With Help From CNN, NBA TV Gets Touchy

By Carolyn Braff
When it comes to broadcasting innovations, sports does not often borrow from news, but, until recently, news did not have gadgets like holograms and touch screens. Tapping into the technological originality CNN demonstrated throughout the 2008 election season, NBA TV, also operated by a division of Turner Broadcasting, has borrowed one of those innovations, incorporating CNN’s touch screen into its new TouchPass installation.
“People from NBA TV had seen the CNN Magic Screen and wanted to see how we can incorporate it into our telecast,” explains Jim Allen, NBA TV studio director. “Our screen uses the same idea as CNN’s but with different technology behind it.”
CNN correspondent John King, who used the screen throughout the 2008 election season, visited the NBA TV studio to help NBA TV talent learn the basics of the touch screen, although the sports version differs slightly from the news version.
“[CNN] used a lot of Quicktime movies, icons, and pre-built graphics, while ours is more static layering with real-time live video at the back,” Allen explains. “What we do is more layering. The back screen is the feed of the game, on top of that is the matchup, and on top of that is the map. We basically reveal layers to get you to the actual game.”
The projector screen is supported by software designed and built by SportsMEDIA, with graphics generated on a Chyron Duet loaded into the platform. The touch-screen telestrator accommodates a number of applications, all of which will be used by NBA TV’s studio anchors.
“The TouchPass application allows us to look at a map with blinking lights for the arenas that are hosting games that night,” Allen says. “If you touch the screen again, you’ll see what the matchup is for the night, and there is animation built in that reveals the game behind it.”
Prior to each night’s broadcast, the NBA TV producer or director launches the application for the evening, choosing from a database the home and away teams for each game. The animation is then automatically generated for the appropriate arenas, based on the teams that are playing.
A second application allows the hosts to pull up NBA.com on the touch screen.
“They can touch the icon on the bottom of the screen, which looks like our ticker, and NBA.com will come up,” Allen explains. “All of the elements are incorporated with the same look throughout the telecast. NBA.com allows us to actually view the Web pages, interact with them, and move throughout the screen. The hosts can show viewers how to vote on fan night, write an e-mail to one of our announcers, and generally use the screen as a promotional tool.”
A third application, Jet Pass, allows the hosts to break down elements of the game, such as a pass play, using the telestrator icons.
The Pass View application brings up all the video feeds from that night’s games in a mosaic style, mimicking the look of the League Pass TV offering.
“Pass View is set up with our technical director and graphics people so that, on the screen, we can show up to nine games going on simultaneously,” Allen explains. “In our control room, we’ve built animations so that, if an announcer wants to go out to a Houston-Oklahoma feed, he can tap on that game individually. Pass View shows almost what you can see at home with your League Pass.”
The touch screen will be used throughout the season on NBA TV, the NBA’s 24-hour digital network operated by Turner Sports.

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