

Hello, everyone.

I promise I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.  Things have just been a little crazy.  Two times in the past month, we've had 5-day marathons of events, one of which just ended last night.

Since last I wrote, we have gotten full-swing into hockey season, concluded our football season with the Wolfpack (though we're not completely done with football yet....), and have begun our basketball season with NC State.

For those looking for equipment perspectives, I hope to continue on the series I started about the equipment reviews soon, as well.

Quick issues we're having: 
  • Cam Mate iris control for the robotic camera is very touchy, and the gear has a tendency to "slip off" the iris ring of the lens if it is tweaked too quickly.  Gentle adjustments keep it happy, so we deal with it as best we can.  The overall camera is working out quite nicely, with the broadcast trucks loving the angle, as well.
  • We had a Gefen DVI/Fiber extender go out to one of our multiviewer monitors.  It's under warranty and was sent out for replace/repair.  We had a spare or two, but at $1000/pair, we want to be sure it's replaced!
  • One of the Centrio cards has lost it's mind, as far as the monitors it's displaying to.  One of the monitors is showing a crazy resolution and I'm working on getting tech support to call me back.  We just noticed this one last night, so this is an ongoing issue that I hope to resolve before Saturday's hockey game.
  • The other night, our primary Daktronics scoreboard control computer went screwy in-game and left us with a mostly-black board during game play.  There were a few issues in the 30-seconds leading up to this, including data freezing up, sequences "pausing" and then finally the computer locking up.  We've since streamlined the way we switch to the backup system so that we aren't left with empty boards for too long.  Of course, I'll be fine if we never have to use that protocol, but... you never know with live production!
As for game-night operations, things are going much more smoothly.  We're getting into a pretty good rythm and our game-night staff is getting used to the new setup fairly well.

December holds twelve events for us (compared to a modest fourteen events in November), including our final football event of the year on Dec. 12th (NCHSAA Championships....  3 football games, one day) and NC State's first Commencement in HD.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quick Post with Pictures

You know things are busy when I do not even have ten minutes to post even a quick update about how things are going here. I wanted to post something quick to get back into it.



Here are some pictures from pre-season.  I know it's been a while now, but this is what I've got, so you'll have to deal with it.



View from the back of the Control Room looking at the Monitor Wall


The Director and Technical Director


Producer's position, overlooking the ice


Audio Room


Video Shading and Engineering


A closer view of the monitor wall from behind EVS replay


Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Official Logo?




Happy Barcode Day.  Didn't have much time, but had to make one of these when I saw it on Google today ;)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Conspicuously Absent

I know things have been quiet around here, but it's been a long week.  The earliest our team left work this week was around 11 PM, and that was after the hockey game on Friday!  I hope to have a few more thoughts composed in the near future.

Even though Opening Night is now history, we still have quite a bit of work to get everything the way it will eventually run.  So, another long day on Monday (hopefully not 2 AM again...),

Bear with us through this time, and I'll have more to share, I promise.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Initial Equipment Review: Part 2

I decided to tackle something that I know very little about (a) because it will hopefully be a shorter post for me to write and (b) it will hopefully be a shorter post for you to read ;)  Please note that some of the links I are close to what we've got... I don't know the exact model numbers or specs, sorry!

Cameras
We have four Ikegami HD cameras and Canon lenses for our show.  All the specifics?  I'm not sure :)  I know that the CCUs give us a greater amount of control than we've had in the past.  They look incredible!  It's pretty amazing that we can see pretty much from goal line to goal line with these things ;)  We have the typical broadcast setup of two build-ups/studio configs (one wide game follow, one iso),

In addition to the Ikis, we have a Panasonic P2 ENG camera that we can convert for our show.  This past Friday, we had our cameraman between the benches.  He'll probably be there again this Friday, as we do not get first pick of this spot during the regular season.  The nice thing about this camera is that for ENG work, it uses the P2 cards, just like the handhelds we bought last year.  This really helps our workflow because there are no tapes :)  Everything is file-based, and we can bring the clips right in to edit with them.

We had a few issues with them, including setting the auto iris in too narrow of a range.  Some of it is still trying to get used to them.  The cameras are, after all, the least used piece of equipment, as we only really get to use them on game nights (save the P2 cameras we use for shoots/ENG).

Another thing that I didn't expect was the "bend" in the image.  It's not severe, but you can certainly notice (zoomed way out) that the boards on the opposite side have a bend in them.  It's almost as if it has a wide-angle lens on it.  Which, I guess makes sense ;)  It's a wide-screen image!  I guess I wasn't expecting it... AND, you can't really notice it that much at even a small amount of zoom.

For those of you actually keeping score, you realize that I haven't mentioned the robotic camera yet.  If so, kudos to you.  And, you really need to get a life outside of reading this blog ;)

The camera itself is a tiny body Panasonic.  Again, I do not know many specifics.  As I write this, Cam Mate is currently re-designing our setup.  The company primarily deals with cameras on jibs, with the longest runs being around 80 feet or so.  The run that needed to be made in our case is closer to the 500-foot range.  There isn't enough power getting down the line to completely control the camera and get a solid signal.  We have tested the camera with several different cable lengths, as well.  We actually got a cable made for a jib (roughly 40 feet or so, I believe), and everything worked perfectly.  So, we know it works and we're working with Cam Mate to get it resolved.  We've been excited about this camera for some time, but we have serial number 0001 of the camera controller... it's going to take some time to sort it out.  We have several people working on this - from our engineer to DSI to Cam Mate - to have it up and running as soon as possible.

Audio
The last thing I think I will tackle for the day is our audio console.  We have a Yamaha M7CL, which is the little brother of the board in the production side of things.  So far, no complaints other than I'm not used to a digital board ;)  I'm fairly well versed in the analog side of things... the menu structure of digital boards never makes much sense to me :)  I'm learning, though!  We are also still trying to get the levels set for in-game.  Unfortunately, there's not much way to do it except... well, in-game.  So, for that, I'm thankful for pre-season :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Initial Equipment Review: Part 1

I wanted to give an initial impression opinion of the equipment that we have in the new digs.  Some is more glamorous than others, and not all of it is glowing.  Please note, these are my personal opinions from my point of view.  I may not have the best grasp of everything I'm reviewing, but I'll tell you what I think about what I know ;)  This is more intended for those within my readership that are looking at making purchases like this in the future, who want to know more about something from an end-user's perspective, or even for those who spec'd and installed the stuff in our room :)

For the Caniacs reading along, I'm sorry :)  It's going to be really boring!

This will most likely take a few posts, simply because I don't have time to write out an ultra long-form post.  If you're interested, please stick with me.  I hope it's helpful in some regard!

Again, the following opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff and/or management of the Carolina Hurricanes, NC State Wolfpack or the RBC Center.

Video Switcher
First, it's easy for me to start with the Ross switcher because that's what I use on game nights as the technical director.  So far, I'm loving it!  We previously had a Grass Valley 2200 with an external [Pinnacle] DVExtreme for the special effects (replays, Bubblevision, Bobblehead cam, etc.).  Now, all effects that I'm using are built into the switcher itself.

Side note: I am using one of our existing and upgraded graphics machines to run our replays for football, but that was more function over form: I needed to have those done before I even trained on the switcher, so it made sense to work them the way I already knew how :)

Some effects are contained within the switcher, including an NC State logo wipe transition and an Under Review graphic for football.  For hockey, I have been able to [somewhat] recreate the BubbleVision, Bobblehead cam and MirrorVision effects from the old Pinnacle DVExtreme, with hopes to do more coming up in the regular season.  I can see the potential of the machine, but just have to learn more about how to make it work :)

Our setup is kind of unique on the switcher.  As installed, the switcher had MLEs 1, 2 & 3 (moving farthest to nearest), with four keyers per MLE.  MLEs 1 & 2 had the effects board set up on them and MLE 3 (the closest one) was a simple preview/program bus (though it still had the four keyers).  With the old 2-ME GVG (which  had ME 1 closest and ME 2 farthest) was set up so that the DVE was actually used as one of the two keys on ME 1 and used aux outputs from the switcher to feed ME 2 out to it for replays, etc.  (One of several issues with this setup was that our cameras would not tally if they were run through the DVE, so if there was ever a side-by-side graphic, the director had to be very dilberate on letting the cameras know they were online.)

All that to say, we were used to having our effects on the bus closest to us, and asked if the configuration could be changed accordingly.  One of the cool features of the Ross is that you can actually reassign MLEs and even the aux busses) across the MLEs (meaning, instead of having MLE 1, 2, 3 you could have MLE 2, 3, 1 if you wish).  However, the "squeeze and tease" [S&T] card (as the effects card is called) is hardware and installed for whichever MLE is on a particular row: i.e.--if it is on "row 2", it will always be on row 2 even if you remap the MLEs.

Coming full circle, what's unique about our setup is that, as originally configured, no S&T was installed on the closest MLE.  To get the effects down on the closer MLE, they actually abolished MLE 1, so we have MLEs 2, 3 & 4 (farthest to nearest), with S&T installed on 3 & 4 (two closest MLEs).  MLE 2 is now a straight preview/program bus.  Crazy, huh?

I will say that the Custom Controls are amazing.  I'm sure that many switchers out there do this these days, but I'm coming from one that did not.  The most automation the GVG 2200 had was an "auto trans" button ;)  Being able to completely reset my key setup, recall memories [e-mems] and even preform transitions all within a single button is amazing.  For instance, my "Under Review" graphic for football is a single button that loads a still in the background, sets and positions three fly keys (MLE 2 & 3 so the boxes can be switched to the best look at the home/away coaches and our Camera 1 that will always get the "white hat") and even a chroma keyed overlay.  All this is set up and even put into MLE 4 preview, ready to take.  All that, and it's just one button ;)  I know, it's probably child's play to a veteran TD, but it's cool for me to make it work and I'm proud of it, dangit!

On a side note, running our football replays through another machine (like we did before) was actually addressed by Image Video who installed our tally display system.  We actually have an MLE that was to be sent to the machine tallied any time the graphics machine is keyed.  Meaning, if we run replays through the box, the replay machines can tally even though they are not technically "on air" (because the graphics machine is what is actually online).  We have some adjustments to make to have this work appropriately (due to the MLE-shuffle described above), but the basic workflow is in place.  Hopefully it's just a few tweaks along the way.

I'll try to give an objective "grade" for everything.  Again, my own opinion, and you would probably get various ratings even from my colleagues who use the same equipment every day.

For the switcher, I would give it a solid A for an initial opinion rating.

Multiviewer
We have a Harris Centrio for our primary multiviewer, and an Predator II for our backup in case the Centrio really takes a dive.  Our producer actually views the Predator in-game, as it shows the ten most essential sources (cameras, graphics, etc.) plus preview and program.  Plus, it helps us know that the Predator is there in case the director and TD need it.

The ease of designing in the Centrio Layout Designer is a plus.  You can make source windows, UMDs, audio meters and more and link them all into a window.  Once in a window, you can change the input and the UMD follows (passes through router naming) as well as the tally (being driven by Image Video).  The one thing I haven't gotten to follow is the audio meters.  I'm not sure if it's a software limitation or something that I'm doing wrong, but I always seem to have to change the source on the meters independently.

We have several different states for our elements, as well.  The PIP borders will tally green for preview (interchangeable for preset, by the way), red for on-air.  We also have a secondary tally "dot" that we can place that will illuminate for sources that are being recorded in our EVS (helpful since we do not have an AP that calls for replays and such).  In addition, the window (collective name for PIP, UMD, etc.) will alarm by flashing red/yellow if video signal is lost.

Helpful tip:  When several items are in a window, you can only edit the window's properties (border, tally, alarm state, source, etc.).  We were told that if we wanted to change a property such as the PIP border color or something, that we had to "break" the window (meaning you lose all of your window formatting).  Something I learned is that you can simply "unlock" the window and then edit individual parts contained in the window (PIP, UMD, tally, etc.).

We actually did have one of the Centrio cards completely lock up on us and I had one of our engineers re-seat the card to get it to reset.  The system is a little clunky in that if something goes awry, you have to plug a USB mouse directly into the Centrio card in the frame to do some diagnostic work (such as restarting the multiviewer or even the whole card).  In this case, that didn't even work and it needed a full reboot.

One Centrio card feeds two monitors, fed via DVI running 1920x1080 resolution each.  In practice they are essentially a really large dual-screen side-by-side computer display.  There is a limitation of 32 inputs per card.  Those inputs can be replicated as many times as you wish on those cards, but the two displays have to share the 32 sources.  We actually ran into an issue with this already, as the technical director and video shader share a card.  Perhaps this wasn't the best idea, as the video shader and TD both like to see lots of sources.  Maybe it would have been a better mix these two up and place them with a lower-stressed display.  Since none of us had really been exposed to this type of virtual environment, we didn't have a clue what the layout would be.  We'll figure it out soon enough.

I haven't worked much with the Predator system, but it was set up to give us the essentials in case of a catastrophic Centrio failure.  The Navigator software for the Predator is a bit less intuitive than the Centrio's Layout Designer.  However, we do have several quad-split displays that are also able to be driven by the Navigator, so that's an added bonus.

Initial opinion rating: A- (only minus for the stability issue, which hopefully will not be a recurring problem.)

I trust that all of these will not be this drawn out ;)  In the future, I want to hit EVS replay, cameras, com system, Daktronics and more.  I also hope that I haven't just alienated my readership ;)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rolling Along

Tonight's football game went pretty well for us.  Which is good for me.  While things went alright for us last night, I was not personally in as high of spirits as I was after our very first event in the control room, and tonight helped me feel a little better.

It's not that things went eternally wrong last night, it more just us trying to get used to things.  Plus, following a hockey game and keeping up with it is a lot different than working a football game...  It's faster and more demanding from the crew, to say the least.

That said, tonight was much more laid back (at least from my perspective).  I'm getting used to the buttons I'm supposed to hit (though I'll be the first to admit I wasn't perfect).  Of course, a big Wolfpack win helped the morale, too ;)

I hope to have a more in-depth post, mostly good for curing insomnia.  Perhaps I can gather those thoughts tomorrow as best I can.

For today, I'm done :)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

One down...

I had every intention of writing yesterday or today letting everyone know that we were amping up for our first HD event.  But, I'm sure most of you knew that was coming.

So, now it's over :)  If you were at the game, I hope you enjoyed what you saw.  I know there were a few glitches and unsightlies, but hey, it's pre-season!  If you weren't at the game, everything went perfect and we're up for an award ;)

This was the first real stress test for the control room and we've got some issues to work out, certainly.  There are several issues just with the Megatron computers getting things synced up.  Other issues circle around our graphics computers.   And then there's our cameras...  There are plenty of things to keep us busy.  It's funny, though...  it seems like we have quite a bit of work just to get us back to the point we thought we should be at at the beginning of this night ;)

Such is the nature of the beast.

I did ask one of our interns to take some pictures of the production...  here's some of the better ones I got...

 

Nice...

Maybe some day I'll get some pics in-game.  Until then, keep imagining ;)

Now, it's time to shake it all off and focus on a football game tomorrow.  After that, the Caniac Carnival and back to the long hours next week.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Holy schnikes

It's going to be a photo finish!  Who will win?  CanesVision, or the clock?!

The first pre-season game will be bare-bones, to say the least.  We're working major overtime to make sure things are in working order for the fans.

Tonight was a big to-do at the arena for all the part time employees (for all departments).  It always comes at the most opportune time for us...  Anyway, this year we had nearly all of our employees present to go over the old, revised and new procedures for our game-day operations.  I'm hoping that the learning curve - at least from the procedures side - will not be too great for everyone.  The learning curve for equipment will probably drive a few to drink ;)

Anyway, if I'm not sleeping, driving or working.... I'm usually updating the blog ;)  Hope we can make it all worth while for everyone by Friday night!  For now... good night.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Hard Day's Night

Less than one week away from NHL pre-season hockey!  Cheers from the fans, urgent screams from the production crew.  Certainly, time is against us, but there is good news...  ready or not, our first hockey game (and our first true HD game) will be over a week from now!

We barely had time to wrap the commercial shoot before we were thinking about the next shoot, which is tomorrow [Saturday] AM.  NHL Training Camp officially starts tomorrow (see the Canes roster here).  With that, tomorrow is physical day.  From 7 AM - noon (or a little later), the players will file through the doctor's office getting blood drawn, eyes examined, the works.  In addition, all of the guys get their official league headshot taken tomorrow, and CanesVision even converts one of the patient rooms into a make-shift studio.  We will be shooting video headshots for all 40-plus guys tomorrow, even the ones that will be spending much of their time in the AHL.  This way, if someone is called up during the season, we have the footage already.

For the astute observer, you'll realize that tomorrow is also an NC State football home game, as well.  When it rains, it pours!  Three of the five CanesVision full-timers (plus an intern) already set up the "studio" in the doctor's office today, and the four of them will be meeting up at 6 AM so they're ready to go when the guys start coming through.  After all the guys come through, it's time to strike and get the last-minute stuff together for the football game.

The other two of us (yours truly included) will be holding down the fort at the arena for the game-day preparation of the football game.  Thankfully we have one under our belt.  Hopefully things will go smoothly in both locations!

Sunday is technically an off day, and really the only one in sight until after the start of the regular season.  There's still so much to do and so little time to do it!  Building the show from the ground up is certainly a daunting task.  Having to do that while juggling football (and the pre-season hockey games) and looking ahead to basketball is quite overwhelming!

So, those who need their hockey fix... it's coming!  For those of you going to the State game tomorrow, have fun!  We're working hard to make sure it's an enjoyable time for you wherever you may be :)

And....

RIP victims of the 9/11 attacks.  God bless the families of the lost and continue to comfort the survivors.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

That's A Wrap

An interesting point about the photo shoot: we're using a high-speed camera on the jib to create ultra-slow motion capture.  We've got some cool surprises up our sleeve for it's use, as well :)

On that note, here are a few more photos from the commercial shoot.  Enjoy!

Tuomo Ruutu standing by.


Cam Ward reviewing his shot.


Cam Ward picking a fight with the jib.

Action!

Yesterday and today were the "commercial shoot" days, where we get many one-on-one elemental shots of the players to use for ticketing commercials or videos or whatever.

We utilized the services of Trailblazer Studios to shoot the footage.  We don't have the budget to have the cool toys like a full-out production studio has (like the big lights and the jib).  CanesVision did have a station on the ice for a green screen shoot for our in-game presentation production.

Thanks to Gregg Forwerck, the team photographer, we have some behind-the-scenes looks at what's been going on.  My thanks to Gregg for helping me out with this!

Ray Whitney mugging for the jib.

Erik Cole getting some direction.

Erik Cole in action.

Staal's turn.

CanesVision's location on the ice.
Staal's on fire!  Well... at least his stick...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Released

So, I just noticed that this press release was out... a week later ;)  Many of you may have seen it, but it's the "official" release from the RBC Center about the Megatron.

Also, ncsu1 shrewdly deciphered that we're doing our commercial shoots on the ice.  The look from above:


Have a good one everybody.  If you see my wife, tell her hi for me ;)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Networking

I've spent all night trying to figure out how to get a "tweet this" link at the bottom of all my posts.  I've tried about twenty combinations of code in my page template but to no avail.  I found a code that I used and it gave me this cute little twitter icon at the bottom of the post.  Unfortunately, you'd probably skip right over it if you didn't know it was there!

So anyway, all that to say...  I do have a "tweet this" icon that will automatically open Twitter and allow you to tweet the blog post.  However, it uses the long-form web address name (as opposed to a bit.ly-type URL shortener).

If any of you geniuses out there can help me with this, I would love to add various social networking badges to my posts so you can share the wealth of knowledge that is the CVHD blog!  Well... maybe so that you could at least tweet or post on Facebook about how geeky things get around here.

I do have TwitterFeed linked up to automatcially Tweet my blog posts for me... that's not what I'm looking for :)  (unless there's a better one!)  I'm looking for something that my readers can easily share this site with others.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Opening Night Recap


Wow.

Things couldn't have really gone much better for our first event (I'm talking from a broadcast perspective... State losing was not a happy thing...). The crew that was there tonight did a great job adjusting to the new setup.

We weren't perfect. The first event of the season (typically a football game) usually has a few rusty glitches and absent-minded brain lapses. Tonight was no different, but there is something key in that statement... we only had to deal with the rusty glitches and such tonight. There was never a point where we were in nuclear meltdown mode because things were going way wrong. If I mentioned the things that were going crazy most of you would not have noticed. Some of the bigger things, maybe, but many were "behind the scenes" (which is just where we like for them to go wrong!).

The first notable thing is that all of the cameras have already been living at the stadium for a few weeks now. That made things relatively "easy" for setup (please don't kill me, Engineers), and also prompt for breakdown at the end of the night. Instead of having to cart everything back over to the arena at the end of the night, we were able to either store the cameras in a closet or just bring them back up to the [Carter-Finley] control room. Very nice!

Other than the cameras living at the football stadium (and the guys being able to get out of there a little earlier than normal), things really didn't change much for the CF crew. The Skycam guys were in our control room (as they usually are when ESPN is in the house)... They certainly take up a lot of space when they're up there...

For the arena crew, things were VERY different. I explained in an earlier post about the mechanics of a football game for us (somewhat), so I won't re-bore you with those. I'll bore you with different stuff! For the most part, the positions themselves were "business as usual". We had a Director, Technical Director, replays, graphics & Audio. The operational side of each spot was very different!

Even some positions that were virtually the same (i.e.--we had purchased a couple of graphics machines within the last year or so that were upgradable to HD, so we upgraded them over the summer), were still different because we had them doing some different jobs than in previous years [for football]: partially because we (a) were on a learning curve and built certain things on certain machines because we knew how to, and (b) machines that typically did a lion's share of work for football were now no longer a part of the control room.

It took us a little while to get used to our monitor wall. Even though we set it up precisely how we wanted it, it still took some time to adjust once we got into the game. But, thankfully it's easily changeable, so we can tweak as we go. Overall, however, it was incredible to have all the sources that I needed (as the Technical Director) at my disposal when I needed them and not all the way across the wall!

[Geek alert:] On that note, I'll talk about the switcher now :) Can i just say... CUSTOM CONTROLS ARE MY FRIEND! I'm sure that all the switchers these days can do similar things, but the Custom Controls on this Ross were a life saver! I've spent the better part of my last two or three days running through scenarios on the switcher and actually intentionally trying to mess things up so that I could build a Custom Control to get me out of it. Our Engineer appropriately coined them as my "bailout buttons".

[Uber-geek alert:] Basically, when I set for certain effects (such as a First Down or the "under review" effect that I'm glad I built...), my key sources/types changed. Also, due to the limitation of two chroma keyers per MLE, I had to compose some keyable sources on a separate MLE to take them to air. When I needed to quickly reset to "normal", I had created some CCs to get me back to where I needed to be without interrupting the program stream. I know, it's elementary to TDs who have been doing this for a while, but I'm making this thing work and it's cool to see it do what I actually want it to do ;)

I could lull you into an even deeper sleep by continuing that realm of discussion, but I'm starting to put myself to sleep, so I'll hold off ;)

Other positions included replay, which utilized both our old SD Profile system that was integrated into the room; perfect for football. I would say that 75%-80% of the replays that were shown in the first half were run from our old system while the EVS operators got a little more comfortable with their setup. In the second half I would say it was much closer to 50%-50% between EVS and Profile. We even had a post-game recap that was composed on the EVS and played back at the end of the game. Also, with the ability of the EVS to create and export clips in real time, there was no need to "dump to tape" at the end of the night. The clips were already there!

Our graphics/playback guys did a great job, even through a couple of technical hiccups along the way. Everything in our control room is so immersed in computers now - we're completely tape-less at this point. Meaning, we aren't set up to be able to push play on a VTR and take it as a direct source in the switcher as we were in the past. Everything is loaded into a Click Effects Crossfire clip server and played back from there. This machine also does many of our sponsorship collateral and informational pages. The other graphics machine handles nearly all of our replay transitions (with appropriate sponsorship branding). The only replays it does not handle is for a First Down. It also takes care of many "live" (not usually pre-recorded) sponsorship obligations.

One of the spaces that sometimes gets overlooked is Audio. God bless our audio guy right now! He has a massive new console with 48 faders (plus bussing/output) and about a million levels of menu structure in the new audio board. Everything seemed to go pretty smoothly on our end. We were fighting gremlins over at the stadium (who had eaten two amplifiers over the summer... we were pushing a ton of signal down a pipe that was seriously inhibited by lack of power...), but the arena side went pretty smooth.

Overall, I really couldn't be happier with how things went for our first event. Well... maybe if the Wolfpack could've put one in the "W" column... But for us, it was a great start to our brand new world!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I Can See My Car From Here

A little fun for the day.

Kickoff

It begins tonight.

NC State Wolfpack vs. South Carolina Gamecocks, 7 PM. If you can't be here, it's on ESPN.

It's As Cold As Ice


As of 10:18 AM, September 3rd, 2009



UPDATE:

1:40 PM

Look in live HERE.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Seventy... and Still Young

Wow... post #70 and yes, we're still here!

Things are moving faster as we get closer to kickoff. We're now within 48 hours of football season, and we've still got a few loose ends to tie up. A few were handled today. A few scary moments, today too... nothing a few calls to various tech support lines couldn't fix, though.

I found out today that News 14 will actually be coming by at some point tomorrow to do a quick story on the control room. They may just be coming by to talk to our hot dog champion (which I believe is actually being challenged at the Roast Grill tomorrow...). When I get a link to the story, I'll post it for you :)

In thinking about the whole conversion - now that it's technically hindsight - I thought that I would begin compiling an series of posts that review very specific parts of the control room, from cabling to consoles. These posts will be mostly toward those making decisions about future conversions/installs (like the Penguins). They will also recap my personal opinion about the equipment and even perhaps some candid interviews of our staff to give their thoughts: likes, dislikes, things we should have thought about on the front end that didn't come up until it was too late... you know :)

I would hope it would make for good reading for anyone, but the nature of these posts will be by and large for the broadcast (or even plan/average/run-of-the-mill) geek. Look for these posts to trickle out toward the latter part of October or early November (that'll pretty much be the next "free" moment I get... and then we're doing basketball pre-production while maintaining football and hockey, so who knows?!)

Also, over the next few days, be sure to check out the RBC Center Webcam: it's time to make the ice!

A personal thanks to Brady and Brad, my Ross techies that helped me out of a jam tonight.

And, because I felt like checking... Here are the current stats on the blog, June 1 - August 31, 2009. I understand how precious time is and I feel privileged to have you along for the ride.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Before and After

For those of you who actually marked this day on the calendar, you already know what I'm about to say: (1) Get a life [yes, this day WAS on my calendar so I'm speaking to myself...] and (2) today was the day DSI wrapped up their end of the control room conversion.

It's been a crazy whirlwind of insanity over the past three months (almost to the day). I wanted to quickly recap with a few before and after shots :) If you want to read more about the early days of the conversion, read about it here (and feel free to poke around in the other posts. You can sort loosely by date on the left-hand column; look for late May, early July).

Engineeringland, May 27, 2009


Engineeringland: August 28, 2009



Control Room/Monitor Wall: May 27, 2009


Old Monitor Wall full of single-source CRT TVs, mostly black and white. Notice also the large clunky furniture.

Holding up the back deck is our own Eric Bridenstine, who set a Roast Grill record of 19 chili-dogs! He had an hour, but it only took him 53 minutes. We at CanesVision are certainly proud. Read more at the N&O and here you can see some of the Twitter updates from other customers that were cheering Eric on (and others vowing to avenge his effort). Stay Tuned to CanesVision Online for a video recap in the near future :)

But... that's beside the point...

Control Room/Monitor Wall: August 28, 2009

Of course, we still have to clean and neaten things now that the bulk of the work is done. There are still a few odds and ends to be taken care of (I mentioned cleaning, right), but also a few loose ends that we're working out. Thankfully, the loose ends pertain to hockey. And, why am I happy about that? Because we're ready for football [as far as equipment/install is concerned], and that's less than a week away!

I do hope to get a better/more thorough walkthrough soon, but... you know... there's quite a bit else to do around here :)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Potpourri

Yep. It's that time of year, all right. The days just keep getting longer. The 10 PM mark was breached today. That, after two weeks of 8ish nights. You know you're up against the wall when Preview Day comes around.

Tomorrow, we get to show off all the stuff we've been working on to "the Wolfpack" (generic term for all those involved who have a say in our final production). It's been a whirlwind, especially with DSI trying to tie up all the loose ends before Friday.

On some other notes:
* Our [HD] cameras were fired up this week and look very nice. I saw one of them with the star filter in and, even in the minimal lighting of the arena bowl, and it was pretty :)

* We also fired up our old cameras at the football stadium. It's good to see everything lighting up and signals getting to where they need to go.

* I think I have a pretty good grasp on the Switcher (thanks, Brady). It's doing most of the things I want it to. The things that it isn't doing... well, those are probably just user error ;) Good thing I've got the manuals for late night reading material!

* The Centrio Multiviewer is pretty cool. Being able to customize things to our liking (and the ease of changing it if we need to) is very nice. We've had a couple of hiccups with it, but I'm pretty certain it's because we're taxing the system pretty hard trying to lay things out, try different layouts and such. When we get it to our liking, it'll probably just take a good restart to make it happy.

There are only about a million things that are going on right now, but this is about all that my brain can process for today.

Another random thought: the Hurricanes just re-vamped the website. Check it out: http://hurricanes.nhl.com.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Final Countdown

One more week of install. The big stuff is in and we're down to the little details. DSI will hand us the keys to the kingdom officially on Friday. One better, our sign-off day for our football creative is this Thursday.

It's a little crazy in that the Pack actually kick off the NCAA football season on Thursday, Sept. 3 vs. South Carolina. So, we have a grand total of six days (including the weekend) to get everything set and ready to go.

Reality is starting to sink in!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wow...

Man I'm exhausted!

Three days of switcher training is now a memory. Hopefully I can just as easily "store" and "recall" information from my brain as it is to store and recall presets in the switcher! Okay, geek joke, sorry. It is midnight, after all ;)

Among other things happening around the room today, we tested our program (main video output) video on the main boards today from the switcher, as well as testing our aux (alternate) send to the upper boards. Basically, I can be sending out two separate feeds through the switcher simultaneously. Just as long as I get the right source going to the right output I'll be fine :)

A few more days of football production and I can turn my focus more toward hockey. It sure is getting close!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lots of buttons...

Well... it's official... my head is about to explode. And, we have two more days of training on the Ross switcher. My head is spinning and we've barely scratched the surface! Things that we had outboard computers doing in the past can now all be done inside the switcher.

Our old switcher could do some nifty things, but couldn't even play in the same league as this new switcher. The amazing levels of customization, user presets (for input mapping, button colors, et al.), keyer setups and more are pretty amazing. Our trainer is flying through the the possibilities, and I know we're just getting started.

The next two days will be getting down to building presets and effects into the switcher, so it's bound to be tedious. However, it's going to be great for us in the long run.

Oh yeah, and then there's football...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Learning the Facts of Life

Things are down to the wire with football production. All the while, we have equipment configuration and training going on... whew!

A couple of us took the crash course on the Centrio Multiviewer last week. The concept is easy, but the level of customization makes it extremely flexible. Since this system is tied directly to our Router, all of the input names are set by the router. Also, the tally display system passes these names through for consistency.

Today, we had an engineer setting up our Ross Switcher today, and there is training over the next three days on it. If you follow the link through, and want to see what we've got, we have the Vision 3 QMD/X control surface. I have to say, even with the little things that I learned about what the switcher can do, it made me that much more excited about it. Now I just have to learn how to make it sing before football starts ;)

Personally, I am completely moved out of my temporary shelter for the summer and back in my permanent home. Within the next week, the other guys will be moving down, as well.

I know that I have not been on top of the updates as best as I should, but there are lots of things going on right now! So many I can't even remember them all ;)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

While I'm Away, I'll Write Home Everyday...

Just a reminder to pick up your CanesVision HD/Wolfpack TV HD wallpapers, exclusively from the CVHD Blog :)

Choose your resolution and have fun!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Class is in Session

While I spent my entire day moving more stuff into my permanent home (as well as fighting with a new piece of hardware... which I was finally informed by tech support is incompatible with my motherboard... go fig), other folks on our crew were having a more productive day.

One of our full-timers and several part-timers have been learning the new replay system. I heard farily positive things from those involved, which is good ;) I can only hope that switcher training will go as well for me later this week!

There are so many things going on simultaneously right now... Wolfpack Football production (deadline quickly approaching...); Intercom setup/testing; signal testing at all production stations; editors (such as I) are beginning to move into the control room all while training is going on... it's pretty crazy!

Hopefully, tomorrow I can knock out quite a bit of my football production that's on my plate and then on to more hockey (sorry, just more to do for hockey) :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Looking Good

Harris is in the house now configuring the router and monitor wall :)


We are also going to start the process of moving our editing machines back into the control room, so we should be settling in throughout the next week or so.

Just keeping you updated as I can :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Sport Less Mentioned

Notice I didn't say less important :) It just gets pushed aside in all the HD conversion talk because Carter Finley isn't going HD (yet).

Since some of you may not know, CanesVision is not only responsible for in-game production for all Canes home games. We also do all NC State (men's) basketball home games as well as NC State football games. Yes, the control room at the RBC Center controls the videoboards at Carter Finley.

On game day, we have a minimal crew actually in the stadium (producer, audio producer, stats guy & four cameramen + two grips). The other positions are stationed in the RBC Center control room, just as they are for basketball or hockey (director, technical director, replay ops, graphics...)

In the past, any event at Carter Finley necessitated a major breakdown of eqiupment at the arena only to rebuild it all across the street. The cameras used for hockey & basketball were also used for football (meaning a lot of equipment, such as the camera control units have to come, too... they're heavy....). We had road cases we would load the CCUs into to cart them over in... it was a multiple-day ordeal sometimes (which is problematic if you have a bball/hockey game the night before)...

No more! :)

Since we have the new HD cameras for the arena, we're utilizing the existing cameras solely for football now, meaning much less wear and tear on the equipment. With that, it means we need a more permanent place for the equipment to live (that's not just road cases sitting on a table...)

So... here's the rough plan for our solution.

I realize most of you (even some employees!) wouldn't know what it used to look like ;) Take my word for it... This desk is the "new" video shading station for the stadium. Much nicer - and more permanent - than what we used to have!

These racks are existing and remaining, but I wanted to share... because :)


So... if the arena is HD, and the football stadium is SD, how can the HD control room handle it (and so quickly)? Two concepts: fiberoptics and up/down conversion.

[Over-simplification alert:] We capture the video with the cameras, send them to the Carter Finley control room (for shading, etc.), then ship them over as sources on fiber to the arena. The sources are upconverted to HD so we can mix them in the switcher (with graphics and replays, etc.). The program output is then down-converted and shipped back across on fiber to the videoboards.

Side note: all of our graphics and such for football must completely be contained in a 4:3 world, even on graphics machines that typically do 16:9 work for the arena... so we still get to use the same equipment, just in different ways.

The amazing thing is that through all of this - all of the connections and such - the delay from camera to board is negligible delay in the signal. If you're GOOD, you can spot that there actually is a quarter-second (8 frame) delay, but that is actually BUILT IN so that video & audio [from the single-point speaker setup] match at the 50-yard line (think: speed of light is faster than the speed of sound - therefore, we slow down the light to let the sound catch up...). Cool, huh?

And... where are we? :) Here's our view of the [brand new] field.



And, since I was up there anyway...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Hot Off The Press

I told you that there were some awesome things going on in the background here. And it's all for the awesome readers of the CVHD blog!

Presenting CanesVision HD & Wolfpack TV HD desktop wallpaper, exclusively from the CVHD blog!

To download the wallpaper, click your resolution choice below the picture.



CANES WALLPAPER: 1200 x 800 (16:9)

CANES WALLPAPER: 1024 x 768 (4:3)



NC STATE WALLPAPER: 1200 x 800 (16:9)

NC STATE WALLPAPER: 1024 x 768 (4:3)


Instructions on setting the dekstop background can be found HERE.


Don't forget: you can be alerted of new posts to the blog via Twitter @CVHD!

Enjoy, everyone, and have a GREAT weekend... don't stare at your computer screen too much!

Lighting It Up

A few pictures to update you. These were actually taken yesterday, but not much has visibly changed since then :)

I keep referencing the monitor wall because it will really be the focal point of the room on game day. The final monitors were placed, so this is the final configuration of the wall :)



And... the switcher control surface was installed yesterday!

Switcher: under wraps


IT LIGHTS UP!
(Demo Mode)



See?

Wanted to get this out before the weekend.

Also... something AWESOME is coming in just a few minutes... stay tuned!

Oops...

Another project got in the way of an update today!

SORRY!

I will do my best to make up for it tomorrow ;) (and then some!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Red Bull, Anyone?

Why is it that I can't get around to starting this until nearly midnight? You think you fall asleep READING it... sheesh... ;)

I do have some cool stuff coming down the pike. I have to run it through the channels first, but stay tuned within the next couple of days for something really cool :) Have I piqued your interest enough yet? Good! Now, stay awake!

First, I'd like to give a shout out to Destination Wake Forest for drumming up interest in what we've got going on here. Thanks so much for the mention!


Now to the geeky stuff:


I got to see the camera that we're going to be using on the robotic head.


It's simple, but it works :) Something I learned about the robo head that I thought was interesting... Stay with me, I don't know how much I can simplify :)


Basically (I know, ha ha), there's fiber running from the control room to the robo head for the HD camera signal. However, the signal from the camera actually comes out HD SDI (BNC Connector) and plugs straight into the head. Then, the signal is converted into light and transmitted through the optical slip rings and actually exits the head as fiber! I figured there would be some elaborate external "box" we'd have to mount on the side of the camera for conversion - NO! The head actually converts it for us :) Streamlining the process is good!

A part of this whole process is the camera control station. This is where the color/iris (brightness), etc. for all of the cameras can be set remotely.


The large monitor (which is identical to those on the monitor wall - 46"er!) is a source monitor driven by the multiviewer. The smaller monitor just below and to the left is the "match monitor" (to make sure all the cameras look the same).


Notice the four identical RCPs (remote control panels): those are for our four main "manned" cameras.


The medium-sized RCP is for an additional camera that we can use for our show or that we can convert for ENG work. If the opportunity presents itself, I will try to go into more detail on all the cameras other than the robo :)


Okay... for those who are still awake... or have unexploded brains...


We have our main monitors on the wall that will show the video sources through the multiviewer. It looks good to see the big guys on the wall :)



It's not quite finished yet, but it's certainly closer! WOOO!


Someone also asked me why I'm putting these crazy watermarks on all my pictures. I noticed early on that my photos were showing up in places that I didn't put them... and no one knew where they came from... So, I know they're annoying, but I am doing this so that I can still get credit for staying awake writing all this stuff down :) It's inevitable that these pictures will be re-circulated elsewhere... All I ask is that you give the blog credit. The address is http://canesvision-hd.blogspot.com/. You could also promo the Twitter address @CVHD.

Thanks!


Now that the mean stuff is out of the way, and because I got so many good comments about the Canes picture, I wanted to make sure I spread the love to the NC State crowd!



Special framing just for you! Includes the '74 and '83 Banners :)


I can almost hear a distant "WOLF"... "PACK"...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Update: In Pictures

A few things have been going on over the past couple of days, and I wanted to update you on it! I may not be as timely as I should, but hopefully I'm keeping you interested ;)

While the overall room looks pretty much the same as it did last week, a few details have popped up that are worth noting :) The second row of the control room started getting some of its auxiliary user equipment - some of which has been posted previously, but it's cool to see it finding it's final resting place... um... finally!

This is one of the EVS replay stations; the "shotbox", keyboard and touchpad/stylus have been placed.


The second EVS replay station.

Something familiar for our CanesVision crew... the "Profile" Slo-Mo machine still lives!

For those who have no clue what I'm talking about... We are actually keeping our "old" standard-def (SD) replay system to be used for extra replay angles. We can actually run these on either analog or down-converted [HD to SD] signals, then bring them into either a frame sync or directly into the switcher and voila! Two additional replay angles! These are perfect for football, as the cameras are already analog (we're using the cameras we used to use for football/hockey/basketball solely for football for now... until Carter Finley gets HD displays, at least...). For hockey and basketball, we will be able to put either goal overheads or "slam cam"s into these units for extra looks in-game.

Info overload, huh?

More pictures, then!

I know I posted a similar picture Friday, but look... it's alive! The audio board is the first operational thing in the control room :) Of course, it isn't quite fully hooked up to everything on the output side yet... because not everything is there yet!


The robotic camera controls were placed on the second row, as well. It's a big box, but the ability and flexibility of the camera will be tremendous!



And now... what many of you have been waiting for... the main event! We threw together some logos to place on all the boards for a photo op for the Sports Business Journal, which is doing a story on our HD conversion... No ideas on a publishing date just yet, but I'm guessing pretty soon....


Also, due to Daktronics still ironing out some last minute details on the physical board, it was down on floor-level, but that just means it's closer to take pictures of ;)


Nevertheless, here's a small preview of things to come! Do enjoy!



I hope to have a similar NC State look by the end of the week (don't hold me to it!).

Until next time...