The University of Arizona’s sports tradition and heritage dates to the early 1900s, with 18 NCAA Championship titles to its name among many other titles and awards. The university recently overhauled its live sports production capabilities to more closely align with the grandeur of its sports tradition, transitioning its aging analog control room to an all-digital, HD-capable environment.
Director of video and information technology Matt George oversaw the project, carefully choosing the components that would bring his control room vision to life. He selected Tightrope Media Systems’ ZEPLAY slow-motion instant replay system to inject fresh excitement into home Wildcats games, including football, basketball, volleyball and gymnastics.
“My main focus is to promote the teams and create an environment for the fans where they will continue to support our events,” said George. “ZEPLAY helps us put on a show that rivals what viewers at home are watching on TV.”
George wound up purchasing two units for the price of a single competitive system he was evaluating — and with more features and capabilities per unit. Each ZEPLAY provides eight channels of live replay (four in, four out), a built-in multiviewer for studying angles, and extensive tagging options to assist with storage, recall and lightning-fast highlight package creation.
“We build profiles for each sport, and operators can just pull down the home team, type in the player number and use a hot button to tag a play,” he said. “This is especially ideal in basketball, where fans are close to the action. We can throw together a quick player highlight package after a scoring spurt to keep the crowd juiced during breaks. We couldn’t do that without ZEPLAY’s tagging options.”
Ease of use has also been a major advantage. George adds that he can — and has — put a non-technical person in front of the system in the pinch.
“We don’t have a huge budget for production, so we utilize a lot of student and freelance labor,” said George. “I can assign a camera guy who has never run replay for a basketball game and get decent results. It’s not a simple system — it does everything we want it to do — but it’s simple to operate, and it’s very robust and powerful. And things like the built-in multiviewer are a great cost-saver to me as it provides extra information, and features like color outlines and camera titling. Most of the products we looked at gave us the angle and nothing else.”
Systems integration company AVR worked closely with George and his team on design initiatives for the control room and installed all systems, recognizing the clear benefits of including ZEPLAY in the overall solution.
“The ZEPLAY solution was a significant value engineering choice as it literally provided double the bang for the buck in its feature set — and with change to spare,” said Jim Mauger, director of engineering, AVR. “It’s rare today to see so much quality and reliability for less money. All of this combined to help us provide a winning solution.”
AVR also added new routers, switching and audio equipment for the new control room among other systems, while running fiber connections to new digital scoreboards in the venues — the same scoreboards that now enliven the venue environments in cooperation with the ZEPLAY systems. The complete solution gives George and his staff a powerful set of live production tools to keep the fans coming back.
“The new control room is an improvement over the previous one in the way that driving a jalopy on a racetrack would compare to a brand new Corvette,” said George.