Cowboys video board draws curiosity
I’m headed to Arlington tonight for the Cowboys-Panthers game, and this will be my fourth trip to JerryWorld and my third ballgame. But I got a very interesting email last week that makes me look at the Cowboys’ amazing video board in a whole new light.
Bill Perry is deputy director of network public affairs for OETA, the Oklahoma Education Television Network. In other words, he’s an experienced television man. And he had some interesting observations about the stadium.
Perry was at the OU-Brigham Young game and wrote me: “As a TV guy, I was naturally fascinated with the contemporary technology in use there and did a little exploring. What I noticed, there’s something unusual about the big screens I’ve not seen anyone mention to date in print or anyplace else. It’s a unique technical challenge they faced, and it’s because the screens are not hanging on a wall, like in most stadiums.
“With the video screens right in the center, it occurred to me that if all the screens carried the same feed, at least half the stadium would be looking at a reverse image of what they saw down below. The pressbox side is the primary angle with multiple camera positions, so for everyone on the pressbox side, the broadcast video feed matches what’s on the field. But if you’re sitting on the same side as the Cowboys bench, that feed would look backwards to you (the screen direction would be wrong according to what your eyes were seeing).
“To see how they tackled this potential problem, I took a walk and looked at both ‘big’ sides during the game. Somehow the screen direction was matching what was down below. Did they just flip the picture? Nope. All the numbers would be backwards, and they were not.
“After looking at it, I finally figured out that they must have some additional cameras on the reverse (Cowboy bench) side, dedicated to feeding that board the images necessary to keep the fans on that side from going directionally nuts (that way the runs and passes are not going the wrong way when they look up at the board). However, when there’s a closeup they use the same shot on both sides of the big boards. That’s why it can indeed be confusing if the closeup is of a ref calling a penalty — if you’re sitting on the Cowboy side, the guy on the big board is pointing in the opposite direction from the reality down below. When all those flags were flying at the OU game, we kept thinking they were pointing at BYU until we eventually figured out the ref image was backwards on the closeups.
“The smaller end screens are also somewhat of a screen direction issue, but I think people in the end zones can adapt to whichever screen direction is up there. I believe the south small screen is in sync with the pressbox side and its opposite one is in sync with the Cowboy bench side, but I didn’t confirm that.
“It must be very stressful to keep everything fed correctly during the game. Of course, when they are showing a commercial or promo video or, really, anything other than game action, they can pump the same feed to all four sides. But the technology of managing two separate feeds and cutting in closeups on both views is really a slick accomplishment. One more reason to be impressed.
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