While we all love to admire the new "beast board" video board at Williams-Brice, few people realize the amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing the images you see on the massive new board each football game and that the new board also came with a brand new control room. We checked in with David Cockfield, a television engineer and the university's game producer since 1983, to learn more about the new control room for the video board that was constructed this summer.
Check out some the numbers:
9 - wall-mounted monitors in the control room to see what all the cameras and graphics are doing
14 - the number of people in the control room on gameday
7 - cameras delivering multiple views of the action from the roof, sidelines, the porch of the Floyd Building, a wireless camera, and cameras aimed at the video board itself to see what it looks like and pan the stadium
23 - overall production crew for gameday including camera operators, spotters, the control room operators and more
1 - separate audio room for a sound engineer, a new position for 2012 to operate the new audio console.
Among the people in the control room on gameday are graphics operators, a technical director who switches between cameras, a director, ribbon board operator, producer, LED operator for the video board itself, replay operators, and an engineer.
While all those people have vast production and television experience, they all still had to learn a whole new system. All the equipment and cameras in the new control room are brand new and high definition.
With such a tight timeline (equipment is still being delivered!) to be game-ready, a planned two-week training period was condensed to approximately just three days.
The relatively short timeline, creating all the graphics and starting building from scratch have raised some challenges in the process, explained Cockfield.
"Since everything is new, everybody is learning a new system. We're close to where we want to be but we still have some work to do," said Cockfield.
"The new [graphics] system is more computer-friendly but it's a learning curve. These graphics are the first of its kind. AVID folks came to train us and a week before they started training us they were getting trained for it. They took off the "Beta version" label and put on 'release'."
The crew has been making strides in learning all the new tools and equipment to take full advantage of the new capabilities the video board provides, such as showing multiple images and elements on the screen at one time and displaying real-time statistics.
"The old board was only 28 x 20 feet so you couldn't do widescreen but now we can do that. We can put up to four different images at the same time," explained Cockfield. "Hypothetically, if we wanted to show two games that start at 12:00 and 12:20 we can put both of them up there and use the other half of the screen to show stuff going on in our stadium until our game starts. The capability is there but we're not quite sure how to do it yet. But [the new equipment] gives us some options."
One other interesting note about the board is that the ultra-wide screen is high definition but is not formatted the same as an HD screen, meaning it is not a true 16x9 aspect ratio. While the control room operators are learning an entirely new system, even the camera operators have also had to learn to shoot all over again. The new dimensions of the board mean they lose some of the top and bottom of a normal picture and must fit their shot within a template on the viewfinder that matches the true video board display.
Also new this season the SEC has updated their replay policy. Institutions are not limited in the use of replays except when a stoppage occurs for an official review. During official reviews, stadium video boards will only be able to show replays from the television network that is broadcasting the game. In the past the control room did not need to have any communication with the TV truck feed.
Although the crew has been putting in long hours (over 2400 hours of work in nine weeks among the group to be ready for the first game) and trying to adapt as quickly as possible to the new system, they can't contain their excitement.
"Everything is new; it's amazing. Every piece of the new equipment is a little bit different than what we used to have. Everyone was excited; it was very much like Christmas. The Vandy game was the first time we really got to see everything," said Cockfield, referring to testing out the board's capabilities during the Gamecocks' opening road game in Nashville.
"The first game [vs. ECU] was a big concern for us, especially pregame because people are really looking at the board during starting line-ups and what not. Once we made it to the actual game, we worked a lot better and everyone was a lot calmer. I think each week will be a little bit better than the week before."
Stay tuned each game to the BEAST BOARD and keep in mind Cockfield and his crew hard at work to help contribute to the amazing in-game experience at Williams-Brice Stadium!
Check out a slideshow with more photos of the new control room, taken by Juan Blas: