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View Full Version : Request for info on A/V, Scoring, etc software


corebreach
04-23-2005, 05:55 PM
If anyone has any info on what kind of software and hardware is used for the competition screen graphics, scoring stations, sponsors slideshow, etc; I would love to know about it. Video graphics is an area of great interest to me, hopefully it will be a part of my job some day (maybe I'll work at FIRST events, who knows ;)). Thank you!

*I did a preliminary search, all I found were small mentions of the scoring software.

Josh Hambright
04-23-2005, 06:00 PM
All of the scoring system this year was run off of laptop PC's. It is a custom program that runs in conjuction with a SQL server which tracks all the scores. The display shown on the big screen is part of an extended desktop on the main scoring program. The Pit display is a flash program reading the rankings from the SQL database.

The slideshows and presentations are simply powerpoint presentations served up off another laptop.
The videos are cued up off DVD and VHS on the video rig.

Hope that helps answer some of your questions/

Elgin Clock
04-23-2005, 06:21 PM
http://www.hatchtechnology.com/


Logo on all screens this year..
Not sure how they helped, or what they did, but it's a start.

Josh Hambright
04-23-2005, 07:55 PM
Yes Hatch developed the scoring system for this year. Evidently they have been involved in FIRST for awhile in Penn. and they approached FIRST offering to develope the software for them.
They are a great bunch of guys, atleast the ones who I worked with over the phone during 2 regionals, including spending basicly 5 hours on the phone until 10:30 with one of them at BMR trying to fix stuff.

corebreach
04-23-2005, 07:57 PM
The slideshows and presentations are simply powerpoint presentations served up off another laptop.
The videos are cued up off DVD and VHS on the video rig.

Hope that helps answer some of your questions/
I didn't know PowerPoint could do all that fancy motion blurring, that's cool. Thanks for the info. BTW does FIRST look for any qualifications for volunteering on the control systems, or do they even have volunteer positions for this kind of thing?

Ryan Albright
04-23-2005, 09:51 PM
I didn't know PowerPoint could do all that fancy motion blurring, that's cool. Thanks for the info. BTW does FIRST look for any qualifications for volunteering on the control systems, or do they even have volunteer positions for this kind of thing?
When you mention control systems, do you mean like a scorekeeper or someone that runs like the tvs, screeen and lights?

If you are talking about keeping score with the laptops, that is a volunteer position that you can sign up for.

If you are talking about the lighting, sound, and screens. That is contracted out to a third party companey who is paid to do that. So there is no way to help with that

corebreach
04-24-2005, 12:07 AM
Yep I was talking about running the screens, or at least the computers that provide video to them. Oh well.

Josh Hambright
04-24-2005, 04:11 AM
FIRST contracts out the AV for each event to a company, i cant think of the name of the company Productions Inc or something generic like that, they do all of the sounds, video, display, etc stuff at the events, along with local stagehands and union guys that help set everything up depending on the local set up. Usualy at the events there is some one in charge of doing the powerpoint, usualy a FIRST official, the sponsors presentation is premade and just runs on a loop.

One opertunity for volunteering is the scorekeeper, its great fun, and an amazing seat, and you get to know the outcome of every match before everyone else. BUt yah unless you get a job working for the production company you probably wont be able to help with that stuff.

Kevin Sevcik
04-24-2005, 03:45 PM
A little more random info. I'm fairly sure the scoring software interfaces with a custom PLC system developed by Hatch Technologies that acutally does all the lights etc on the field. The on screen displays are indeed a custom flash animation running on a computer that feeds its video signal and sound into the A/V system. All the flash animations are chroma keyed (think green screens) and overlayed over the main video feed. The video feed itself it typically provided by a few cameramen. A production guy manages the cameramen over headsets to get good shots and handles the transitions between cameras, powerpoints, etc. The production crew also handles the mics, lights, etc.

The DJ is actually mostly seperate from this whole system, simply giving the AV crew a music feed that they work into things.

For display purposes, the three options seem to be projectors, plasma displays, and those big LED arrays at the Champs. The projectors are mostly used at regionals where lighting is more easily controlled. I've usually seen some pretty big projectors for the big screens. I'd guess upwards of 10K lumens. And they're double stacked to get more brightness. Projectors give you a relatively cheap big image, but they're prone to getting washed out by lights hitting the screen. The plasmas were used at Lone Star for pit displays. These gave a much smaller image, but weren't washed out in the bright pit area. The LED arrays are awfully expensive but give you a big bright image that isn't prone to being washed out.

For anyone that's really curious, big systems like this are notoriously hard to set up in arenas and such. The biggest problem you run in to is ground loops. AV equipment bases all of its signals off a ground voltage level. As long as all the disparate pieces are using the same ground, things are fine. In large systems, you can have equipment on different circuits and different ground voltage levels. More specifically, you get a large loop of wire when the ground wire connects two pieces of equipment that are also connected on the same ground wire on the electrical outlet. These loops can build up current and either fry equipment in the worst case, or put a 60Hz hum into the A/V signal. This shows up as a loud humming, or a big white bar in a video. The solutions are numerous, ranging from the cheap solution of cutting the ground from the power cable for a quick fix, to large transformers tuned to 60Hz, to fancy opto-isolators that electrically insulate the two pieces from each other.

Yeah. Surely more info than you wanted, but I did work at an AV company for quite some time, so.....

corebreach
04-24-2005, 06:21 PM
That's not more info than I wanted. Thank you for all of it! You say you worked for an A/V company for some time; how does one get started doing such a thing?

Kevin Sevcik
04-24-2005, 06:47 PM
Weeellll. It was rather silly. My high school Autocad teacher knew the owner of an AV company, and he wanted some help with drafting onelines and I needed a summer job. So I interviewed, along with a few other student, and I got the job. I went back several summers in a row. The company changed names and ownership a few times, and has since folded, but I had contacts at another AV company around town. I've temporarily landed there while I've finishing off a pesky tech writing class and planning on grad school and a masters, and will probably work part time there while getting my degree.

There's two sides of the AV business. Install and shows. I've been doing install work. We design AV systems for corporate boardrooms, churches, etc. Then we sell the equipment and... install it. I've moved up from grunt draftsman to programming the computer control systems that generally tie the boardroom equipment together and present a simple interface to the user. However, like any occupation, you learn a lot about everything. I need to pretty much exactly how things work and need to go together to draft a one-line or wrtie a control program, so I learned a lot about all the equipment. I picked up a lot of extra information on the way.

The AV work done at FIRST events is the shows side of the business. Less complicated from the design standpoint, as your staff is running everything and knows what they're doing. More complicated because you're constantly stepping into an unknown situation and having to make things work. That's about all I can tell you aside from it requiring a lot of travel.

Obviously I came into the business in a rather odd way that's somewhat useless to you. I'll ask around at work and see if anyone feels like reminiscing, however. The AV biz is a bit insular, and most AV people in an area know everyone else. This makes it a bit hard to break into the field, I think. I know that unless you have prior experience you'll probably be starting out as a basic technician and working your way up from there. If I recall correctly, some of our guys started as Data/Telcom techs and switched over to AV since by then they had basic skills at wiring and such.

It suddenly occurs to me that you might be more interested in the production and video editing side of things, though. And I have utterly no idea how one gets into that part of the biz, but I'll see if the guys at work have suggestions.

corebreach
04-24-2005, 07:11 PM
It suddenly occurs to me that you might be more interested in the production and video editing side of things, though. And I have utterly no idea how one gets into that part of the biz, but I'll see if the guys at work have suggestions.
Kind of. There's an aspect about live productions that interests me, which is the hardware. With video editing you're basically given an edit desk (or build your own if you're freelance) and you leave the hardware alone. Then again I shouldn't work myself into a particular specific career right away, I'm only 15.