Hockey Headlines

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Turning Ice Into Fire

Technology has changed our world dramatically in the last quarter-century. Cell phones have become mini-computers with the vast amount of applications and things they can do. Computers have gone from gargantuan towers capable of running a few minor applications to portable mainframes. And hockey rinks have seen scoreboards with individual bulbs and limited abilities to display sprites become incredibly high-definition TVs and ribbons around the rinks. One of the coolest innovations? The on-ice projections that are seen in a number of rinks now, and some NHL teams are really stepping up their games when it comes to on-ice productions with these videos.

Turning your rink into a lake of fire? It's been done.
Having the rink break into pieces and fall away? Got it.
Turning the rink into a full-sized video game? Yup.

With this new technology, rinks have become 2604-inch TVs with 6.5K resolution. And for that to happen, arenas need to contact Quince Imaging out of Washington, DC. While most people marvel at the video being displayed on the ice, the science and technology that go into the dynamic picture being seen in the ice surface is pretty incredible.

As Wired's Tim Moynihan found out, Quince Imaging is pretty good at this projection stuff.
At the Prudential Center, the Quince team uses a dozen high-definition (1080p) projectors suspended from the rafters and the center scoreboard. There are six clusters pointing down at the ice, each one a pair of 26,000-lumen projectors, arranged in pairs for brightness—and for backup. "In the worst case scenario, one might fail, and the other one would still be able to go through the event," [co-founder and COO of Quince Scott] Williams says. "They're superimposed on each other. If one goes out, it's a little dimmer in that one area, but you'll still be able to have a show."
Pretty cool, right? According to Quince, the two most important factors in displaying video onto ice is brightness and resolution. "If you can deliver enough foot-candles of brightness and pixel density," says Williams, "'you have the ability to fool people into seeing that the object being projected upon is moving or breaking apart.'" And that's where the magic happens.

The investment for one of these systems is over a million dollars, and a lot of that money goes into the Coolux Pandoras Box servers used for the media presentations. I'm pretty sure that the investment in the media servers is kind of a no-brainer when one sees the amazing stuff being done with these on-ice presentations. And there are some amazing things being done.

Calgary's pregame presentation starts off slow, but really picks up.

Of course, Tampa Bay did the old NES Blades of Steel game in an intermission. Which is totally awesome!
Scott Sleder, a 22-year-old motion graphics intern at Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment and a student at Sanford-Brown Chicago, came up with the idea for the old NES productions after growing up a Red Wings fan in Michigan.

"[Blades of Steel] was the first hockey game that I had ever played," Sleder told Wired's Reyan Ali. "I especially remember the fights [with] the announcer screaming, 'Fight!' and then being able to go at it." Blades served as the venue for some "pretty heated" sibling rivalry between Sleder and his two older sisters, he said. "I just love the game. I thought it would be a neat thing to put on the ice – something different, something that I hadn't seen before," he says. Something totally awesome, I say.

Montreal's pregame presentation is pretty awesome as well.
And that, readers, is how a frozen sheet of ice becomes a lake of flames.

Ain't technology awesome?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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