NEP helps WWE give HD Production the Royal Treatment

By Andrew Lippe

The WWE Sunday Night traveled to Madison Square Garden for the 21st annual “Royal Rumble,” a PPV extravaganza that marked the culmination of a weeklong transition to HD. And NEP Supershooters, in its continued support of WWE events, rolled its latest HD trailer into MSG for the big event.

“Going HD has been a challenge for us as the image is a lot more pristine and a lot wider.” says Duncan Leslie, WWE vice president, Technical Events Operations.

Leslie has a large production crew then stretches to 130. Many of the crew has HD experience on other gigs so the move to HD didn’t require a large training period with the gear. It was more about the transition and moving the wrestling world to HD.

By going HD, the WWE has had to be cognizant that fans can see more. As a result the production crew has to pay more attention to cracks in the ring post, and loose cables that fans can now see. Background elements during wrestler’s interviews are now watched more closely as they now fit inside the frame. The talent also had to experience a transition. “The camera is less forgiving bruises and cuts are more visible,” says Leslie.

The WWE is a character driven show. Each WWE superstar has his own entrance video and entrance theme that reflects his character. For the “Royal Rumble” match 30 superstars participated in the over-the-top rope battle royal in which the winner has a championship opportunity at WrestleMania 24 in Orlando. The WWE uses a Green Hippo Hippotizer media server to deliver wrestler’s videos to WWE’s Titantrons, the large screen LCD panels in the arena.

The WWE road show consists of 14 semi-trailers, seven tour buses, a PSSI satellite truck, a generator truck and their A and B TV production units from NEP called Black and Red. The “Black” unit represents the WWE’s production unit and “Red” unit produces the audio mixes.

As part of the move to HD they added a new monitor wall inside Black production truck. “The Harris Centrio monitor wall replaces our old CRT monitors,” says Leslie. Harris was chosen for its ability to have a multitude of displays.

The core of “Black” is a Grass Valley HD Kalypso Switcher, EVS IP Director for instant replay, and Avid Deko graphics. The WWE also uses a specially designed color corrector created by NEP. The “Red” unit houses a Calrec audio board and is also being used for freight. Sony 1515 cameras hooked up via triax are used to capture the action in and outside the ring.

“HD has been a challenge but our programming looks magnificent,” adds Leslie.

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