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Scoring TDs At BC

Steak isn't the only thing that's part of a football player's steady diet in 2005. Whether they're playing in college or the pros, gridiron athletes are eating, sleeping and breathing video to go along with their Gatorade, benefiting from increasingly sophisticated AV installations that give them the best chance to win their weekend matchups.

Boston College's (BC) brand new Yawkey Athletic Center is a perfect example, a 72,000-square-foot complex where the display and control requirements of a Pinnacle Editing System for game analysis were among the chief considerations. "Athletic teams are really starting to look at the value of what audio and video can bring to their programs," said Peter Thompson, co-principal of system design firm, ACT Associates. "At every level, they break down game video and go right down to the millimeter to dissect the actions. There are only 10 or 11 games a year, so each play of each game is critical, and so much preparation goes into a match-up that it's really becoming more of a science. It's not writing on a chalkboard anymore; teams have got to use advanced AV technology to be competitive or they're going to be left behind."

Built primarily for the Boston College Eagles football team, a high-profile program, the Yawkey facility includes new football offices, meeting and breakout rooms, locker rooms, equipment rooms, strength/conditioning facilities, a study center with computer labs and group/individual tutoring and more. ACT Associates, architect Architectural Resources Cambridge, and dealer/installer Adtech Systems were especially intrigued by the exacting AV needs that the football coaches and players would have for their one large, auditorium-style classroom, one small, auditorium style classroom, one multi-purpose function room, three staff conference rooms, nine position meeting rooms and five small rooms with TV display systems.

In most of the rooms, coaches needed the ability to interface with a Pinnacle Systems tapeless editing environment that allowed them to play out footage shot from any of three different angles of the Eagles or an opponent. Simultaneously, comprehensive annotation and windowing capabilities that would work smoothly with PowerPoint and spreadsheet presentations and electronic whiteboard functionality were necessary.

The AV team worked extensively with their BC clients on the way to designing an intuitive work environment headed by a Crestron UPX-2 universal presentation processor. "Truly identifying a stable user group to work through the entire project was key," said Martin Calverley, co-principal of ACT Associates. "Not working with one coach one day and another the next, but one consistent group of people working through the design phase is critical. The BC project manager, Donald Woodring, really coordinated people well for getting them on the same path. We had three to four user groups: the coaching staff, the BC AV staff, the athletic department's IT department, and we had BC Capital Projects-we got input from all these people. Once we had assembled the right proof-of-concept demos, we wanted to make sure that we had a set agenda and a carefully organized demonstration, because these are busy people."

In all rooms designed for play analysis, coaches use Crestron touchpanels to manipulate a signal path that includes the digital video from the Pinnacle system (the secure video is available only via pulldown from the system's server), Mini-DV, S-Video players, DVD players and the coach's laptop as potential sources. Extron CrossPoint switchers manage RGB video and audio routing. An Extron MLC 226-enhanced MediaLink controller handles the status of a ceiling-mounted Sanyo 16:9 wide XGA projector playing out to Draper Signature V screens. Where necessary, voice reinforcement is supplied by JBL Control speakers, Crown CTS 1200/4200 power amps, and Shure wireless microphones, with DSP coming via Biamp's AudiaFLEX. Coaches can control sessions either from the front of the room, lectern-style, or the preferred credenza-style position in the back of the room.

The result is an efficient learning environment that is a big step up, all part of a fast evolution for sports AV environments. "This level of technology is interactive a step beyond most classrooms," Calverley stated. "The ability to work so many types of media simultaneously raises football analysis like this to an analytical science."

Thompson added, "We try to get to the heart of what technology and design is supposed to provide to the client, so we ask, 'What's the return on investment?' In this case, the return on investment is winning games. This system gives coaches the ability to easily film games and then go over it, frame by frame, with every player. They can really focus on what each individual player is doing right and wrong, by position, and without that, these guys would really be left behind, because a lot of these schools are investing so much. On game day, it boils down to who's better prepared, and schools like BC are taking advantage of every tool that's presented to them."