Feature Article - September 2014
Find a printable version here

Scoreboard Watching

Trends in Scoreboards & Video Displays

By Joe Bush

Visual Upgrades

Kuhl said the advancement of technology is not only increasing efficiency, it's making for eye-popping visuals.

"A recent technology associated with video displays in the high school market is surface-mount technology," he said. "Traditional red, green and blue LEDs protrude off the display face. Surface-mount LEDs combine all three colors into one small package. This technology allows display manufacturers to space the surface-mount LEDs extremely close together. More pixels in the same area provides greater resolution and gives a much better image."

Allain agreed, and added that from a hardware perspective, manufacturers are continuing to make it easier for customers to deploy and maintain. With die-cast cabinets, manufacturers can build a display in a fraction of the time it took in the past. Also, from a servicing perspective, there are modules that come out faster and can be replaced more easily while maintaining the integrity of the entire system.

"While hardware has been the major focus for the entire industry for many years, we are now paying a particular focus on software," Allain said. "Advanced remote diagnostics, calibration, intelligent scheduling and now advanced controls. Whereas advanced gameday operations and advertising controls were for very large installs, we now have basic, lower-cost systems with the features expected in higher-cost implementations."

The new technology allows for creativity and flexibility on the manufacturer's part, Allain said. "In some facilities, we combine several technologies and models," he said. "With larger high schools, for instance, we will even build one single display with two pixel pitches. The top three quarters, for instance, can be 10mm, and used for full color game action and replays, while the lower quarter can be 20mm and dedicated to a virtual scoreboard."

One scoreboard manufacturer offers customers a way to save money and help the environment. Rather than replace the structure and unit once the scoreboard begins to show its age, this company will send panels to fit over various sizes and sports-specific displays. The panels cost less than a full structure and unit, and also cost less to transport and install. Savings of 50 percent are possible, when restoration is compared to brand-new. LED lighting is available, and either wired or wireless control systems are available.

The company also features a wireless innovation that can eliminate the need for scoreboard operators. Referees and umpires can use the sports-specific handheld device as the action is happening, and the device recharges for the next contest in a cradle.

Swimming Swag

One sport that needs unique hardware and software is swimming. Equipment has to be resistant to the humidity of natatoriums, as well as adaptable to timing systems and control, and meet manager computers. When coordinated with those computers, high-end scoreboards and video displays show not only sponsor messages and advertising, but also swimmer names, teams, lanes, times and team standings.

Jay Riegle, owner of a Michigan-based sales and service provider for scoreboards and displays, said 95 percent of his work is for pool scoreboard and video display sales, installation and service. Prices have dropped 20 to 30 percent in the past decade, he said, while displays get clearer (tighter pixel pitches), and energy use more efficient (fewer required amps). To top off the cost efficiency, LED lighting can last 100,000 hours.

Riegle said video displays have become "the norm." "It depends on how much money you want to spend and what you want to display," he said. "The hardest part of sales is walking in somewhere trying to figure out what they want and what they can afford."

Riegle said users can add to the energy benefits of the hardware and technology by simply using common sense: Don't use full brightness if not necessary, and turn the power off when the equipment is not in use.

Rick Connell, director of national sales for a Loveland, Colo.-based scoreboard and display manufacturer, said there is another optional component on state-of-the-art displays and scoreboards—sharing on Facebook and Twitter.

It's "software that can interface with social media platforms for fans that can't be in attendance," Connell said. "Facilities are really looking for ways to engage their audiences."