A Giant’s Tale
Our AFL correspondent writes from the footy war zone that is western Sydney.
Text:/ Matt Caton
It’s interesting how some of these AV articles come to be. There are times, when Mr Editor just chucks a story idea at me and says “you’re doing it.” There are other times, when I hear about a project or event in advance and pitch the idea to the editor myself. But every so often, on very rare occasions, you just walk straight into them.
On a recent trip to Sydney, I took some time out to watch my beloved Essendon Bombers battle it out against the AFL’s brand new team; the Greater Western Sydney Giants. The game had some sentimental attachment for Bomber fans, but the added interest was it being the very first game at the newly redeveloped Sydney Showground Stadium, branded as Skoda Stadium for AFL matches. As I quickly hurried to my seat for the first bounce, I looked up and saw something that particularly caught my interest. I saw my story.
As the game started, I still only had one thought on my mind: “Wow, that’s a bloody big scoreboard.” Clearly, I go a little simple and boganic when engaged in a game of footy, but my initial thought turned out to be pretty accurate. [A check in the Urban Dictionary defined ‘bogan’ as an offensive term for somebody regarded as unsophisticated and unfashionable, which is right on the mark – Ed].
A few days and a couple of phone calls later, it appeared I did in fact have an interesting story. Not only is this scoreboard of the noticeably mammoth size, at 270sqm, it just happens to be the largest stadium video scoreboard in the southern hemisphere.
The scoreboard was added as part of the $65m upgrade to the Sydney Showground Stadium, jointly funded by the NSW Government, the Australian Football League (AFL) and the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RASNSW) who operate the venue. Despite appearing to sit modestly in the vast shadow of the Olympic Stadium, the Showground Stadium has quite a famous and memorable history of its own. Known primarily for hosting the Sydney Royal Easter Show, it has also served as a popular spot for music festivals. The redevelopment was driven largely by the AFL’s need to find a second boutique stadium in Sydney to play home to its newest franchise. The stadium’s seated capacity has increased from 13,000 to 25,000, its corporate and hospitality facilities have been upgraded and of course, it’s now home to an LED screen that secures the bragging rights with all of the neighbours.
GIANT BY NAME
The video screen was designed, manufactured, installed and commissioned by digital signage and scoreboard specialists, Daktronics, which worked very closely with the builder AW Edwards, particularly during the construction of the galvanized steel structure that supports it. “The early stages consisted of what you’d call ‘value engineering consultation,’ which was required to ensure that the structure was in line with the displays,” explains Blair Robertson, General Manager of Daktronics.
To achieve the desired ‘giant’ effect, the 24.5m x 11m active display area of the video screen is made up of Daktronics DVX-100 20HD LED modules arranged in 36 cabinets, which were then bolted together to form the finished product. The RGB modules with a horizontal and vertical pitch of 20.32mm (0.8in), results in a display with 540 lines and 1206 columns. “The HD pixel configuration, with its 160° viewing angle, allowed the screen to pick up more seats, have wider viewing angles, more lines of resolution, and with 16bit-colour processing, superior image quality,“ said Robertson.
(above) Image courtesy AFL Images
WHAT’S THE SCORE?
The scoreboard is controlled by Daktronics own Show Control System. This software suite provides all the compositing, data integration, playback hardware and live video control required from a live video scoreboard, while using a very simple user interface. Daktronics helped with the training of the scoreboard operators, with the client wanting the solution to be as straightforward as it could. “We got it down to only one operator, sitting in front of a touchscreen, who can control both the scoreboard and video screen fairly simply,” Robertson explains.
As with any sensible audiovisual system, the control system runs on a fully dual-redundent platform, allowing for a simple and seamless changeover in case of some dreaded and dire technical circumstances.
CONVERT THE SOURCE
The Daktronics Show Control System has no video production or switching functions for the video action component of the display, relying on a fibre-optic programme feed from an outside broadcast truck or a local event production team. However in live sports, and in particular AFL, patrons now expect much more than just the live action and a few replays. It’s the information age and the live sports fan is as savvy as anybody when it comes to team and players stats, score updates from other games and even weather information. The data integration component of the Show Control system, allows it to connect to all major league statistical providers and to incorporate live scores and statistics into any graphical layout using its DakStats statistical software.
On a rather forgettable night of football (my Bombers won, but it was not exactly a great football spectacle), the biggest memory I have from the night was watching a large majority of the spectators at the ground spend more time watching the screen, than they did the live action. No matter how you look at it, or where you look at it from, the Showground Stadium is the owner of one ‘bloody big’ scoreboard screen, and one that is likely the envy of stadium owners right across our southern hemisphere.