Big Bracket for a Big Tourney

Big Ink works with Coca-Cola on NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament graphics.

Big Picture
Big Ink Display Graphics has a thing for big brackets.

For the past several years, the Eagan, MN-based company has produced giant-sized tourney brackets for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, in conjunction with client Coca-Cola. This year, Big Ink outdid itself--executing not just one giant bracket, but two of them.

The first bracket was produced for a media event that took place at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, the site of the tournament finals, prior to the tourney's tip off. Once files had been provided by the client, Big Ink used its Gandi Innovations Solvent Jeti 3300 with Gandi-supplied solvent ink to produce the 109 x 120-ft bracket, printing onto 12-oz matte scrim banner material from Cooley.

Big Ink produced 12 separate panels, each measuring 10 x 109 ft, printing onto 12-oz. matte scrim banner material from Cooley. For ease of printing and finishing, panel numbers were printed at the top and bottom of the banners and a panel map showing the division was printed as a visual reference for all staff involved in producing the banners. The panels were then seamed together, and reinforcements added to top and bottom. Time to print: approximately 40 hrs; time to finish: approximately 60 hrs.

Installation was pre-arranged by Coca-Cola, which had representative fans from each of the teams' markets flown into Indianapolis. Slots were cut into the graphic to allow those fans to "step into" the bracket and represent their respective teams. Coke used the resultant photo shoot for worldwide publicity.

"It's a bit intimidating to have to deal with that much material," says Big Ink owner Tom Trutna. "As we sat down and tried to map out all things that needed to take place and that could go wrong, the printer breaking down comes into consideration. But the actual printing has turned out to be the least stressful part about the whole thing. We were able to print an amazing amount of material in a short amount of time. We literally printed 6,000 square feet overnight."

Following the photo session, Coke had individual pictures taken of each fan, still in jerseys and face paint, etc. Those individual images were output via the Jeti as 8 x 8-ft separate graphics and were later used to represent each team on the second bracket project for this year's tournament--a 60 x 120 ft. version designed to hang on the side of a building adjacent to the RCA dome, installed April 1.

Also output via the company's Jeti 3300, this bracket was output onto 8-oz Cooley mesh, chosen for its combination of light weight and strength. Due to install requirements, says Trutna, more than 200 grommets were added in-house for the install, which was outsourced. The installer requested grommets every 1 ft on the top edge, every 2 ft on the bottom edge, and every 3 ft on each side side; in addition, some were added where needed in the middle of the banner on-site to prevent pillowing or undue chafing in the middle.

And while the graphic itself is a "static" image, the bracket actually changes in real time: a bucket truck is used to post the name of each winning team as the tournament finals progress.

It is, says Trutna, the most high-profile project to date for his 18-employee shop. "It's certainly been helpful to have a banner--pun intended--customer and project like this," he says. "It has been a great showpiece for us and we've gotten a fair amount of interest from both existing customers and prospective clients." "


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