Live from Houston: Top seven innovations of NBA All-Star Weekend

The NBA s All-Star game weekend enters overdrive in
about 10 minutes with the skills competition, the three-hour event that
features long-distance bombs, super slam dunks, and a wealth of
dribbling and passing.

For NBA TV and Turner Sports the event
marks a midway point in a weekend marked by some tantalizing new twists
to the NBA All Star broadcast.

Steve Hellmuth, NBA Entertainment
SVP, technology and operations, took a few minutes out of his schedule
to run through some of the new toys on hand this year. Here s the
inside skinny (from deep inside the bowels of the Toyota Center s media

-Topping the list? A new microphone system developed by
Quantum Five, a Canadian company. Quantum developed a rubberized mic
that is lighter and more forgiving for bumping and grinding on the
court than the solid metal and plastic housing typically found on
wireless mic systems. Expect players to wear the mics during the game.
Most mic makers don t want to make something that isn t metal and rock
solid because of the rental market but Quantum decided to develop this
light-weight, rubber system, says Hellmuth. Tom Sahara, Turner Sports
director, technical operations, says he expects the next version of the
system to have a hinge so it will be even more flexible.

next is CableCam or, as the Turner production team is calling it, the
Flying V. The system has been made popular in NFL telecasts and now is
making the jump to the NBA. TNT tested it a couple weeks ago during a
Golden State Warriors game but this is its first use on a big-time NBA
telecast (look for a full hands-on report of Turner s telecast on
Sunday night tomorrow).

-The next thing to look for is a new super, super slo-motion system from TechImaging,
a Boston-based company. The system, which was used by CBS during
golf telecasts last year, can shoot up to 15,000 frames of video per
second. The light levels in Houston s Toyota Center won t allow the NBA
to shoot more than 500 frames per second but it can still provide
plenty of cool, slo-mo images. Whether or not the technology is
something viewers see is up to the production team at Turner but it
will be available to them. At the least expect NBA Entertainment to use
images captured with the system (it was born out of medical imaging
technology) to use it for promos and otheity alr projects in the
future. It records on a hard drive and if there is a
play someone likes it will be recorded into the EVS system or a tape
machine and then played to air, says Hellmuth.

-Also keep an eye out for twelve 50-inch DLP HDTV sets from Clarity
along the sides of the court to display statistics, advertisements and
graphics. The sets replace the more traditional rolling paper system
that has been used for decades.
Hellmuth says the league took a look
at the LED-based systems that have gained favor in the college ranks
and found that when the camera zoomed in to get a shot of a player in
front of one of the screens the effect was disconcerting All the LED
pixels in the background would make the player look like they were in
the middle of the Twilight Zone, says Hellmuth.
DLP, however, will
deliver a high-quality image that will let viewers at home read any
statistics or, more importantly, advertisements that are on it. And the
Clarity monitors measure only .25 inches around the border (or the
mullion) so they can sit next to each other and appear seamless.

Entertainment, which is responsible for handling the feeds that go out
to broadcasters around the globe, has also placed a robotic camera in
front of the Canal+Spain announcer team. During the game it will send
the camera signals back to Madrid via satellite so that shots of the
announcing team can be cut into Canal+Spain s broadcast. Next year
we ll put a robotic camera in front of the other international
broadcasters so they can all send signals home, says Hellmuth. The
advantage will be that, with a little scheduling of who sends signals
to their home country when, the multiple broadcasters can share the
cost of the satellite feed.

-And if you think the NBA All-Star
game just looks different than other telecasts well, it does.
Every year the NBA replaces metal halide lighting with theatrical
lighting (only the New York Knicks play every game under theatrical
lighting). Hellmuth says the advantage is it delivers a more boxing
ring like effect and the lighting is also warmer. But it s expensive
to operate because of the amount of electricity it takes to run it and
the bulb replacement costs, he says.

-The folks in the arena
will also get another new technology: super-quick display of scoring
and statistics on in-arena scoreboards thanks to the NBA s DTVi system.
DTVi, or the Digital Television Interface, was developed on behalf of
the NBA by IDS, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based firm that is involved with
sports data. It takes data from the NBA s system and automatically
pushes it to graphics and display devices without the need to manually
type them in.

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