A Green Hippo Hippotizer Tierra+ MK2 Media Server drove centre-stage visuals at the VEX Robotics World Championship 2023, which brought young innovators from around the world to compete using their school-engineered robots.
Held at the 10,000-capacity Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas, the championships took place over ten days and featured an opening and closing ceremony, competition battles, and an awards presentation. This year’s visual setup was made up of a 3:1 aspect ratio (63’ wide by 20’ high) main stage wall, which included a 12’ by 9’ guillotine door in the center for presenters to enter and exit throughout the show.
To accommodate all audience members in the in-the-round arena, a huge LED screen ‘chandelier’ was hung in the centre of the venue above the stage, creating a viewing opportunity to any seat in the house. The chandelier was an equilateral triangle made of three 52’ wide by 13’ high LED screen sides and three 13’ by 13’ end caps at each point of the triangle.
Full service event designer So Midwest, Inc. was asked to design the staging, lighting, and video elements for the main events. “The look needed to be vibrant, captivating, and create an immersive environment for this international event,” explained So Midwest’s Robb Jibson. “Our visual deliverables were a mix of looping 2D illustrative style assets and shiny and crisp 3D renders of the competition robots and game pieces.
“When we started looking at the raster maps and the sheer amount of pixels that would be required to feed the staging screens and the additional broadcast elements it quickly become apparent that the Hippotizer Tierra+ MK2 Media Server was the only product that could service it.”
So Midwest created all video content, drawing inspiration from the VEX Robotics branding. One of the biggest parts of the opening ceremony was the ‘Parade of Nations’ where all the teams walk out from backstage, pause for photos in front of the stage and move on to their seats. For this section, So Midwest displayed the competing country’s name, flag, location on the globe and the outline of the country using custom scripted TouchDesigner nodes to pull all the country assets together.
“Because there were more than sixty countries represented, we accumulated a few hundred assets just for this section of the show,” said Jibson. “The Tierra+ MK2 Media Servers ingested the assets with ease and we were able to place multiple animated pieces anywhere our client asked with minimal effort.”
For live gameplay feeds on the chandelier’s IMAG screens, the team had different presets which could overlay the live scoring system visuals that were fed from the client.
“With any show that changes constantly, the versioning system and ability to drop updated assets into the same banks and pools really speeds along the updating process and keep track of it,” said Jibson. “The 10g network infrastructure on the Tierra+ MK2 creates a direct and fast link between the content creators and the show operators and allows the organisation and manipulation of assets to be stress free. Chad Lussier, the Media Server operator, was able to stay organised and efficient with ease!
“Moreover, the speed and amount of outputs on the Tierra+ MK2 allowed us to reduce the amount of hardware that we needed – we were able to get this down to just one machine with a tracking backup. The custom EDID ability of the Hippotizer software also allowed us to get the most out of the available canvas, and feeding the Barco Encore systems with the information they need to be efficient.”
So Midwest touched base with the Green Hippo support team during the pre-production process, to identify any issues and help assess what products are needed.
“Green Hippo has a really great support team that is always quick to answer when the need arises,” added Jibson. “When a feature or creative challenge is identified, they are quick to offer options. We really enjoy feeling that Hippo is part of our extended team.”
Teams competing in the event came from countries including the USA, China and New Zealand. The VEX Robotics Competition is named as the largest robotics contest in the world by Guinness World Records.