Live From NBA All-Star: Turner Presence Bigger, Better than Ever
From Thursday’s concert to Sunday’s game, the emphasis is on the fans
It has been only three years since New Orleans hosted the 2017 NBA All-Star Game Weekend, and, typically, when a sports event returns to the same city that quickly, the production philosophy remains the same. That is not the case for Turner Sports this weekend.
“This is a very different show than it was three years ago,” says Chris Brown, senior director, technical operations, Turner Sports. “The big difference is the deliverables and a compelling basketball game that uses as much technology as we can cram.”
Among the biggest changes? Turner’s NBA on TNT road show, a 70,000-sq.-ft. fan-activation effort that includes a set for the Inside the NBA studio show, concerts, the final of the Dew NBA 3X three-on-three tournament, interactive fan experiences, basketball clinics, pop-up stores, and more. It will be located at Champions Square, about 1,500 ft. from the Smoothie King Center, which will host the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, All-Star Saturday Night on Saturday, and the All-Star Game on Sunday.
“This allows us to have a big-event feeling without having to go through all the steps of creating an entirely separate production,” says Brown. “Everybody is happy and excited about the fact that it’s here.”
The Champions Square activities tipped off on Thursday with the Dew NBA3X three-on-three final and on Friday it shifts into high gear with a concert and the first Inside the NBA broadcast. Even though All-Star weekend begins tomorrow, there are still games tonight to give the Inside the NBA team plenty of action to discuss. Aerial shots from the Square will be available, thanks to a point-to-point Spidercam system.
By the time coverage winds down on Sunday night, the production team will have delivered more than 24 hours of content to viewers on TNT and NBA TV. Events like the media availability on Friday afternoon, All-Star practices on Saturday afternoon, and the G-League All-Star Game provide additional fodder for coverage. In addition, more than 36 hours of content will be live-streamed across Facebook, Twitter, and NBA.com, proving the growing power of the Internet as a content-delivery platform.
“We have Facebook, Twitter, and quick hits for social media,” says Brown. “And now we have content being created specifically for Facebook and Twitter.”
A Facebook Live control room is in one of the NEP production units in the compound, and a LiveU cellular transmission system will send live interviews with players and other guests from around town to that control room. The incoming video will be integrated with graphics before being encoded for distribution via Facebook.
NEP is playing a big role in Turner’s production of the weekend’s activities with SS24 at the center of the game coverage, NCP10 for All-Star Saturday night, NCP 11 for the studio show, NCP8 for the entertainment and halftime elements, and ND1 for transmission and more. The use of ND1 continues to evolve at the All-Star game.
“We’ve taken the use of ND1 to the next level as we come up with more ways and methods to use the horsepower of this four-truck facility,” says Brown. “The C unit has been turned into four edit bays with server storage and content managers to manage the files and the EVS network. And the D unit has three edit bays and a 5.1[-surround] audio-sweetening room.”
Turner Sports will also use a small flypack inside a suite in the Smoothie King Arena for the Area 21 show. Hosted by former NBA player and All-Star Kevin Garnett, the show will feature Garnett and his guests discussing the ongoing action.
“We’re using a very small flypack for that production,” notes Brown. Signals from that flypack will also pass into the studio truck so that segments can be integrated into the studio show, and it will be made available to the game-production team.
Turner will put 58 cameras to use inside the Smoothie King Center for both the on-the-court and TNT studio coverage (the world-feed production will also have unilateral cameras because the game will be seen in 215 countries and territories and in 49 languages).
One exciting new production tool is the addition of a Spidercam for coverage of the All-Star Saturday Night activities: the slam-dunk contest, three-point shooting contest, and skills challenge. It will be the first time a cabled camera will fly over the court during on-court action.
“The philosophy is to always look for new things that will be compelling for viewers and will move the needle on our coverage,” Brown explains. “The Spidercam gives us a unique perspective that we have never had before, and it took a lot of work and coordination with the NBA as the All-Star Game has a lot of rigged lights and moving stages.”
One workflow improvement this year is the onsite presence of 11 editing bays with Adobe Premier (three also have Adobe After Effects). Those editing systems are on the same network sharing 100 TB of storage and are also attached to four EVS IPDirectors to pull clips from 29 EVS servers.
“This never feels just like a game,” says Brown. “The players were chosen by the fans, and this is their dream team.”