Swansea City Association Football Club (AFC) has revamped the audiovisual capabilities of its ground, the Liberty Stadium, thanks to technology from Blackmagic Design.
The first Welsh team to play in the Barclays Premier League, Swansea (nicknamed the Swans) last season achieved a top half finish in the Premiership and won the Football League Cup, beating Bradford in the final and qualifying for the 2013-14 UEFA Europa League.
This renaissance has been shaped in part by the club’s fans. With the Swansea City Supporters’ Trust the club’s third largest shareholder, the Swans’ media department plays a big role in making the fans feel like a part of the family. “We are able to give the fans access to parts of the club where they can’t normally get to themselves,” said Mark Williams (pictured), multimedia officer at Swansea City AFC.
During the 2013 summer break, Swansea’s media department upgraded the AV at the Liberty Stadium, using Blackmagic Design equipment supplied by Jigsaw24.
“Up until that point we’d been taking a single HD-SDI feed from our OB compound, usually from one of the broadcasters covering the match, and piped that over fibre to my office in the West stand,” revealed Williams. However, the Sky TV production team advised him that they could supply the club with as many feeds as it could handle – “which is when I began to explore how I would manage and distribute all of those feeds.”
“I wanted to centralise everything in our existing AV control room so we created an optical fibre bridge between the OB compound using two ATEM Studio Converters from Blackmagic Design as a rack-mounted SDI-to-fibre converter. That was a lot easier as far as space and power requirements were concerned,” explained Williams.
Multiple 16 x 16 Blackmagic Design Micro VideoHubs are used to route video signals and other sources, including an HD feed from the stadium’s Sky receiver, between the AV room and various locations, including the Swans’ media suite, the press commentary positions and the club’s analysis team.
“We have various SDI runs between the control room and other parts of the stadium,” he continued. “You have the main camera gantry in the West stand along with two additional cable runs down to the camera positions located in the players’ tunnel and our press conference suite, as well as over 130 press seats including 54 commentary positions.”
“Blackmagic’s Micro Videohub means that we have greater flexibility on match days. We can switch between signals and determine where they need to be at the touch of a button. All we do is reroute for example the ‘Camera 1’ signal from the gantry if it is being used by the club’s analysis team or we switch to the broadcast feed for press, so that they have access to all of the close-up action, if it is being used as a commentary position instead.”
In the media suite, Williams has installed an ATEM Television Studio production switcher alongside the second Micro VideoHub. “Not only am I able to monitor all of those various feeds using the ATEM’s multiviewer, but I can also capture interviews filmed in the tunnel without having to leave my desk.”
“We have one iMac set up to overlay lower thirds and keyed graphics such as timers, scores and titles on a clean feed, presuming of course the match day broadcaster isn’t already providing a mixed feed.”
“Any matchday content we might product on the day is captured using two Mac Pro editing stations equipped with DeckLink boards, including the DeckLink Mini Recorder.
“In addition, we recently added a Blackmagic H.264 Pro Recorder to the analysis set-up, allowing the match to be captured in HD but still remain in a manageable file size so that it can be copied to the any of the coaching staff's laptops straight after the final whistle.
“It is always good when a new system has a continuity to its interface and operation across all its various components and now, every part of our HD-SDI set up at the Liberty Stadium has that Blackmagic familiarity of use.
“The quality of our video feeds to the various systems has greatly improved how we are able to work behind the scenes,” commented Williams. “Now, the real difference won’t be seen by our supporters until we begin work on the next phase of the stadium expansion. This will include a giant fan screen in the stadium with the potential for introducing live match day content.”