Court projections have become a popular pastime in the United States, where teams and their stadiums compete not only for trophies, but also for the hottest show before, after, and during breaks of the games. In Europe, court projections are a novelty. But come the right occasion, some arenas step up their game. As did the LANXESS Arena in Cologne, one of the two locations of this year’s Ice Hockey World Championship. Although they have been sporting a projection setup for quite a while – a system hosted by agency Deutsche Werbewelt – they significantly improved their technology for the World Championship by adding real-time content and dynamic data. For content creation, Deutsche Werbewelt commissioned Glare Productions who used their favorite tool: Ventuz.
The mission was to design pre-game and intermission graphics that not only look flashy, but add some value for the audience. The initial segment shows the teams’ line-up, the so-called Starting Six. André Bellman of Glare Productions explains: “We had to accommodate our graphics layout for the conditions on location. With viewers on all sides of the rink, we incorporated a flip that would rotate the player images and info after a few seconds, so that the other side could read them as well. Also, we only figured out on location that we needed to move the graphics further away from the boards in order to grant the first few rows of seats an unobstructed view. Luckily, these small adjustments didn’t take up much time.”
The intermission graphics featured some game statistics: shots on goal, time in PowerPlay, goals in PowerPlay and more, offering a comparison of the playing teams. All information was fed live into the system through a sports data provider. Even the player headshot-videos were not just stock footage. Instead, they were filmed shortly before each game and still had to be converted and cropped for use in the Ventuz environment.
How did all of this reach the ice? The LANXESS Arena is generally equipped with six full-HD projectors powered by a Ventuz cluster – one machine per projector, conveniently installed in the rigs right underneath the ceiling. Before the World Championship, video content was fed into this cluster which then took care of distribution, masking and soft-edge. Deutsche Werbewelt and Glare extended this setup with an additional Ventuz 5 render machine and a Ventuz Director seat, which was used for data input and live operation of the shows.
All templates and logic integration was prepared before going on location, which made it possible to get the actual data implementation done in a very short period of time. “The problem was that we only really understood the format and makeup of the data stream once it arrived when we were already in the arena. Ventuz made it possible for us to react very quickly and adjust our logic to fit the data”, said André. The interface was designed to be easy-to-use so that even a staff member who was not familiar with Ventuz could operate the setup after just a short learning period.
The host of the World Championship, the International Ice Hockey Federation, asked Deutsche Werbewelt to also deliver the graphics package to the LED Cube above the rink for the last few games. “A classical media server would have been unable to cope with these requirements”, stated Thomas Fuellengraben, CEO of Deutsche Werbewelt. “Ventuz is really the best of both worlds when it comes to data driven real-time graphics plus complex playout workflows.” Indeed, the success of this installation prompted the agency to update the arena’s media environment permanently to a Ventuz-5-powered, Director-driven setup for the coming season. There might even be some real-time tracking and audience participation involved – we will let you know once it is live and in action.