Infrastructure Is Key for AV Solutions

Q&A with Brad Grimes of the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: July 5, 2018

The “jewel skin" at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, a 600-foot canvas of metal panels that runs along the street-level concourse, is one of the projects discussed during AVIXA's InfoComm 2018. (Photo Credit: AVIXA)

With AVIXA’s InfoComm conference and trade show exhibition, which took place last month in Las Vegas, behind him, Brad Grimes, the audiovisual organization’s communications director, spoke to VenuesNow about highlights from the conference, trends in audiovisual that affect venues and new AV solutions.

What is the mission of AVIXA and how does it relate to the venue market?
AVIXA is the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association. We represent many of the companies and professionals who supply, design, install and operate video and sound systems in today’s venues and, really, anywhere else that people use audiovisual solutions to better communicate or engage, whether it’s venues, schools, corporations, hotels, stores and more. Our members have integrated audio, video, lighting and control systems everywhere from the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to Detroit’s’ Ford Field, as well as college and university venues around the globe.

Explain how audiovisual technologies such as projection mapping, 4K displays, digital wayfinding, positional audio, VR/AR, the internet of things, crowd analytics, etc., are impacting both the venue experience and venue operations.
When we talk to teams and venue operators, we hear time and again about the need to compete with the in-home experience of watching games and events on increasingly spectacular home theater systems. But it’s more than just competing with an in-home experience; today’s fans encounter AV wherever they go. It starts with the smartphones in their hands and exists all around them — in shopping malls, restaurants, public spaces. So customer expectations are high and venues want to deliver a digital fan experience that meets those expectations.

Venues use audiovisual solutions in a number of ways, beyond just spectacular high-definition video and ribbon boards and public-address systems. For example, a combination of wayfinding displays and sensor technology can help fans find the shortest concession and restroom lines. Venues are incorporating high-quality presentation systems in order to support other types of events and meetings in their spaces. Some teams are using AV to engage fans through in-venue museum-style exhibits or other experiences that help form a bond between visitor and team.
And increasingly, we see venues looking to AV solutions to support a couple significant trends. The first is engaging fans before they enter the venue, in entertainment districts outside stadium and arena walls. Not only do they want to make a connection before fans enter the venue, but they want to extend the experience to people outside, such as how the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights created a venue of sorts outside the new T-Mobile Arena for viewing parties and other fan engagement.

The other trend is esports. Venues are looking for ways to capitalize on what will quickly be a billion-dollar-plus market for professional video gaming. Clearly, the audiovisual technology required to engage audiences in a daylong gaming competition is different than what’s required to hold a traditional sporting event, from the positions of displays to the content that must be broadcast.

Do venues adopt temporary AV solutions to support esports or do they build new infrastructure — or even new venues — to accommodate this decidedly audiovisual-centric fan experience?
The beauty of digital AV is that a venue can have an entirely different feel just by sending new content to existing systems. For example, the food and beverage experience at an esports competition may be very different from the offerings at, say, a football game, based on the target audience. Digital AV solutions can, for example, project and display a completely different menu and promotional experience with very little intervention.

In what ways have new audiovisual technologies helped venues such as Little Caesars Arena, U.S. Bank Stadium, SunTrust Park, ISM Raceway near Phoenix and others?
Audiovisual solutions can be as much about art and venue branding as game-day experience. How do teams and venues create Instagram-worthy moments that connect venues to fans to fans’ many friends? Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena uses an amazing laser-projection system to light up what it calls its “jewel skin,” basically a 600-foot metal-panel canvas that runs along an enclosed, street-level concourse.

If you’ve been to SunTrust Park in Atlanta you’ve seen how the Braves baseball team has taken very flexible LED display technology and formed it into the shape of a baseball that can show messaging or game action 360 degrees along the outside of the “ball.”

And so many indoor arenas today have begun using intricate projection systems to display video graphics on their courts and ice rinks to pump up crowds and create experiences that fans can’t get at home. Needless to say, audio, video and lighting played a big role in the Vegas Golden Knights’ spectacular pregame show before the Stanley Cup Final.

How is future venue design being impacted by these new technologies? What’s next in terms of venue design as it related to audiovisual technology?
Infrastructure is key. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, for example, can’t pull off the spectacular audiovisual experiences it does without the 4,000 miles of fiber-optic cabling that runs throughout. And the more that venues want to engage fans in interactive experiences, such as through social media and custom content pushed to smartphones, they’ll need a robust, secure Wi-Fi network with hundreds if not thousands of hot spots.

It's important for teams, venue designers and operators to consider the audiovisual experiences they want to create very early in construction or redevelopment. It can be a lot harder to integrate video technology or provide uniform audio coverage when audiovisual solution providers are brought into the latter stages of a project. We recommend having AV designers and integrators at the table from the outset to understand what’s possible, how it will deliver business value, and what will be required from a venue-design perspective in order to pull it off.

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: July 5, 2018