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!

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.

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.

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...



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 :)


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.


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


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


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 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


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.


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


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.