Live From NBA All-Star: Spidercam, Virtual Graphics Add New Dimension to Turner Coverage

Turner Sports is tasked with producing an NBA All-Star 2015 chock-full of high-profile events across two boroughs this weekend, and the network has brought out a wealth of tech toys to cover the festivities. Headlined by the use of Spidercam at Barclays Center on Saturday night and new virtual graphics courtesy of Ncam and Orad at MSG on Sunday night, Turner has deployed an army of cameras and production elements in an effort to make New York’s NBA All-Star Weekend one for the ages.

All-Star Saturday Night

Turner Sports will have more freedom to use the Spidercam during NBA All-Star Saturday Night than in a typical game.

Turner Sports will have more freedom to use the Spidercam during NBA All-Star Saturday Night than in a typical game.

With a playful atmosphere and the league’s biggest stars taking part or alongside fans in the crowd, the NBA’s All-Star Saturday has always been all about fun. That philosophy continues this year, with Turner Sports rolling out 27 cameras (for skills-competition and studio coverage) highlighted by a Spidercam aerial camera system.

“Because of the unique way that Saturday night is being staged and because we don’t have to share the facility with the game, we will have a lot more freedom in using the Spidercam,” says Tom Sahara, VP, operations and technology, Turner Sports. “We have a lot more access over the court than we have had in the past.”

Turner Sports' Technojib on hand at Barclays Center

Turner Sports’ Technojib will be utilized extensively during the Slam Dunk contest at Barclays Center.

Turner has also rolled out a TechnoJib to shoot over the basket throughout the skills competition.

“It’s most specifically for slam-dunk content,” says Chris Brown, director, technical operations, Turner Sports. “That dramatic over-the-basket look is just about as good as it gets.”

Also on hand will be a wireless RF Steadicam and two RF handhelds provided by Aerial Video Systems (AVS), three Grass Valley LDX HS 6X slo-mo camera systems (one using a K2 Dyno replay system, the other EVS XT3 replay servers), two Sony HDC3300 split-block slo-mos behind the glass, and eight robotic cameras, primarily provided by Fletcher Chicago.

A Sony 3300 split-block camera has been positioned behind the glass on both backboards at Barclays Center.

A Sony 3300 split-block camera has been positioned behind the glass on both backboards at Barclays Center.

Turner will also deploy six Quantum5X QT-5100 RemoteMic microphones on players Saturday night to capture the sounds of the action up close and personal.

Sunday’s Main Event
Although Saturday night’s action will have its share of fan and tech toys, Sunday will take it to another level: Turner is rolling out a 40-camera complement to cover the All-Star Game, the studio set inside MSG, and live musical acts. The cameras include four Grass Valley LDX HS 6X slo-mos, two Sony HDC3300 slo-mos behind the glass, and five robos from Fletcher Chicago. Two Steadicams — one wireless RF (provided by AVS), one cabled — also will be used to drive Turner’s virtual-graphics system, which will rely on a combination of Orad and Ncam technologies.

Although the virtual graphics will look the same to the viewer at home, the Orad system will provide virtual elements on wider shots of the court and fans in the stands, and the Ncam-enabled Steadicam, provided by Bexel, will deliver on-the-floor virtual elements.

For the All-Star Game production, an Ncam system will provide augmented-reality elements that can be layered within images captured by the Steadicam. In addition, Turner will use Orad technology to create similar virtual elements that focus on the celebrities in the crowd, often incorporating social-media content (for example, a celeb’s in-game tweet displayed with a pointer over his or her location in the arena).

“Using Ncam with the Steadicam gives us a lot more flexibility because it is not tied to a locked-down camera,” says Sahara. “The Orad system will provide virtual graphics that focus on celebrities in the crowd. To the viewer at home, the two [systems] will look identical and will seem organic as part of the scene. I think we have taken what a lot of other [networks] have done and taken it up a notch.”

Ken Kerschbaumer contributed to this report. 

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