FOR-A Corporation played a key role in the $15-million AV upgrade of Washington, D.C.’s Capital One Arena. The extensive improvements by owner Monumental Sports & Entertainment focus on technological enhancements to the in-arena viewing experience for fans of professional sports teams-the NBA's Washington Wizards and NHL's Washington Capitals-as well as college basketball, including the Georgetown Hoyas plus the NCAA, ACC, and Big Ten tournaments.
The arena’s video displays combine to deliver almost 20,000 square feet of 4K UHD quality video, greatly contributing to the storytelling process of live sports coverage. The centerpiece of the in-arena fan experience is the new center-hung scoreboard. It features a 360-degree continuous screen with 4K UHD video across eight distinct display areas. Four two-sided, curved video screens installed in the corners of the arena give even the fans in the upper levels access to stats, out-of-town scores, replays, and live-action video.
Behind the scenes, it requires an integrated system of video production switchers, multi-viewers, servers, keyers, recorders, character generators, and slow-motion replay systems to create the monumental memories MSE demands for the Capital One Arena.
In planning for their video production upgrades, MSE compared numerous systems for features, price, functionality, and reliability, as well as the customer service vital to ensure seamless entertainment up on the big screens. “I had lengthy experience with FOR-A systems at previous employers,” said Ryan Dillenbeck, chief broadcast engineer at Capital One Arena, “and it’s always been a pleasure working with their reps. They have the answers I need, are quick to respond, and the equipment is always top notch and affordable.”
The centerpiece of the FOR-A system is the HVS-2000 Production Switcher. With its patented MELite technology, the two M/E switcher offers six M/E performance. With a three M/E HVS-3320 panel, the switcher is expandable up to 48 inputs/18 outputs or 40 inputs/22 outputs. “It’s the primary switcher for our center-hung scoreboard and has expanded our keying capability and ability to easily send more feeds to more places,” said Dillenbeck. “It also has more source inputs than our previous switcher, and easy macros let us go rapidly from one in-game element to another. The result is more complex productions delivered to more screens within the building, which the fans really enjoy.”
After an exhaustive, one-month testing period, the MSE video production team chose an Envivo Replay System from Variant Systems Group where its functionality, ease of use, and price point sealed the deal. This slow-motion replay system provides up to six SDI inputs and two SDI outputs, for more replay channels and more camera angles. “It was originally connected to our primary control system as a second replay system, but we’re using it as a primary now since its ability to output a highlights package at the end of the night is so much faster,” said Dillenbeck. “It has quick and easy social media plugins that make it easy to push clips to the web. The integrated tools let us publish clips, playlists or stills with branding. That it’s easy to set up and easy to learn for anyone with just basic computer skills was a huge plus.”
Located in the arena’s primary control room, the MV-3240 External Multiviewer provides custom multi-view windows for producers, directors, and team coaches, and integrates easily into the switcher’s tally system. “The crop/resize feature for creating many different MV layouts for the various shows is a huge plus,” said Dillenbeck. “And the available outputs and tallies allow me to use legacy equipment and expand the system seamlessly.”
The Insight Production Server lets Dillenbeck’s team record and play back packages and pre-production elements with ease. “It accepts a wide variety of file formats, so we are not constantly going back to the editors and content providers for new transcodes. Things just work seamlessly on the fly.”
Dillenbeck chose the LTR-200HS7 Linear Tape Recorder/Player, a multi-format LTO-7 archiving recorder with six TB of internal storage for the arena’s archiving and exchange of recorded materials. “It lets us store whole seasons and more onto one compact, long-term archival storage tape," said Dillenbeck. "Each sport has its own tape, which holds two seasons, freeing up much sought-after real estate in the building. The video editors like that it works like a VTR deck, alone and without any computers or software, and has an easy interface whenever they need to get videos from the tape to the edit suite.”
As one of the busiest sports venues in the U.S., Capital One Arena’s video team makes every seat in the “front row,” with an in-arena experience that incorporates instant replays, live-action video, stats, and out-of-town scores playing on screens throughout the facility. In addition to instantly accessing the ideal video, audio, or graphic element to run after a dramatic three-point shot wins the game, the arena enjoys the ability to push assets to social media.
“Fans love the more complex productions even if they don’t know what goes into creating that complexity,” Dillenbeck said. With the switchers, multi-viewers, servers, keyers, recorders, character generators, and slow-motion replay systems that MSE has purchased from FOR-A, they’re enjoying not just industry-best features and functionality, but “great value, 100% reliability, and amazing customer service” that delivers a fan experience that is second to none.