The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets athletic department comprises 17 sports teams competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), with a dedicated legion of fans inside and outside the student/alumni community. The university rewarded its men’s and women’s basketball fans with upgraded game production capabilities prior to last season, delivering a vastly improved live sports experience for fans in the arena and watching the ESPN3 broadcasts.
The production upgrades, first centralized in the Hank McGamish Pavilion’s new control room, have since been extended to other venues on campus via fiber connectivity. The result brings the benefits of a modern digital control room, including slo-mo instant replay courtesy of Tightrope Media Systems, to football and volleyball games – with baseball and other sports soon to follow.
Tightrope’s ZEPLAY slo-mo instant replay system was installed alongside a complement of new cameras, switching and signal processing gear designed to simplify technical operations and improve the fan experience. Georgia Tech Director of Video Operations Andy Blanton believes that they have achieved both with the new control room and remote fiber connections, noting ZEPLAY’s significance in both situations.
“The experience of sitting in the venue is very different from the experience of being at home,” said Blanton. “We’re contracted to provide exclusive and balanced content for the ESPN3 broadcasts while using the same equipment and cast of characters for the in-venue productions. We don’t want to show replays of a visiting team player lighting up the court with dunks and three-pointers to fans in the arena. ZEPLAY gives us the flexibility to highlight exciting Yellow Jackets play for the home fans and cover up some of that action to broadcast audiences.”
From an operational perspective, ZEPLAY has delivered an easy and intuitive platform for control room operators to quickly execute replays, tag content and build tailored highlight packages based on targeted audiences. The built-in multiviewer also helps the ZEPLAY operator understand which angles are best suited for the broadcast and the in-venue production.
Perhaps most important to Blanton is the ability to quickly – and natively – archive and export clips, as the team is tasked with sharing content with multiple sources almost immediately following games. Similarly, much of that archived content is seamlessly imported back into the workflow to show recent highlights in subsequent games.
“We have a system in place to send footage straight from ZEPLAY to the conference office, which they distribute to the opponent we played that night,” said Blanton. “We share that same content, including a melt of highlights, with a multitude of recipients including media, our partners and our coach’s show. We simply hit the archive button and export those clips to the different recipients, with no transcoding required. ZEPLAY natively delivers content to three different editing systems in our case: Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro and Avid. It’s an enormous time-saver for our staff.”
Blanton adds that he’s been able to train operators to use ZEPLAY “within minutes,” including tagging plays with the right information to further accelerate the post-game archive-and-export process. That simple tagging capability also helps his operators keep track which players are hot, as well other developing trends of a game to create home and visitor highlight packages.
Further down the road, Blanton plans to integrate a Tightrope Carousel digital signage solution into the overall workflow to deliver content to display screens Hank McGamish Pavilion. He cites the cost and flexibility of Tightrope solutions as an overall attraction.
“We expect to incorporate Carousel into future marketing efforts, but the price point and feature sets of both products made the purchases an easy decision,” said Blanton. “We initially had another instant replay system in mind. Our consultant, Anthony James Partners, suggested that with just a little more money we could get a far more robust system in ZEPLAY that performs just as well as the high-end, expensive instant replay solutions. That recommendation, along with positive reviews, really swayed our decision to go with Tightrope.”