NEP Visions Brings Wimbledon To U.S., Three Times Over For NBC, ESPN, Tennis Channel
By Carolyn Braff
Beginning Monday morning, Americans who cannot get enough of Wimbledon can catch extensive coverage on their choice of networks – ESPN, NBC and the Tennis Channel – with NEP Visions serving as the backbone supporting all three. Providing two HD trucks, a VT unit and two flypack control rooms for their three broadcast partners, Visions will have an unprecedented presence at the All England Club.
“Because we’re now doing ESPN, Tennis Channel and NBC, our facilities company has the biggest presence in terms of man power and on-site facilities of any broadcaster, including [host broadcaster] the BBC,” explains Brian Clark, contracts director for NEP Visions.
ESPN, which begins its weekday coverage bright and early on Monday morning, will take a standard definition feed of the event from the BBC’s 16:9 PAL signal and upconvert it to HD for use on all of its television platforms, including ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ESPN International.
“ESPN is doing their coverage in standard definition, but they’re doing it with two flypack control rooms with about 14 EVS channels for tapeless operation,” Clark says, noting that the flypacks ESPN will utilize are the biggest flypack operation of any facilities company at Wimbledon.
The have four edit suites which are using IP Director to drag and drop clips in and out of the EVS network. “ESPN is looking at their EVS web browsing software for the future, so we’re demo-ing that on site,” adds Clark. “It allows people back in ESPN’s main headquarters in Bristol to look at clips that have been stored on the EVS network.”
Although ESPN’s coverage is in 16:9 SD this year, the company is looking at the possibility of going HD next year, so Visions is providing conversion of archival material allowing ESPN to ingest its tapeless archives in HD.
For the first time this year, ESPN will be using Vizrt graphics devices, which allows for a change in format of the on-screen scorebox.
“This year we are rolling out a new graphic format,” explains Jamie Reynolds, vice president of event production for ESPN. “While everybody’s used to seeing the scoreboard in the conventional stack names with the set scores, we’ve gone to a horizontal format which will accommodate more of the 16:9 aspect ratio of this coverage.”
Although ESPN coverage from Wimbledon is live, the network adds its graphics and commentators to the feed that comes from the host broadcaster, the BBC.
“What we’ve found with host feeds in the past is that the scoreboard effectively blocks the upper baseline or the player behind the baseline,” Reynolds explains. “What we’ve done is tried to modify the entire graphics presentation so you theoretically never have an issue of the players being blocked either on the top of your screen or the lower third of your screen.”
The new scoreboard graphic will stretch the width of the screen along the top, approximating the look of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball scoreboard. The new model will continue to come in handy when ESPN travels to Australia for coverage of the Australian Open, as the host feed there tends to frame its coverage with more space at the bottom of the screen, and the graphic can easily be moved to the bottom of the screen.
Alongside ESPN’s SD coverage, Visions is supporting 1080i HD coverage from NBC Sports and the Tennis Channel with two HD mobile units, HD2 and HD4, and VT support from HDR3.
This is the first year NBC has produced its Wimbledon coverage in high definition, so Visions is helping to ensure a smooth transition by equipping the network with its HD2 OB production unit, a network of 10 HD EVS units, one linear edit suite and one Avid Adrenaline edit suite. As the main weekend broadcaster of the event for American audiences, NBC also has additional on-court cameras that other networks are not permitted to utilize.
“Along with the BBC, NBC is the only company allowed cameras on Centre Court, so we put center court cameras out there, as well,” Clark explains.
For The Tennis Channel’s first-ever coverage of Wimbledon Visions is providing its HD4 production unit, an Avid Adrenaline Edit suite and accompanying EVS network for the 1080i HD broadcast.
Visions is also providing studio lighting, cameras and wiring for all of the on-site studios for all three networks.