The Montreal Canadiens hold a record 24 Stanley Cup championships—and the storied franchise knows how to capture the hearts and eyes of their loyal fanbase. Today, that includes digital signage at the Montreal Bell Centre arena that provides rich HD feeds to keep all 21,000 plus fans engaged even when they’re away from their seats in the concourse areas.
Home to the Canadiens, the Bell Centre also hosts a full line-up of international music, theatre, sports, and business events each year. So the venue sought a “digital facelift” to ensure optimal ambiance for event-goers. Out went unwieldy light-box advertising, replaced with streamlined dual-monitor digital displays to best showcase event and event-related content. Spread throughout the main concourse; the displays broadcast simultaneous streams of game footage via an internal feed, along with rotating digital signage driven by Matrox Maevex H.264 encoders and decoders. Additionally, Maevex is also used behind-the-scenes to critically distribute goal replays to key decision makers on whether or not to challenge a goal that can crucially impact the outcome of a game. Maevex delivers Navori-programmed content, including hockey player profiles and advertising, via a Seneca HD2.5 media player housing a quad-output graphics card on a multicast Avaya network.
Pierre-Eric Belzile, Vice President, Information and Communication Technology for the Canadiens, ran several video distribution pilot programs with a local media player-based content distribution solution. From the various options, Maevex was the only AV-over-IP platform capable of synchronizing digital signage distributed via one encoder to multiple displays. With other hardware, synchronization was off by as many as several seconds, causing confusion for viewers who could see up to five sets of monitors.
The content, including hockey player profiles and advertising, is delivered via a Seneca HD2.5 media player housing a quad-output graphics card on a multicast Avaya network. A Maevex encoder is connected to each output, with each appliance delivering content to a set of five Maevex decoders for a total of 100 Maevex-powered displays.
“Each set takes up one quadrant of the concourse, with the content on each of the monitors synchronized to provide a single, consistent message to a given fan walking about the concession area. Maevex accomplished this better than we imagined,” described Belzile.
Belzile was also impressed by the end-result quality of the feed encoded and decoded by Maevex, noting the AV-over-IP device’s Full HD, 1080p60 capabilities.
“The crisp visuals stayed very true to the source content and to the Canadiens product which our organization prides itself on delivering to fans. Going to a hockey game is about the overall experience, both on and off the ice.”
The success of the digital signage usage scenario was almost a happy accident, as Belzile only decided to test Maevex in that capacity after deploying the HDMI-over-IP devices in a separate situation, one that can potentially impact the outcome of the game.
The NHL’s Coach’s Challenge allows a team to request a video review of the last play for specific scenarios if they have a time-out available, for example, an off-side call or review of a goal. Crucially, it must be effectively initiated before the resumption of play, which usually only allows a 40-second window. If the call on the ice for a goal (or no-goal) is deemed correct following the video review process, the timeout used is lost.
With limited time to decide whether or not to risk a timeout, the Canadiens needed a way to stream the footage to key decision-makers, including the assistant coaches of both teams — all stationed in different locations around the arena and requiring access to the feed as soon as it becomes available.
Initially running into reliability issues using another encoder/decoder combination to provide stakeholders with access to the feed provided from the NHL’s “war room” in Toronto, Belzile landed upon the Matrox Maevex H.264 encoders and decoders via an online search.
Belzile soon discovered Maevex met their needs perfectly, giving the Canadiens the technology they needed to make fast—and critical—decisions.
Maevex offers low, user-definable bitrates between 100 Kbps and 25 Mbps—among many other easy-to-use settings—via the Matrox PowerStream software. This ensures that content distribution doesn’t needlessly stress the building’s IT network and keeps bandwidth costs down for the Canadiens, consistently ranked among the most valuable NHL teams by Forbes Magazine, in part due to wise, cost-effective decisions such as selecting Maevex.
“Ultimately, taking all factors into consideration, especially the back-end flexibility of Maevex, it was an easy choice, and even easier to integrate the solution into the Bell Centre’s AV-over-IP multicast Avaya network infrastructure,” he said.
Belzile added that based on the success of the Maevex install, there are plans to expand the deployment to additional levels within the arena. He also envisions using Maevex in other facilities and for festivals like the massively-popular Osheaga and Heavy Montreal, put on by Evenko, an event promotion company operated by the same ownership group. Belzile expects Maevex to have the same of impact at these events as it has had at the Bell Centre.