Fox Sports Revamps MLB All-Star Production
A new look for the pregame show, new sounds, and new angles will dominate Fox Sports coverage of the MLB All-Star Game from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO, today.
Topping the list of visible changes for viewers will be a move away from the traditional sports desk used for pregame coverage to a “host” model that will feature All-Star Game announcer Joe Buck at a podium in the outfield.
“We will wheel around to various parts of the stadium for reports from the MLB Network desk, Erin Andrews, and Ken Rosenthal,” says Mike Davies, VP of technical operations, Fox Sports.
The decision for the new approach to pregame coverage was spurred, in part, by the new relationship between Fox Sports and MLB Network. This season, Fox Sports pregame coverage for its regular-season broadcasts originates out of the MLB Network facility (and set) in Secaucus, NJ. MLB Network will also produce a segment of the All-Star Game pregame show out of its truck, NEP ND4, on-site in Kansas City.
According to Game Creek Video Senior Engineer Kevin Callahan, that decision required a first for his team: tying intercom, video, and audio systems in the Game Creek and NEP trucks together. An EVS IPDirector, for example, allows files to be sent from the Fox truck to the MLB Network truck and also transcoded from ProRes 422 to DVCPRO HD along the way.
“The challenge is knowing the network infrastructure in each truck, as they are two totally diverse networks,” he explains, adding that IP conflicts and other potential problems need to be avoided. “So getting them married was a challenge, but it went as smoothly as we thought it would. We’re pretty happy with it.”
During the regular-season pregame shows, the MLB Network and Fox Sports production teams rely on phone lines for communications between Secaucus and Los Angeles. But, with both production teams in Kansas City, intercoms in the Game Creek and NEP trucks also had to be connected.
“We’re trunking the two intercom systems together with 48 tie lines so that anything is available,” adds Callahan. “From an engineering perspective, you’re better off sharing everything.”
New and Improved Diamond Cam
The biggest addition to the Fox All-Star Game coverage is a new version of the Diamond Cam that is also referred to as the “Dirtcam.” The ultra-miniature camera system is based on the latest Gophercam technology introduced for the current season of NASCAR.
“We’ve been working to enhance the lensing for the cameras to make it clearer, wider, and smaller,” says Davies.
Inertia Unlimited owner Jeff Silverman notes that the above-ground camera profile is only 2 mm high and 3 mm wide. The remainder of the camera, located below the surface, is 4 in., and a second box contains the RF transmitter and battery pack.
“We had to have a lens with 18 elements built by a company that designed the correctional optics for the Hubble satellite,” he explains. “It’s been two years since we started the project.”
The new Diamond Cam is very different from the first, which was a standard-definition camera system small enough to be buried in front of home plate. The latest version is half the size of an eraser head, is wireless, and can even have camera-control data, including full paint and iris controls.
“It also has a 64-degree field of view, no distortion, and it’s designed so it even has straight lines on the corners,” says Silverman. “The biggest danger is the roller or anything used to maintain the field between the pitcher and home plate or near first base.”
Inertia Unlimited will also supply three X-Mo super-slow-motion systems, with one locked off on first base for close calls.
Warming Up in the Bullpen: GoPro
Also new this year for the All-Star Game will be the use of a GoPro camera system in each bullpen.
“They’re an inexpensive alternative for third-tier shots,” says Davies. “It can’t really be used as a real camera, not even for locked-off beauty shots.” The cameras are coupled with a Blackmagic Design converter and a Telecast Fiber Rattler to turn the HDMI signals to HD-SDI and integrate them into the broadcast. Total cost is about $1,000 per camera.
As for audio, the Klover Mik parabolic microphone dish, designed by Klover Products, is making its debut after a few years of prototype testing. Lawrence Myhre, audio engineer and sub-mixer for Fox Sports, points out that the dish has a true parabolic shape and, thus, is more accurate to aim, has a longer pick-up range, and provides a full-fidelity response. It is also lighter, thanks to better plastics, and easier to take apart or mount.
“We will have three for the game,” he explains. “One each for first and third and then one in centerfield for the pitcher. The focus point is much more narrow than the competition, so you don’t get as much crowd noise but, instead, everything you are aiming at.”