Date posted: May 6, 2015

Orlando-based worship-oriented college keeps student body informed, inspired with dynamic, multi-location network

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, May 6, 2015 The First Academy (TFA)—a worship-centered college preparatory school in Orlando, FL—has deployed a Carousel digital signage network from Tightrope Media Systems to keep its 1,200-plus student body informed and inspired.

Designed for scalability, security and ease of use, Carousel lets users fill displays with a montage of video, pictures, text, tickers, social posts, weather graphics and more. TFA regularly updates Carousel-driven information on eight 55-to-65-inch digital displays strategically located across its large campus. Each display is divided into zones dedicated to the different school divisions including: the Upper School (high school), Middle School and Lower School (K-6), athletics facility, media center, library, theater and school store.

The First Academy keeps its student body informed and inspired with lively and dynamic content driven by Tightrope’s Carousel platform

“Our goal was to engage students with timely, captivating content that would keep them informed about important school events while still celebrating the achievements of our students and teachers,” said Matt Eggert, M.S., director of technology and innovation for The First Academy. “We also wanted our signage system to be easy to use and update on the fly, with displays reinforcing our school brand identity. Carousel does everything we need as part of its automated workflow.”

The First Academy is committed to using state-of-the-art technology, including iPads, computers and digital media systems like Carousel to support and enhance the academic experience. In the case of Carousel, each school division can easily create unique content, which is automatically delivered to a zone on their display. While the Upper, Middle and Lower schools see information focused on their school experience, items that pertain to all TFA students, like school store sales or the weather, are pushed to all the displays at once.

Eggert notes, “The network quickly scaled after the Upper School went live with the initial Carousel media players,” inspiring a call to Tightrope’s Professional Services team to bring more creative and dynamic design elements to the network. The web-based Carousel server, which operates on the school’s existing local area network, supports up to 300 players should the campus choose to further expand, and as Eggert points out, “it’s a cinch to connect new players to Carousel’s virtualized backbone.”

“It didn’t take long before others across the campus wanted their own displays, so we expanded the system to support other departments very quickly,” said Eggert. “However, while Carousel has a wide array of built-in design tools, we turned to Tightrope’s professional design team to help design our templates. Over a conference call with Tightrope’s design team, we discussed how to apply our website’s look, colors and fonts to our Carousel displays, which Tightrope considered in the creation of our custom templates.”

The Carousel network expansion has opened new opportunities to drive content from different personnel. Teachers now regularly email photos to their displays’ administrator for posting, and Carousel automatically converts them to the file formats and resolutions needed by the system. Video clips can be programmed to run continuously in a loop, or simply run as a special bulletin at the top of the hour. Additionally, visits from college recruiters, college deadlines and messages from the guidance department are just some of the important announcements made on Carousel, reinforcing the power of a campus-wide digital signage network.

About Tightrope Media Systems

Founded in 1997, Tightrope Media Systems is the pioneer of web-centric digital signage and broadcast automation systems. It provides station automation, video servers, Internet video on demand, live streaming, the Carousel Digital Signage system, and ZEPLAY, a multi-channel instant replay machine for stadiums, arenas and Outside Broadcast vehicles. Tightrope’s award winning systems are used throughout the world. You can reach Tightrope Media Systems at (866) 866-4118 or visit them on the web at http://www.trms.com.

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Date posted: April 1, 2015

ZEPLAY 3.1 also amplifies feature set for improved functionality, price-to-performance ratio

Tightrope Media Systems is announcing a significant price drop to its popular ZEPLAY slo-mo instant replay system in advance of the 2015 NAB Show, ensuring an affordable and professional solution for any broadcaster, venue operator, university or mobile production company. In addition to more customer-friendly pricing, an enhanced feature set that includes wider codec support further increases the value proposition for ZEPLAY in live sports production.

At $45K, the new ZEPLAY list price eliminates the burden for budget-conscious customers, yet assures a professional, reliable and feature-rich slo-mo instant replay server that is easy to use, with a quick learning curve. ZEPLAY’s built-in RAID protection and native codec playback ensures the best possible signal integrity during live production. By integrating Avid DNXHD and AVC-Intra codec support – along with improved countdown windows, improved sequence navigation, go to timecode, and more visible content tagging – Tightrope’s strategy ensures the best possible price-to-performance ratio for instant replay.

“ZEPLAY is providing instant replays in stadiums and arenas throughout the country for NBA, NHL and NCAA football and basketball events – not to mention its popularity in outside broadcast trucks,” said Steve Israelsky, vice president of broadcast solutions, Tightrope Media Systems. “By lowering the cost of ZEPLAY, our core customers in the cable TV market, not to mention smaller sports venues, receive the same reliability and features that broadcasters and professional sports leagues enjoy today.”

Tightrope’s ZEPLAY price-drop makes the versatile, feature-rich instant replay server affordable for most budgets in sports production

The ZEPLAY 3.1 release, to be demonstrated at NAB (April 13-16, Las Vegas Convention Center, Booth C2613), adds the import and export of Avid DNxHD files, as well as import of AVCIntra files, in addition to ZEPLAY’s already robust codec support (ProRes, DVCProHD, MPEG2 I-frame). The incorporation of AVCIntra is especially valuable for production teams shooting scenics in the field. With no transcoding requirements, production staff can quickly plug the camera into ZEPLAY and achieve immediate, native playback.

ZEPLAY 3.1 also simplifies operation through the following value-added features:

  • Tags are prominently displayed on ZEPLAY’s built-in multiviewer to instantly identify live content.
  • Visual countdowns to the end of on-air content, both plays and sequence items.
  • It is now possible to jump to any moment of the action using ZEPLAY’s new Go To Timecode feature.
  • The T-bar can now be enabled automatically when starting ZEPLAY.
  • More visually appealing user interface, with increased speed and functionality while managing the 4×4 (4 ins, 4 outs) replay architecture.

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Date posted: March 4, 2015

Cablecast servers and automation system helps PEG channel cost-efficiently broadcast and stream more than 250 annual government and public affairs meetings

As the public, education and government access (PEG) provider serving the North Dakota cities of Bismarck and Mandan, Dakota Media Access began broadcasting its government access and community media channels in HDTV on February 24, 2015. The transition to HD, which also included new multiplatform delivery for online streaming, was supported through an upgrade to its Tightrope Media Systems Cablecast infrastructure.

The upgrade swapped the existing Tightrope Cablecast SD gear for a fully integrated Cablecast HD infrastructure including broadcast playout servers, Cablecast VOD for video on demand content and Cablecast Live for streaming its content to the web. The Cablecast upgrade additionally includes HD/SD up and down conversion, ensuring that existing SD content can still be incorporated into the program schedule.

The Dakota Media Access team upgraded its Cablecast server and automation platform from Tightrope to enable live and on-demand streaming of its Community TV channels – as well as an HDTV upgrade for traditional broadcasts.

Overall, the upgrade is built on a multiplatform delivery strategy with higher quality content and flexible viewing options to drive audience numbers.

“This HD upgrade is more than a beauty makeover,” said Mary Van Sickle, executive director, Dakota Media Access. “It conveys that our programming is valuable, timely and relevant. In this competitive media marketplace, going HD and offering live and on-demand web content is essential to attracting and retaining viewers. We chose to stay with Tightrope because they offer great technology at an affordable price backed by excellent customer service. Over the years, Tightrope has demonstrated a true understanding of the unique needs of community media and a long-standing dedication to the PEG market.”

The government access channel—which is carried in HD on Channel 602 (and channel 2 for SD) on the Midcontinent Communications cable system—presents 250 live municipal and public affairs meetings that take place in Bismarck and Mandan, and Burleigh and Morton counties, annually. The community access channel programs—produced by Bismarck and Mandan citizens using Dakota Media’s studios—are broadcast in HD on Channel 612 (SD channel 12). The Tightrope Cablecast upgrade includes a dedicated server to automate the delivery of promos, messaging, weather and announcements.

Dakota Media Access has additionally made further upgrades across its acquisition and production systems to attract more community members to its facility. Like many PEG channels nationwide, the facility provides community access to its HD production studios, along with systems training.

“The reality is that the high cost of upgrading to HD is cost-prohibitive for many community media operations nationwide, but we were determined to make it work for the benefit of our local community,” Van Sickle said. “Our successful HD migration—which puts us at the vanguard of PEG operations—is owing to upgrading our infrastructure to an affordable, reliable and user-friendly Cablecast HD workflow from Tightrope Media Systems.”

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Date posted: February 26, 2015

Latest-generation of Tightrope Carousel, BrightSign media players enable stunning videowall displays, and affordable yet dynamic large-scale networks

Tightrope Media Systems and BrightSign are evolving their partnership throughout 2015, with new innovations to more effectively power videowalls and large out-of-home networks on a tightly integrated, scalable and robust signage architecture. The two companies are leveraging each company’s next-generation platforms within an integrated digital signage solution to enable these and additional benefits for their customers.

Last year at Digital Signage Expo, Tightrope and BrightSign announced a partnership to offer a very cost-effective enterprise solution with a full suite of tools. The combination of Tightrope’s strengths in advanced content creation and management, and BrightSign’s market-leading technology and signature reliability, results in a winning solution for any business or network operator to manage an affordable and sophisticated digital signage network.

Tightrope’s accelerated content rendering, combined with BrightSign’s enhanced connectivity for media playout via PoE support, enhances the value overall integrated solution for large out-of-home network deployments.

This year at Digital Signage Expo, Tightrope and BrightSign will demonstrate seamless integration between Tightrope’s Carousel digital signage system and BrightSign’s next-generation XD2 players. The companies will exhibit two spaces apart (Tightrope at 2631; BrightSign at 2131), demonstrating how the integrated platform produces stunning videowall displays; as well as highly scalable and manageable networks for enterprise-level businesses and organizations.

New features of the integrated platform including portrait mode display and H.264 video streaming support to enhance visual capabilities for any signage network or application. Additionally, newly available media player synchronization for videowalls ensures that Carousel can drive content to multiple BrightSign players, which collectively deliver video and graphics across many panels for cohesive output and display of stunning visual content.

BrightSign XD2 networked media players, to be shown in the North America for the first time at Digital Signage Expo, all feature faster HTML5 and graphics processing; as well as Power over Ethernet (PoE) capability to simplify the powering of BrightSign players in remote locations. The complete XD2 portfolio includes:

  • BrightSign XD232, a networked interactive player capable of full HD 1080p60 video decoding and simultaneous content playback from local, networked and streaming sources
  • BrightSign XD1032, a networked multi-control interactive player that adds support for pure digital and surround sound audio
  • BrightSign XD1132, a networked multi-control interactive player that adds support for live TV playback via an HDMI input and live TV player

Users of the integrated platform will also benefit from Carousel 6.5’s faster processing power, which accelerates content rendering at the creation levels. The faster upfront rendering ensures quicker delivery to BrightSign media players across networks of any scale.

BrightSign CEO, Jeff Hastings, agrees that the partnership is beneficial for customers across all vertical markets. “Our respective companies are committed to technology innovation and continued integration work to provide our integrators, VAR’s and end-users a leading solution for sophisticated and robust digital signage roll-outs in all shapes and sizes.”

Eric Henry, signage solutions lead, Tightrope Media Systems, adds that the evolving relationship between the two companies includes cooperative research and development efforts to ensure continued innovation across the integrated Tightrope/BrightSign platform.

“We continue to bring more depth to our partnership, with dedicated project managers from both companies working together to develop new features and functionality for our combined customer base of resellers, integrators and end users,” said Henry. “Digital Signage Expo is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the most recent innovations from our combined efforts.”

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Date posted: February 4, 2015

New pricing structure eliminates channel licensing costs, reduces price per end point

Tightrope Media Systems has refined its pricing strategy to benefit its entire Carousel customer base, reducing the cost of digital signage network deployments at any scale. The new cost structure removes the need to buy unique licenses for each channel, instead charging for server and player connections only.

Tightrope has long offered its customers the freedom to buy only what they need, instead of forcing them to purchase packaged systems or blocks of players. While the further simplification of pricing benefits all Carousel customers, it’s especially valuable for larger networks – or smaller networks with an interest in scaling to more end points. As a result, new and existing Carousel customers can customize as many channels as desired without escalating costs – and potentially experience a cost savings north of 50 percent in networks with more than 75 media players.

Tightrope’s new pricing structure focuses almost exclusively on server (pictured) and player connections, eliminating unique channel license costs and making large DOOH networks more affordable.

“Carousel has always offered a straightforward pricing structure, but we have further simplified the buying experience through unlimited, free channel licenses with the purchase of a Carousel server,” said Eric Henry, signage solutions developer, Tightrope Media Systems. “This is not only attractive for new customers, but also for existing customers that want to re-invest in their signage networks.”

Henry adds that resellers and systems integrators also benefit from a greatly reduced complexity in quoting systems or installations.

Additionally, end users can now virtualize any Carousel server, and deploy its software on any operating system. Tightrope’s Professional Services team offers remote integration assistance to any customer interested in virtualizing systems to ensure smooth and proper configuration.

“We believe there is tremendous value in a beautifully designed network with custom-branded channels, as well as having the end customer up and running quickly,” said Henry. “Ultimately, our goal is to remove constraints from the end user’s mind, lower their costs, and ensure they are leveraging their Carousel investment and all its possibilities.”

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Date posted: January 15, 2015

New release accelerates rendering times, improves remote diagnostics for out-of-home networks

Tightrope Media Systems is enhancing its Carousel digital signage system at Digital Signage Expo (March 10-12, Las Vegas Convention Center, Booth 2631) with new tools to accelerate content rendering speed across out-of-home networks of any size. The updates, now available in the recent Carousel 6.5 release, improve core processing and memory utilization for increased rendering times—to the tune of 60 times faster.

The Carousel 6.5 enhancements empower network operators to seamlessly scale networks to an infinite number of screens and locations, without adversely affecting network performance. The faster rendering performance specifically benefits the creation and distribution of weather bulletins, RSS feeds, and other time-sensitive content that requires real-time display. To achieve this, Carousel 6.5 amplifies its server performance to more effectively scale across multiple cores.  Tightrope’s Carousel enterprise servers are easily scaled by adding further processing cores as the number of player end points escalates.

At Digital Signage Expo, Tightrope will also introduce Carousel Detective, a network diagnostics tool incorporated within the Carousel server core. The software-defined architecture allows network operators and Tightrope service engineers to access Carousel Detective over IP from any connected device for troubleshooting and general performance monitoring, further enhancing the enterprise-level performance of Carousel 6.5.

“Tightrope continues to invest in improving the user experience,” said Eric Henry, signage solutions leader, Tightrope Media Systems. “With enterprise-level bulletin rendering across large-scale network now taking a matter of seconds, our customers are assured timely distribution of dynamic and time-sensitive content across networks of any size. These improvements, along with extensive diagnostic toolset of Carousel Detective, set the stage for significant strides in next-generation Carousel systems on the horizon—notably a far richer, intuitive and user-friendly GUI on tap for the next major software release later this year.”

About Tightrope Media Systems

Founded in 1997, Tightrope Media Systems is the pioneer of web-centric digital signage and broadcast automation systems. It provides station automation, video servers, Internet video on demand, live streaming, the Carousel Digital Signage system, and ZEPLAY, a multi-channel instant replay machine for stadiums, arenas and Outside Broadcast vehicles. Tightrope’s award winning systems are used throughout the world. You can reach Tightrope Media Systems at (866) 866-4118 or visit them on the web at http://www.trms.com.

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Date posted: December 16, 2014

NHL franchise finds operational value in ZEPLAY instant replay system’s speed, reliability, affordability and ergonomic design

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, December 16, 2014 — The Tampa Bay Lightning is giving its fans at Amalie Arena more to follow beyond the high-intensity NHL action on the ice.  As part of a recent $65 million renovation that includes a new production control room and the largest indoor video board in a North American arena, Tightrope Media Systems’ ZEPLAY slo-mo instant replay solution is delivering impactful, in-game highlights with the same lightning-fast speed as the front line.

The Tampa Bay Lightning chose ZEPLAY based on its speed, cost, reliability and streamlined operation, replacing an existing EVS replay system.  ZEPLAY’s multichannel capability (four in, four out) makes multiple streams available for playout just seven frames after camera feed selection.  The team’s production staff displays replays and highlights on a giant, four-sided Daktronics LED video display positioned high above the ice at Amalie Arena, the 20,000-seat facility—formerly known as Tampa Bay Times Forum—where home games are played.  The immense display measures 28 x 50 feet on its larger sides and 28 x 20 feet on the smaller sides facing the goals.

The ZEPLAY slo-mo instant replay server is helping the Tampa Bay Lightning video production staff accelerate instant replays for fans watching the games at Amalie Arena

“As the game unfolds, Lightning fans want to see a replay of that save or that goal, or any exciting play moments after it happens.  ZEPLAY keeps our fans happy by giving them all the replays they want without delay,” said Jorge Rosell, director of broadcast production systems for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“The issue of speed goes beyond how quickly the crowd gets to see a replay,” he continued. “Before it becomes part of our live show, our director has to see it first.  The faster we obtain his approval, the faster we can get it out to the video board.  ZEPLAY simplifies the whole process because the operator only has to look at one screen to see the video choices, and all of the key features and functions are easily accessible from the controller’s T-Bar.”

Speed also comes into play when ZEPLAY is used to furnish official replays to the referees.  This occurs often during video production for The Tampa Bay Storm, the Arena Football League (AFL) team that also calls Amalie Arena home.  Since there are usually no broadcast trucks or rights holders associated with AFL games, Rosell said they often provide official replays and live-stream their big board show, including ZEPLAY replays and highlight packages, via the team’s website.

During the recent renovation, the production control room—which has a floor to ceiling window overlooking center-ice—went 1080i HD with ZEPLAY, a new Ross Carbonite 24 2-M/E production switcher and a Chyron Lex 3 live graphics system.  After discovering that the existing EVS system was too cost-prohibitive to upgrade, Rosell began looking at more affordable options that wouldn’t compromise operational features or reliability.  He approached the Ottawa Senators NHL team in Canada to inquire how they liked their two ZEPLAY systems.

“The Senators were the first NHL team to choose ZEPLAY, and they were very happy with it, noting its ease of use in addition to its affordability,” Rosell said.  “We jumped at the opportunity to be the second NHL arena to get a ZEPLAY.”

Tampa Bay Lightning games are covered by up to 12 cameras, including studio/field, robotic, goal-cams and wireless units.  With four HD-SDI inputs/outputs, ZEPLAY accesses camera signals from a Pesa Cheetah house router.  Besides creating instant replays, the system also plays out B-Roll, including highlight packages, directly to the video boards during show opens and intermissions.  When lower-third supers, keys, mortices or other video effects are needed, ZEPLAY’s output goes through the Carbonite switcher/Chyron Lex production chain before display on the large board inside the bowl.

In the near future, ZEPLAY will also send replays to a custom app that lets fans view them on their smartphones and mobile devices inside the arena.

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Date posted: December 8, 2014

Touchscreen-enabled kiosk at new Football Performance Center engages visitors with 130 years of historical data about the UMass Minutemen football program

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, December 8, 2014 – The University of Massachusetts in Amherst recently opened its Football Performance Center, a 55,000 square foot facility representing the UMass Minutemen football program.  Visitors are greeted by a hall of fame showcasing the university’s 130-year football program as they enter the facility, located at the north end of Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium.  As part of the experience, the university sought an interactive kiosk to compile and present detailed information about the football program.  A Carousel digital signage solution from Tightrope Media Systems was selected to address the challenge, featuring custom software-defined programming to bring decades of historical and current data together.

The Carousel interactive kiosk was programmed by Tightrope to deliver a searchable, sortable digital signage experience on campus to enthusiasts of the UMass Minutemen program

The interactive kiosk catalogues an impressive array of details and statistics related to the storied football program, showcasing players, teams, coaches, seasons and accomplishments.  The system reaches beyond the realm of football action, generating information about the bands, mascots and other entries supporting the teams over the years.  In casting a wide net, it’s assured that every visitor engaged with the kiosk will discover something of interest while controlling the touchscreen.

“We wanted a searchable system that delivered an interactive experience for current players, students, alumni, fans and visitors,” said John Sinnett, assistant athletic director, University of Massachusetts.  “We faced the significant challenge of finding a system that could centralize 130 years of information, make it interactive, and intelligently display a large amount of content in a sortable manner on demand.  This is a homegrown system and we’re not aware of another university that offers anything similar. There’s no question that this was a steep hill to climb.”

Sinnett and his team soon engaged with Tightrope to generate a custom program for pulling historical and recent content from various online sources.  Driven by intelligent, automated software-defined triggers and a central content management system, the Carousel solution manages a giant block of XML data, extensively programmed to ensure the right information correlates with the right targets.

An external view of the new Football Performance Center, a hall of fame honoring the UMass Minutemen program and featuring the Tightrope interactive kiosk

However, Carousel’s trademark ease of use also provides staff with an intuitive interface to manually upload content, ensuring that missing details from player numbers and headshots to game stats and team descriptions can be effortlessly edited or added on the fly.

Most importantly, the varied and dynamically updating information gives everyone something to enjoy, increasing dwell times and generating a deeper connection between the user and the football program.  Current Minutemen players and their families can follow seasonal statistics, while visiting alumni can look back at past achievements.  Sinnett also views the interactive kiosk as an intriguing recruitment tool, allowing prospective players to search which Minutemen have made NFL rosters, and which teams have made collegiate football history over the years.

“The touchscreen is emblematic of the overall mission of the Football Performance Center,” said Sinnett.  “This venue ties in a large part of the program’s history into a modern home that will be a future cornerstone of the program.  Carousel is efficiently driving and disseminating information about the historical past and success of the program, while keeping visitors up to the date on the latest activities.  Tightrope is helping us push that history forward, drawing in anyone with interest in our football program.”

The system is based on a scalable architecture powered by a single Carousel 330 server, capable of supporting 15 channels should the university choose to add more kiosks or displays in the future.

 

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Date posted: November 6, 2014

NBA franchise upgrades control room, adds giant LED displays during recent renovation of Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City

The Utah Jazz has a storied history as the National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise based in Salt Lake City. To further engage fans attending home games at Energy Solutions Arena, the team is now using Tightrope Media Systems’ ZEPLAY slo-mo instant replay solution to trigger multiple angles of exciting game action.

Installed during a recent major renovation of the 19,000-seat arena, ZEPLAY is used during every Utah Jazz home game as well as motocross, monster truck shows, rodeos and other sporting events taking place at the downtown venue.  All replays are displayed on giant YESCO LED display boards inside the arena bowl, which were also part of the renovation project.

A replay operator at Energy Solutions Arena examines multiple camera angles on ZEPLAY’s built-in multiviewer.

A replay operator at Energy Solutions Arena examines multiple video angles on ZEPLAY’s built-in multiviewer in a control room to the side of the arena bowl.

“Game day entertainment is very important to Jazz fans, and seeing instant replays of key game moments is one of their biggest demands,” said Shawn Brown, director of video productions for the Utah Jazz.  While ZEPLAY is recording eight angles of game action (four in, four out), the operator can select and output multiple angles of any replay in just seven frames to accelerate playback.  “Within a second or two following a key play, our ZEPLAY operator can cue and run a multi-angle replay,” explained Brown.  “That’s how fast and easy it is to do.”

Major advertisers sponsor the replays for a particular quarter during home games, making ZEPLAY’s playback reliability exceptionally important.  In the new control room production workflow, ZEPLAY interoperates with Ross switching, graphics and branding systems to display advertiser’s logo in the lower right corner of replays viewed on the LED screens.

“ZEPLAY helps enable this important revenue stream for our operation,” Brown said. “It also contributes to the overall efficiency of our arena show production.”

ZEPLAY includes a dedicated multiviewer to display four (1080i) HD-SDI signals coming from Ikegami cameras strategically positioned above and alongside the basketball court, as well as the four HD-SDI signals it outputs to arena screens.  ZEPLAY’s preview/program video signals also display on a large flat-screen monitor wall at the front of production control to benefit other operators, including the director and technical director.

During its mid-2013 facility renovation, the Utah Jazz placed a massive 4-sided YESCO LED video board above the basketball court and LED ribbon displays around the arena.  They also relocated their old production control room to a new suite with four times the space and upgraded equipment, adding a Ross switcher and graphics systems; and digital content production systems from Click Effects.  ZEPLAY replaced a legacy Leitch replay system that’s no longer supported, enhancing live production possibilities while increasing reliability.

“Our previous system would lock up or crash right in the middle of games, and there was no tech support available anymore,” Brown said.  “So our engineering team researched other replay systems that were on the market and found ZEPLAY to be the ideal fit.  Since installation, it’s been very stable and reliable, and the replays just look awesome on our video boards.”

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Date posted: September 22, 2014

Systems integration specialist Human Circuit, Inc. networks Tightrope Carousel system across two locations, and multiple conference rooms and common areas

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, September 22, 2014 Choice Hotels, the corporate parent of several well-known hotel chains in the United States, recently relocated its Maryland headquarters to the northern Washington, DC suburb of Rockville.  The company occupies six floors of a newly built 10-story building, with a second corporate location in Phoenix, Arizona.  With various conference spaces and thoroughfares to communicate across, Choice Hotels turned to systems integrator Human Circuit, Inc. to design a complete professional AV system with a dynamic and interactive digital signage network from Tightrope Media Systems.

Tightrope’s Carousel solution was selected for its interactive capabilities and ease of use, allowing Choice Hotels to customize outputs depending on the nature of the message for each location.  The network serves three main corporate communication purposes:  interactive wayfinding, historical education, and general information for visitors and personnel.  The open nature of Carousel has also made it easy to incorporate business operations, such as Outlook integration for real-time schedule of meetings and events.

“We work with a number of signage companies and representatives for many different manufacturers,” said Kevin Filano, systems design engineer, Human Circuit, Inc.  “Tightrope was an ideal choice for this project because Carousel is highly customizable, which was important given the targeted content across different locations.  Their layouts are non-cluttered and elegantly designed, which works great for a corporate environment.  Tightrope makes sure the end user can display the right amount of information without making it look too busy, while retaining a smooth and professional look.”

The main business operation is centered on the fourth floor, and is naturally the most visible part of the network.  The main conference center and several reconfigurable meeting rooms rotate a variety of engaging content, but the interactive elements of the network are spread throughout the building.  The wayfinding displays are found at elevator lobbies and stairwells along a staircase spanning all six floors.  Visitors can view a floor map, daily schedule and page through an alphabetical staff directory to pinpoint floor, room and other pertinent information.  The historical education displays also incorporate interactive elements, engaging both visitors and staff.

“Choice Hotels added an interactive museum area to play out video clips that educate on the history of the company,” said Filano.  “A lot of thought went into the layout, color scheme and playout of these interactive elements for both the historical and wayfinding displays.  We worked very closely with Tightrope to achieve that.  Their programming services were instrumental in bringing everything together on time.”

According to Filano, the installation process was unusual as his team was working in tandem with general contractors and architects as the building was raised.  This had the benefit of cleanly integrating the entire technology infrastructure, including the digital signage, into the overall architecture.  However, there was no downtime to create punch lists and program systems, which made Tightrope’s professional services that much more critical to the signage network’s success.

“Normally, the contractor completes 90 percent of the job before we even come on site, but we were pulling cables and hanging displays while they were raising walls,” said Filano.  “We had enough to manage on the AV installation side, so we took advantage of their services to enable the custom functionality of the various outputs, and assist with signage network configuration.”

The overall Carousel architecture for Choice Hotels is clean and network-friendly, using a virtual server cluster with intelligent software to drive content instead of a central computer.  The robust network now extends to the Phoenix corporate location, with similar content created, managed and driven from the Rockville headquarters, where Carousel’s remote capabilities also enable network-wide troubleshooting from a central location.  The scalable Carousel backbone ensures that Choice Hotels can expand to additional displays at the Phoenix location without significantly driving up costs, labor or operational complexity.

“One of the biggest benefits of Carousel is ease of use and learning curve, which is important as the network scales,” said Filano.  “Choice Hotels has already had a handful of people move around in the company that were previously operating Carousel.  With a number of different operators taking over the system, they have had no issues with those transitions.”

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