Fiber Is Key To TD Banknorth Garden’s HD Upgrade
In September 2006, Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden became the first professional indoor basketball and hockey arena in the world to install a high-definition control room and HD LED video scoreboard. The scoreboard features four HD Mitsubishi LED display screens, each measuring 12 feet, 9 inches by 21 feet, 4 inches. A combination of singlemode, multimode and SMPTE fiber technology made this project possible, and some of the same technologies have also simplified other HD productions at the Garden.
Among the chief challenges faced by John Mitchell, director of audio/video production for the TD Banknorth Garden, and Littlebay Broadcast, a company that provides engineering design and technical management services for the Garden, was the need to send signals more than 1,000 feet between the arena’s truck bay and the control room. Even if they had been willing to make the investment in premium-grade coax cable, it wouldn’t have provided the combination of long-distance transport capability and quality necessary to move HD camera feeds to the truck.
Mitchell opted instead to move those HD camera signals via fiber. Telecast Fiber Systems supplied a new fiber package to support the transport of 10 HD 1080i (HD-SDI) camera signals, fed from the truck bay via a Gepco HD serial digital coax link to a broadcast hub location on the arena level. The 10 HD-SDI signals are then fed into Ensemble Design HD DAs, which supply video to the locker rooms of the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics, and also through a Telecast Viper II modular fiber optic system for transmission via singlemode fiber to the control room. The signal also hits HD DAs located within the control room to feed the facility’s Grass Valley Kayak switcher, Utah Scientific HD router and Miranda Kaleido HD multiviewers.
The Telecast Fiber installation also supports transport of signals from the arena’s in-house Ikegami HDK-75EX HD cameras, which are connected by Mohawk Stadium SMPTE fiber optic camera cable runs to the control room. The robotic HD scoreboard camera, an Ikegami HDK-40 HD POV, uses Telecast Viper II POV transceivers to deliver HD video and control signals via singlemode fiber to the control room. The same Viper II systems are used to send HD-SDI feeds from the in-house scoreboard program, as well as the robotic HD scoreboard camera feed, to the truck bay.
Though most away teams visiting the Garden don’t yet broadcast in HD, the arena has hosted games for which three simultaneous HD broadcasts originated from the facility. Lorraine Spadaro, VP of technology for the Garden, plans to expand the arena’s fiber infrastructure to provide even greater HD capacity in the future.
One broadcaster is already taking regular advantage of the Garden’s updated infrastructure to provide superior picture quality and information to fans of Bruins hockey. New England Sports Network (NESN) uses its own HD broadcast booth to provide coverage of all Bruins home games. Under the leadership of chief engineer Dave Desrochers, NESN has deployed Telecast’s fiber technologies to resolve bandwidth issues and gain the capacity it needs for transmission as it continues to expand HD operations.
Located on the mezzanine level—at the opposite end of the Garden from the arena control room—the new NESN HD booth supports the network’s pre-game, intermission and post-game broadcasts. The booth is equipped with two HD cameras, audio and intercom for support, as well as an HD return from NESN headquarters, a new 44,000-square-foot HD production center in Watertown, MA.
NESN’s game feed is produced by a National Mobile Television (NMT) HD truck parked outside the Garden. Four dark fibers stretching over 19 miles connect the Garden and NESN’s Watertown studio and support transport of uncompressed 1080i video, including all audio, IFB, intercom support and tally. Telecast’s Viper II systems allow NESN to put uncompressed HD feeds and a combination of analog and Ethernet feeds, as well as L-Band satellite return monitoring feeds, on redundant fibers.
Two of the leased dark fibers are used for the booth cameras, one for the truck program transmission to NESN, and one for the HD program return to the Garden. Because the HD signal remains uncompressed from capture through production and is compressed only at the satellite uplink, NESN is able to maintain clean, pristine images of the area’s best-loved sports events.
Among the most popular elements within the new NESN HD broadcast booth is the 10/100 Ethernet link muxed into the Telecast booth package. NESN’s sportscasters can plug their laptops into the network and gain access to all resources on the mainframe back in Watertown. With this capability, a sportscaster can access and print out up-to-date stats and scores, which can be read a minute later on the air. This new approach has proven to be far more appealing than collecting and hand writing notes from around the league for later reporting.
NESN continues to enhance its HD booth at the Garden, with plans to install two remote-controlled studio cameras. This change will make the highly visible booth a more attractive area from the fans’ perspective while enabling a camera operator at the Watertown production facility to control the camera. Because the Viper II’s four-channel and eight-channel optical multiplexing (coarse wavelength-division multiplexing—CWDM) capacity enables the network to use far fewer cross-town fibers for its transmissions, NESN has plenty of room for additional channels or signals in the future.