Behind The Screens: When Big Isn't Big Enough

The huge video screens at sporting venues, where slow-mo replays and video ref decisions are shown, are a big part of the spectator experience — and it's about to get even bigger.

Mitsubishi Electric built the world's largest 1080p HDTV screen this year for the Cowboys Stadium in Texas. It's got 10.5 million LEDs, weighs over 600 tons, measures 55m wide by 22m tall and takes up over 2300sqm. Price: $US40 million. Not bad for a state-of-the-art screen that's taller than a seven-storey building.

But size is not what makes this display so desirable for sporting venues. Slow-motion replays are done automagically, thanks to a fully integrated scoring, content management and playback system. Mitsubishi Electric's exclusive pixel-pitch technology provides a 170-degree viewing angle, and its "Dynamic Pixel" system enhances its 2176x4864 resolution 1.5 times by overlapping adjacent pixels. A non-interlace scanning method, known as Extended Definition Television (EDTV) eliminates flickering or blurring, and its unique contrast filters and shaders prevent images from washing out in sunlight — an important consideration for outdoor stadiums like the MCG.

It was a no-brainer for the owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Jerry Jones. "When we were making the decision on whom to entrust with the responsibility of making our vision a reality, the quality and clarity in the Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision boards was unmatched," he said.

The MCG's two main video screens were also built by Mitsubishi Electric, although comparatively modest at just 108sqm.

Mark Foster, GM of Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision Systems, says building and installing one of these screens is a five-step process that can take up to eight months. Designing the structure that holds the screen comes first. New stadiums factor this into the design, but for stadiums like the MCG which was built in 1853, starting from scratch is necessary. After ensuring there are sufficient facilities to power the millions of LEDS, the screen itself is designed and made to order. Foster says the most time consuming part is the installation — the screens have thousands of parts which need to aligned with extreme precision. "The last piece of the puzzle is integrating it into the video system," says Foster. This involves making sure the display has all its connections so that "in-game scoring and timing, advertising content, replays and fan entertainment" can be viewed.

Foster says the only limitations when it comes to size are physical ones and "we have not come close to those limitations yet". So it's only a matter of time before someone builds a screen that makes the one in Dallas look like small fry.

If you're heading to Stadium Australia for the NRL Grand Final on Sunday, enjoy the view!

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Playing With Balls is Gizmodo AU’s week-long look at the technology behind the sports we love, from the jerseys to the balls and everything in between. Go the Eels!