We recently sat down as part of the Daktronics Experience podcast with Chris DeRuyscher, Senior Director of Ballpark Entertainment and Colin Drake, Graphics Coordinator, of the Texas Rangers to talk about our history together and learn more about what went on behind the scenes of opening up a new ballpark.
I believe that Daktronics has been working with the Texas Rangers since 1994 when Globe Life Park opened. Chris, can you tell us about working with Daktronics from the old ballpark and transitioning to the new ballpark opening this year?
Chris: If I’m not mistaken, that partnership had been going on since ’94 and it had been in different phases. I can’t remember exactly the order, but I know that they had been using Daktronics equipment in a ribbon board capacity and then in 2010, I believe they updated the video boards to Daktronics video boards and even added some LED Ribbon during that time. But, as far as I know Chuck Morgan, our boss, has always spoke very highly of Daktronics and he’s had a great relationship with those guys as well. I know that when they did the big upgrade in 2010 that it was something to behold and something the fans here hadn’t seen and really kind of took the whole ballpark entertainment here to a whole other level.
As repeat time customers so many times over, what are some of the main reasons you have stuck with Daktronics?
Chris: Aside from having a great product, the people behind the scenes have been what has made it really special and the relationships that have stood true over the years and we were never in a position where we needed feedback or advice. If you needed to talk to those guys, no matter who it was or at what level, it was just a great experience. So, a relationship was a huge part of it and then the fact that the product was fantastic and evolving in a way that it was top in the industry made it a no brainer as far as I’m concerned. We have definitely seen improvement from the 2010 updates that they made until we opened here and opened Globe Life Field in 2020. We can’t go the length of a conversation when we are talking to somebody outside the Rangers and not mention the greatness of some of the new products and how it has made our life a whole lot easier.
So opening a new venue, what was some of your goals with the overall system and what you were looking to do with it?
Chris: We really wanted to be kind of next level with things. We had seen so much great work out there in the industry in numerous sports and we really wanted a system that could push the envelope, whether it was in the 3-D world or different looks you could have on all the boards – the main board and the ribbon boards. We just felt at the time that Daktronics was the best avenue to help us accomplish those goals and this year in 2020 with everything being as crazy as it was, we were thrown all kinds of challenges. With the new Show Control system, the new Camino product and the layouts of our boards we had, we feel like we have accomplished a ton of what we wanted to do. Now, the fun part is hopefully getting fans back in here at some point so that they can see a lot of this work. They were able to see a little bit of it during the play-offs, but our goals were just really to provide a lot of wow factor and to show fans things they hadn’t seen in other venues.
Colin, thinking about getting ready for your first event at the new stadium, what was it like trying to get ready for something that was so different?
Colin: I kind of approached it like there were still fans. It was kind just trying to go into it like the place was going to be full and they were going to see what we have done new to open the place. I think it gave us a little bit of leeway to experiment and try some different things with the new in the system that maybe we normally wouldn’t if there were 40,000 pairs of eyeballs on us.
So did you guys have crowd prompts, homeruns, strike-outs, those types of things running on your displays or did you have to adjust what content you played because there were no fans in the seats?
Colin: We did. We still ran crowd prompts and homerun animations like we would if there were fans. We kind of tried to treat it like there were fans, but from other content perspective there were no kiss cams or any of that other fan-oriented content. I think it impacted our show by turning more to player centered content, just player videos. We ran like a longest home run feature, that were just the longest home runs around the league from the day before, which was something we haven’t done before but I think having no fans is something that kind of made us do it, and maybe something we keep. It ended up being pretty cool.
Talking about transitioning into no fans to maybe this bubble format for the post season, what was it like getting ready for that in the new stadium as well?
Chris: I tell you what, that was an interesting period of time. Like Colin was saying, we were so focused on getting ready for a season without fans and in our minds we were going to be shutting it down at the end of September or beginning of October. Then these rumors started floating around about a bubble and we had to transition really quickly. One, to being able to handle that, but then when there was the possibility of fans on top of it, that took it to a whole other level. So, you went from hosting teams, so every time it was their home game you were supposed to treat it like a Dodger Home game or a Padres home game. So there is that process, and then when they say, “guess what, we’re going to add fans to this mix,” 12,000 per game and they will see us in the World Series, then you started to have to quickly think about are we doing things in fan cams. Then, you need to think “if we are doing fan cams, everybody has to wear masks in this building, so we really want to focus on the rules and showing people that are wearing masks.” So, there are just rules upon rules and different things upon different things, but as far as us getting ready on the technology side of things, I think it was easy, because Colin makes everything look easy. It definitely was helpful having those 30 games previously and then I will let Colin speak a little bit to how much or what all he had to do from the one look we had for Rangers games and then transitioning into to what Major League Baseball wanted us to do.
Colin: Yeah, I think that kind of dove tails into a lot of the topics we wanted to cover. The MLB came in and they said, “Okay, your layout is okay on the main boards. but we want it to sort of look like this,” and they presented a draft. If it wasn’t for the new products that we have, I don’t know what I would have done. Venus Control Suite, Camino and even Data Studio enable us do some things data-wise that we haven’t been able to do in the past. I had to change layouts, there was stuff I had to do on the main board through Camino, and things I had to do on the ribbons and the column on the DMP-8000 side. I would have spent hours probably on the phone with your tech ops helping me change layouts in the old system next door. But with the new system, I was able to just go in and change layouts on the fly to sort of what MLB asked for. But I was able to make what they wanted happen pretty easily and that is all because of your new products.
I’m curious from the control room perspective. How do you guys approach work and get in on an average day in the work you do?
Chris: Obviously with COVID, returning to work was a different transition that’s for sure. The Texas Rangers put in some great guidelines and different things that we needed to do and Major League Baseball added on top of that. It’s been a good but different experience and we all had to do our part as everybody should be right now. I feel like we were able to be successful, and we were able to get a season in, and get playoffs in, and do some of the other things. We were able to do all of these things because everybody played their part. We just knew that that was what we needed to do in order to put on games and events. Once we started going in the control room, we just all knew that we needed to wear a mask, we needed to socially distance, the people that were freelancing with us, they understood that if they wanted to work for the Texas Rangers and help us out that they were going to have to be good with whatever it was they had to do at home so that they could come in and be free and clear to work and wear their masks as well. We would set up work- stations and different things in ways that people were able to stay distant and it just worked out. It’s the buy-in that was the huge thing. Once we were able to get everybody to buy-in and be a team player on it, then things worked out.
During this year did you learn anything with the Show Control system, or working with it spark any new ideas that you want to implement at the upcoming events or even next baseball season?
Colin: Yes, I did learn a lot through this year, sort of a trial year to see what worked, what didn’t work and what we can do better. One thing that I think with all this stuff, you don’t really think about it until you actually do it and then you can think of new ways or better ways to do things. One example of that would be just the content that we show on that column that has to do with the current batter. If they haven’t had any at-bats, we would show some season stats, but as the game goes on when they have at-bats, then we switch to a VMPS that shows what they have done for the game. Well, with Camino it sparks some ideas to design that sort of layout with Camino, and then driven by whether it is at-bat data, or plate appearance data, whichever we decide is best to kind of drive the logic of showing what it is we want to show, if they haven’t had at-bats, or if they had at-bats, rather than trying to stay on top of it and switching buttons back and forth manually to show what you want. So that is one thing I’m going to work on during this off season is to incorporate Camino in other parts of the park and not just the main boards for ease of use and more automated use that we are displaying.
Knowing that some of your displays in your system are HDR, how have you been working with those HDR capable displays?
Colin: HDR has been a huge thing for us. We have been going back and forth with what works and what doesn’t work as far as standard definition content, which we still get a lot of when it comes from outside sources. They are certainly not going to be producing an HDR, but what I would like to say about that is I think it is still a learning process for everybody and where you guys have been really good is, Michael Cruz for one, always trying to educate us on what could work and what would work based on the technical specifications and then there are still some more things that you guys are wanting to do on your end on the backside to make HDR easier for a user to get out to the board and look the way that you want it to do. Maybe this isn’t related to anything, but I haven’t been really thinking about color spaces until we went HDR because everything just worked 709, but once you go HDR you do have to start paying attention to what color space you are in. That has been a big challenge for us. Something I think we are finally starting to grasp.
Are you currently using HDR on the main video board, or what displays are you using it on?
Colin: Our true HDR content is our cameras and it looks perfect. I think where we have come across challenges is just producing graphics in the right color space and there is a whole list of different challenges that we are going through to learn how and make that work on an HDR board, but they are all HDR except for the main column. What is interesting though, is that content, and this is something very positive to speak towards, just the SDR to HDR conversions that are happening, content looks very similar, if not exact, on the column is SDR, and then on the main boards is HDR.
Thank you to Colin and Chris for telling us a little more about the new ballpark and Daktronics system!
Listen to the full podcast here: http://podcast.daktronics.com/e/90-texas-rangers-opening-a-new-ballpark/