The Georgia Dome

The Georgia Dome was built in 1992 as a multipurpose stadium and home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.When the state-owned facility opened, Georgia Dome Productions was created for all in-house broadcast needs.

Gepco cables provided the foundation for the Georgia Dome’s new equipment. The cabling had to be able to handle the analog, digital and HD formats used in the suite.

Any facility associated with the NFL must have broadcasting capabilities that comply with the league’s rigorous standards. This meant that the antiquated analog systems in the stadium’s control suite had to be upgraded to SDI, and its broadcast infrastructure prepared for an upgrade to high-definition in the future. The suite, operated by Georgia Dome Productions, produces its own in-house show on game day. While it is relied upon heavily for productions, the Georgia Dome has two LED video boards and over 500 monitors, it also receives a broadcast feed from VyVX for league highlights shown on the same monitors. Another aspect of the Georgia Dome that separates it from many other NFL stadiums is its ability to broadcast outside of the facility. The control suite, which can handle uplinks as well as downlinks, has a fiber line that runs directly out of the room to parent company Crawford Communications’ satellite teleport.

Most control rooms throughout the NFL are only used from August to January and then are stored away until the next season, but the Georgia Dome is used year-round. It hosts events such as Supercross, NCAA SEC championship football and basketball, NCAA men’s and women’s basketball, professional bull riding, concerts, and conventions. The facility’s full-time use stressed the need for an upgrade to a higher-quality system.

The control room, originally had linear editing equipment supplied by Crawford Communications, including a Grass Valley routing switcher; an 230 Ampex video switcher, an ACE editor and ADO-1000 digital effects from Ampex; an Abekus A42 still store; and BVW75 and BVW65 Beta decks and a ¾-inch VTR from Sony. Since some of the gear was more than 20 years old, it was time to bring the suite up-to-date.

The Georgia Dome chose the Evertz MVP multivideo processor, with three Mitsubishi LCD monitors for display instead of a traditional monitor wall found in most control rooms.

Comprehensive Technical Group (CTG) was contracted by Georgia Dome Productions to perform the installation and system integration. CTG was hired on June 6, 2003 and had to have the room up and running by the Falcons’ first preseason game on Aug. 9, 2003. However, the actual installation had to be finished closer to Aug. 1, 2003, to allow the stadium crew a week to become accustomed to the new setup. CTG began with a two-stage design process and turned to an assortment of Thomson Grass Valley products. A Zodiak 64-input production switcher was one of the main units in the installation. Other Thomson Grass Valley units included a Concerto routing switcher, framed at 128x128, but populated at 64x64, and a GVEous DVE. The upgrade also allowed the suite to get away from the traditional monitor wall found in most control rooms and move to an Evertz multiview processor, which is displayed on three Mitsubishi LCD monitors. There are still some standard monitors in the suite for program previews and tests, but the majority of monitoring is handled by the 40-inch LCDs. The Evertz multiview processor is easily reconfigured for the facility’s events.

One of the constants when performing the various aspects of the overhaul was the use of Gepco audio and video cables. It’s one thing to upgrade to high-tech A/V equipment, but if the material that connects it all is faulty, then the new gear becomes irrelevant. The cabling had to be able to handle the analog, digital and HD formats used in the suite. A combined total of 40,000 feet of Gepco’s VPM2000 and VSD2001 cables were used in the upgrade. CTG supplied the suite with four Leitch DPS-575 frame synchronizers in order to integrate feeds into the in-house production. The room also receives feeds from several cameras throughout the stadium, providing the crowd with the same views and angles that the referee has for instant-replay challenges during the game.

ADC video patch panels were chosen for the job since they are rated for HD signals.

With the suite located on the press box level of the stadium, space was at an expensive premium and was a major factor in the room’s design. The tight parameters of the room are analogous to what one would find in a large broadcast truck, so it was decided to keep the design and equipment consistent with a standard remote truck. Therefore, this design also provided a familiar layout for the freelancers who are often hired.

In addition to upgrading the production equipment, Georgia Dome Productions also wanted to update the editing equipment. Previously the facility was using an Ampex ACE editor that was physically located in the production control room. An Avid Media Composer was added, and it allows individuals to operate separately from the control room.

To handle the new digital formats, as well as the remaining analog units, the production suite was equipped with a Sony IMX deck, which allows the playback of legacy tape formats such as Beta, Beta SP and DigiBeta. The Sony IMX further increased the facility’s versatility and ability to manage multiple formats with ease.

The installer could have brought in enough equipment either to bring the entire control room suite up to date, or to change everything over to HD. Considering the numerous clients that the Georgia Dome services aside from NFL football, CTG opted to upgrade the room, while taking the first step in HD preparation. When the time comes for a complete upgrade to HD, the suite will only need a few extra matrixes for the routing switcher.

As the season closes for the Atlanta Falcons, the upgrade has been a success. The new equipment has been easier to use and created a more reliable production and editing environment. In 2004, the Georgia Dome will play host to the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, Monster Jam and Honda’s “Battle of the Bands” 2004 invitational showcase.

Beverly Wilson is operations manager for the Georgia Dome.

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