WorldStage Uses Apantac openGear™ Scalers and Fiber Extenders in Madison Square Garden’s Projection on Ice
Major entertainment and sports arenas are constantly on the lookout for ways to engage live and remote audiences, as well as provide new branding and marketing tools for their partners. A case in point is the recent plan of the entertainment giant, Madison Square Garden, to project high-quality video images of players, team emblems, and entertainers directly onto the ice or basketball court to effectively transform the playing field into a viewing platform. To make this vision become a reality, in a very short time frame, the Garden turned to the event technology specialists at WorldStage (formerly Scharff Weisberg and Video Applications).
According to Barry Grossman, Chief Engineer at WorldStage, “The Garden wanted to display video on the arena floor with the sharpest image possible in order to provide the best, most spectacular viewing experience. That meant projecting in 4K.”
Once the creative design was in place, Grossman could see that engineering this project would be no easy feat. It called for the ability to feed 14 projectors with 4K video, which required converting, scaling, and extending 56x 3G (1080P) video feeds in a way that maintains sync across all signals while allowing for efficient power and space management. A key vendor that WorldStage called on to make this vision come alive is Apantac, which provided these solutions: OG-US-3500 universal scalers with genlock, as well as SDI fiber optic extender solutions, SDI-FIB-Tx/Rx and SDI-FIB-RMT (rack mount).
Assembling a system to project 4K video onto the floor of the arena involved a number of cutting-edge solutions and required them in record time. The engineering spec included 14 projectors using the highest-quality commercially available video 4K.
Each projector needed to receive four feeds of 3G-SDI video to create a 4K image for a total of 56 streams of 3G video. Those signals would come from media servers that together would output 56 DVI video streams four feeds per projector to be converted to SDI (in this case, 3G/1080P). The SDI signals needed to be routed and distributed through a matrix and extended over fiber optic cable due to the distance limitations of copper wire transmission. Extension entailed transmission from the matrix to receivers that feed the projectors. Grossman describes some of the challenges posed in this installation: “First and foremost, we needed to find the best hardware that allowed us to play 56 streams of video in sync and software to monitor the signals. In an entertainment venue where space for equipment installation is limited, we needed to use the least amount of rack space possible. We found these solutions with Apantac.” Grossman faced another challenge: a tight timetable of only a couple of months.
Choosing Apantac was critical to the installation. First, WorldStage had worked with the company before and knew it was open to working closely with customers on innovative solutions. Also, Apantac conversion and scaling solutions, including OG-US-3500, are built to fit into the openGear platform, which accepts a variety of TV standards, as well as providing master genlock to maintain sync; a software interface DashBoard to manage signals; and redundant power.
When Grossman contacted Apantac, the OG-US-3500 Universal Scaler with Genlock was still in development. Apantac loaned WorldStage several prototypes that could be tested before the actual installation.
“By listening to customers like Barry, we know that there’s a need for the technology, what form factor it has to be, and what the key features, inputs, and outputs have to be. Actually it was hot off the press for WorldStage they started testing our product at the prototype stage,” said Thomas Tang, President of Apantac.
The conversion, scaling, and extension products from Apantac enabled WorldStage to save space. The OG-US-3500 conversion/scaling unit allows for placement of 10 cards in a single 2 RU frame. On the extension side, WorldStage used the SDI-FIB-RMT rack mount unit that enabled it to conserve space while also providing a redundant power supply and standard IEC cable, making it a perfect solution for the job.
Once the market-ready OG-US-3500 arrived for use at the Garden, the results were nothing short of spectacular, with the gear working straight away, right out of the box. Grossman said, “This was the first use of this equipment in the field. The system was essentially plug and play, and the experience working with Apantac on this project was incredible.”
Grossman looks forward to continuing the working relationship. “We continue to work with Apantac to refine their products so we can use them in a staging application.”
Most important, the end customer is happy with the installation. “Madison Square Garden is extremely pleased with the way WorldStage and its associates, including Apantac, provided the ability to project multiple streams of video onto the floor of the arena. It helps us provide a vital, thrilling experience for our fans while providing additional visual elements for our programming partners,” said Marc Bauman, Senior Vice President at Madison Square Garden.