How to Get the Big Game on the Big Screen

Stew Ives headshot

What better way to enjoy the biggest NFL game of the year than on one of the biggest, newest screens in New York?

TSX Entertainment will broadcast this Sunday’s big game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles on the recently unveiled massive 18,000-square-foot digital screen at TSX Broadway overlooking Times Square at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 47th Street.

But making such a huge, public event happen requires a great deal of work behind the scenes.

The Anatomy of an Event

A few weeks ago we received an inquiry from TSX Entertainment, asking us to determine what it would take to show the event live in Times Square. Our team consists of industry veterans who have staffed and coordinated events in the Square for the last two decades, including New Year’s Eve festivities, simulcasts, and election coverage so while we knew the stakes were high, we had plenty of experience and expertise in this realm.  We had designed and implemented a turnkey system that could accept a variety of input formats and feeds from both inside the building and externally using trusted and proven solutions from Analog Way, Aurora Multimedia, and ~sedna.

January 18th – Transmission Capability tests

It’s not as easy as putting a cable box in the room or hooking up an Apple TV and plugging it into the screen–an event of this profile needs a dedicated transmission provider and our partner go-to for this is AzzurroHD. With a building currently under construction and the event less than a month away, we couldn’t get a dedicated video circuit installed like in other control rooms. We were a bit nervous doing this event without a fiber link, but Azzuro had a solution: their PIN bridge, which works over the internet. We wanted to see this work and observe it for ourselves, so we arranged for them to come on site and give a demo in the control room of their offering. I was blown away at the minimal latency from their operations center downtown and the quality it provided. Having proven this solution would work for the event instead of a dedicated video circuit, we informed TSX Entertainment that we could accomplish the task at hand.

February 3 – It’s a Go

As you can imagine, once we verified we could show the broadcast feed in a stable fashion, a lot happened behind the scenes to get approval. Final approval came on Feb 3. We then had a little over a week to go. We began working closely with the TSX Entertainment team, taking Figma mockups and exporting assets and building layouts in ~sedna. Our goal was to make this as flexible as possible so if their team needed to swap an element or change one from static to motion, it would be a simple move on our end without requiring us to rebuild the entire canvas.

We then begin the process of building out Analog Way presets, which would layer video on top of the ~sedna 8K background for various scenarios (e.g., what happens during commercials, what happens if the feed goes down). Obviously, no one wants to see a blank screen, particularly with the high-profile nature of the event. We did this by testing elements of the layout in our Atlanta showroom, such as obtaining the rounded corners required for the live feed.

February 8 – First Tests

It was time to take all the presets and test them live, but we could only do this after hours due to the screen being very active with TSX Entertainment’s app that allows people to buy time on the big screen. We ended up using a combination of monitoring cameras and team members on the ground in New York to see the screen at all angles.

Our biggest questions: How does the experience feel? Are we accurately taking TSX-E’s vision and executing it properly? Are we reporting back any visual concerns?

We provided pictures from our tests to the TSX team and received feedback that everything looked good in the photos and more asset updates were on their way.

February 10 – Friday Before the Big Game

Now we’re headed up to staff this event, with tonight including lots of audio tests to ensure we are providing clear audio from the broadcast feed into their mobile app via MixHalo. We’ll do a few more tests over the weekend to make sure we are 100% ready for the big day.

UPDATE: To learn more about the success of this event, visit the follow up blog article A Big Win for a Big Screen.

Stew Ives is senior director of systems and a leader in SNA Displays’ SNAPros® program.