Red Sox and HD: A perfect fit at NESN
By Daniel Cowan
Red Sox Nation has grown to mythic proportions around the globe, with Red Sox hats (and fans) seen everywhere from European sidewalk cafes, the streets of Tokyo and, of course, the U.S. And for NESN capturing the sights and sounds this past season of the Red Sox’ march to the post season requires as much practice and preparation as the players on the field go through.
Mike Narraci, director of Red Sox baseball for NESN, who is now enjoying life without the daily grind of an MLB telecast, says NESN relies on a few key components that each and every other broadcast team needs. ‘Home base’ is an NMT HD6 truck, from which they broadcast full HD telecasts in 1080i quality and even when on the road NESN will only accept camera feeds from other networks if they are HD, with the exception Baltimore’s Camden Yards which is an SD channel. NESN employs both Sony HDC-910 and Sony HDC-930 versions.
Around Fenway Park, they have 10 manned cameras and two locked down cameras, as well as a blimp on certain game days. With a park as unique as Fenway, come some unique camera shots. While there are the views you will find in any other park in America, there is also the lock down in the Green Monster that gives great views of second base through first base including great footage of double plays, a mid first baseline camera that looks up the third base line, and, Narraci’s personal favorite, the HD footage from the overhead blimp
“The blimp is spectacular,” he says. “True HD footage, is great for home runs, and operator does a great job up there tracking the balls in the air. It’s great because it gives a different look at the field, and the entire stadiums reaction from a new perspective whether it’s a home run, hit, or pitcher coming out of the bullpen.”
Inside NESN’s NMT truck, they use their own team to create HD graphics to use with its full HD telecast. This just is an easier way for NESN to get what they want, and to get it in its HD format. This year NESN also has implemented HD super slo-mo technology which gives crystal-clear replays and gives a great look at a pitch tumbling in and a batter making or missing contact with a ball. NESN also uses 10 EVS channels, using EVS LSM XT units, to record and create footage for use during games, as well as pre- and post-game coverage. After each game, NESN does hard tape melts, and then stores the footage later to hard drives for future uses.
While NESN takes great pride in being a leader in the HD production of its games, part of the enjoyment of the job comes in capturing such a fun and passionate team and fan base both at home, and on the road.
“With Fenway being such a small, intimate park, and fans being so passionate, we get some great emotional shots in tense moments, great moments, and even the tough moments that make sports and sports coverage great,” explains Narraci. “Even on the road, where in most places except New York we almost outdraw the home team, it’s great to get the roar and reactions of so many Red Sox fans.”
Another exciting part of NESN’s year was working with Japanese broadcasters to broadcast games across the globe so fans in Japan could watch one of their national heroes, Daisuke Matsuzaka in his inaugural MLB season for the Red Sox. However, NESN didn’t have much hardship in sharing the broadcast feeds as both NESN and the Japanese broadcasters use HD 1080i picture quality, making it much easier to share a broadcast feed and footage.
As the Red Sox have excelled on the field this year, capturing their first AL East pennant since 1995, NESN continues to excel in their coverage of the team. On the night that I visited NESN and observed the Sox in action, Roland DePratti of South Windsor, CT, explained that how when he’s not at the game, he still feels like he’s at the Park watching NESN.
All the hard work is making an impression on fans. A recent newspaper article in Boston focused on fans who were unhappy that ALDS coverage would not be available in HD because their cable system did not carry TBS HD. That anger wouldn’t exist without the day-in, day-out hard work of NESN.
“When at home watching the NESN HD coverage I am amazed at how clear the picture is, and how with the surround sound you feel like you’re at Fenway,” says Roland DePratti of South Windsor, CT. “It feels the same now watching the game live and listening to the crowd as it does at home watching on NESN.”
When the Red Sox regular season ended, so did NESN’s season of broadcasting their playoff games, as TBS and FOX took over for the ALDS, ALCS and World Series. However, Narraci and NESN producers and personnel are still traveling for both pregame and post-game coverage, ensuring that the Nation is connected to all things Red Sox during their playoff run.