Buffalo Sabres’ Ice Projection Goes Above and Beyond

Published: 2014-07-09

The newest phenomenon to hit sports stadiums in recent years isn’t fans’ full-body paint, basketball players’ shooting sleeves, or baseball players’ facial hair.

It is a unique combination of AV integration that truly takes the in-game experience to the next level.

Little by little, upgrade by upgrade, basketball courts and hockey rinks alike especially have begun to act as enormous canvases on which to project pregame shows, celebration video montages, and images of team highlights from years past.

Suddenly, any flat surface is a potential projection screen — and massive one at that.

The Buffalo Sabres are one of the latest teams to peruse these possibilities and decide they want to give their fans the same stunning show. They wasted no time going to a veteran of this new, niche market.

3 Integrator Takeaways:
1. Be mindful when designing the system of what equipment can be connected. By using the lighting console for the control platform, Westbury synced the lighting effects to the video.
2. It is easier to build a new control desk with views of the equipment and presentation than to work with an imperfect operator’s position.
3. Portable racks and equipment allow you to work in an active setting or odd times of the day.

3 End User Takeaways:
1. Pay attention to what other venues like yours are doing, especially involving tech upgrades, to stay even with the competition.
2. Clearly convey your objective to the integrator. “We want to excite our audience,” led Westbury to install strobe lights and corner banners.
3. Be open to installation workarounds. This installation was possible even though the venue was being used.

Equipment Highlights:
Lighting Console: High End Systems Hog4
Lighting Effects: LeMaitre
Trussing: KAD and Unisson
Lighting Fixtures: High End Systems, Vari-Lite, Martin Atomic, Clay Paky Sharpy, WNSS/Apollo
Electrical Distribution: Motion Labs
Video Playback: Apple, Catalyst PM Media Server; Extron, WNSS/ECM
Video Processing: Vista Systems Spyder
System Control/Video Distribution: Middle Atlantic, AMX, Viewsonic, Cisco
Projector: Christie Digital

AVL production and systems integration firm Westbury National‘s work has wowed crowds with 200-by-85-foot presentations at the homes of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary Flames and more. Now, the firm would tackle the Buffalo Sabres’ 19,070-seat First Niagara Center.

Related: Complete List of 2014 CI & TD Integration Awards Winners

“When they traveled to other facilities, they would see what the other teams were doing, and they didn’t have the ability to execute any of that,” says John Coniglio, senior project manager at Toronto-based Westbury. “Aside from what they could present on their scoreboard, they were very limited in what they could do. They wanted to make the fan experience special.”

Westbury was asked to design and integrate an on-ice projection system, corner banner projection system and full lighting package. But the firm’s capabilities were being put to the test.

The team had a six-week deployment schedule — a very short window in which to design to system, procure all equipment, deliver and install.

Timing wasn’t the only challenge. Westbury discovered that the system operator’s position was not within direct sight of the ice. The firm custom-built a control desk to house the lighting console, complete with eight preview monitors and a Panasonic HD PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) camera. Now the operator might have the best seat in the house.

The lighting console is a High End Systems Hog 4, controlling 36 intelligent lighting fixtures. All the fixtures are positioned on four separate 30-foot trusses, as well as two 14-foot diameter circle trusses, which are all motorized and can be raised and lowered for maintenance and reconfiguration anytime.

“[The Hog 4] became the control platform for the show control system. We integrated it with the broadcast video, so it receives time code,” explains Guy Wallace, systems installation manager at Westbury. “When they play video back from video control, the lighting runs itself, sequenced to the video.”

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