NewTek Helps NBA D-League Make HD Leap

The National Basketball Association’s D-League Showcase, featuring some of the NBA’s future on-court talent, is making its HD debut on NBA TV this week with the help of NewTek’s recently launched HD Tricaster system, four Panasonic prosumer HD camcorders, an HD Panasonic production switcher, and a NewTek 3Play slow-motion replay system.

“This is a big step forward in broadcast and a landmark event because we are transmitting high-quality pictures at a [low price] nobody thought we could approach,” says Steve Hellmuth, NBA Entertainment, EVP, Operations and Technology.

The TCXD300 Tricaster was introduced just two weeks ago and provides live switching of 1080i HD signals, live HD virtual-set technology, HD graphics, and even HD recording (at 1080i resolution). Users can also mix source resolutions and aspect ratios and lock titles or bugs to cameras or virtual inputs.

Chris Brown, NBA Digital, director of technical operations, says all four camera feeds are mixed in the Panasonic HD switcher where an external key inserts a score bug. That feed is then sent through one of the Tricaster’s three inputs where it can be mixed with instant replays played off of the 3Play system (which is on another of the three inputs) and a Panasonic DVCPRO deck (on the third input) that has other video elements.

“It’s great to see this go from concept on paper to reality and to see it working,” says Brown. “It took about one complete game for the production team to get up to speed on the Tricaster.”

Philip Nelson, NewTek SVP of strategic development, says the HD Tricaster costs $14,995, with SD versions beginning at $3,000. “Now that the Tricaster is HD, it opens up many doors for live sports content that normally wouldn’t be produced,” he says. “Our goal is not to replace a truck but to help sports fans see events that were prohibited by budget costs.”

There are some limitations, such as only three camera inputs and no external key source, but the additional sub-switcher allows the NBA to get around those limitations. A Mackie audio board is also being used to provide a radio broadcast.

“D-League games have only been produced for live streaming, but now we can talk to local cable operators and over-the-air TV stations about game presentations delivered directly from the Tricaster,” adds Hellmuth. “It’s another distribution mode to get D-League games in front of the public.”

The Tricaster output for the D-League Showcase is sent via satellite from Boise, ID, to Turner Sports in Atlanta, where NBA TV master control is located. Hellmuth says WNBA broadcasts will also begin to use the system for game productions.

“Many people won’t watch sports unless it is in HD, so this opens the door for other minor-league sports to be in HD,” says Hellmuth. “When people see an event in SD, they think it isn’t big time, but, now with HD pictures, this is big time.”