By: Karen Hogan
Big Screen Networks has come a long way since 2013, when it powered the US Open videoboard show for the first time. For one thing, it’s no longer Big Screen Networks: following an acquisition by Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment in October, the company changed its name to VWSE Productions. At this year’s Open in Flushing Meadows, NY, it has four new videoboards to populate, a new host broadcaster onsite, and plenty of new gear in the control room.
The most noticeable change to Arthur Ashe Stadium may be the retractable roof slowly taking shape overhead, but the four new IC Technologies videoboards located on each side of the venue are a close second.
“We’re now programming the four, and we have the ability to split them [into] north/south and east/west [with] a different signal on two at the same time,” says VWSE Productions EVP Bob Becker. “We’ve been [doing] a little bit of that, especially during Opening Ceremonies and national anthems, when they put a flag on two and [image magnification] on the north and south. As the facility grows, we’re continuing to grow, and it’s pretty exciting around here.”
In total, VWSE Productions produces a show for seven videoboards throughout the grounds: four in Ashe and one each in Louis Armstrong Stadium, the food court, and the South Plaza. In the past, VWSE wouldn’t produce a separate show for the grounds; this year, it added another technical director, upgraded the Ross Video Vision switcher, and installed additional monitors in the control room to handle multiple shows at once. Shows consist of graphics, match coverage, highlights, music videos, and statistics (provided by SMT).
“We’re now doing a full show on the ground,” says Becker. “Our [new] TD is there to send different signals to the South Plaza, to Armstrong, and to the food court ,so, at any given time, we can have three different things on any of the boards.”
VWSE enhanced its Christie Spyder video processor to take advantage of the South Plaza display’s real estate, pushing out multiple live match feeds, scores and stats, schedules, and more. The company installed an additional ChyronHego graphics engine to provide a lower-third ticker on the boards throughout the grounds. A six-channel EVS XT3 configured for four-in/two-out and a four-channel EVS IPDirector round out VWSE’s complement of rental equipment provided by VER (the switcher and several Click Effects Blaze systems are owned by the USTA).
With ESPN taking over host-feed duties, VWSE relies on the network’s cameras for court coverage, supplementing with two hard cameras and one RF handheld in Arthur Ashe for crowd shots.
“There’s no need for us to cover the court matches when ESPN has everything we need,” explains Becker. “The features they cut we have access to via IPDirector; we just go in and take what they give us. We get all their feeds — clean, dirty, whatever we want. It’s a great relationship.”
VWSE’s edit systems — Adobe Premier Pro CC2015 on Mac Towers hooked to a 12-TB Facilis TerraBlock Shared Storage — continue to be housed across the street from Ashe, but, instead of relying on staffers to run drives back and forth between locations, the systems are now tied directly into the EVS server. Wazee Digital (formerly T3Media) handles archive for the US Open; VWSE now has instant access to archived clips and footage.
The onsite crew consists of seven full-time staffers and approximately 25 freelancers from the New York area.
The company remains committed to working with the USTA to enhance the fan experience throughout the two-week tournament.
“The interesting thing about the USTA and the US Open is, they’re really a model of a well-rounded event as it relates to us and fan engagement all the way across the board,” says VWSE Productions CEO Paul Kalil. “If you were to look at our operation, this encompasses everything that we do at our best, and, working within an organization as great as the US Open, we model that [when we] go elsewhere, and people take it as kind of an innovative next step of what the evolution of this fan engagement can be.”