Fox Sports Southwest Shifts Into Scramble Mode for Mavs Victory Parade
For Mike Anastassiou and his crew, there was little time to revel in the Dallas Mavericks’ victory Sunday night. While the rest of the city basked in the franchise’s first NBA Championship, the Fox Sports Southwest (FSSW) producer was hard at work during a series of late nights and early mornings. After all, he was tasked with covering what was perhaps the largest event of his career: a two-mile victory parade through the streets of Dallas this morning.
“We have been in scramble mode, for sure,” he said Wednesday night. “We haven’t done anything like this before. In the first 12 hours, we didn’t really know where we stood. I didn’t meet with the city officials until Monday morning, so the parade route wasn’t even confirmed until then. But right away, we knew we needed some basic things: scissor lifts, uplink trucks, generators, scaffolding, and so on. So we immediately put those things on hold and booked a truck and crew.”
Cameras Lining the Streets
The parade, which began at 10 a.m. CT, featured three floats, 10 convertibles, and a dozen trucks traversing a two-mile stretch in the Victory Park area of Dallas. The parade culminated with a rally at the American Airlines Center for season-ticket holders, VIPs, and sponsors, which was shown to the 3,000 fans outside the arena on the South Plaza video screen and a handful of GoVision LED screens brought in for the rally.
Fox Sports Southwest deployed more than a dozen strategically placed cameras for its exclusive HD coverage of the parade, including three cameras atop 25-ft.-high scissor lifts, two RF cameras, several aerial helicopter cameras, two cameras at the host position in the South Plaza, two cameras inside the arena to capture crowd cut-ins, and a LiveU portable video-over-cellular backpack camera. FSSW also deployed two ENG cameras to capture video for postproduced segments.
Two of the scissor-lift cameras had devoted HD uplink trucks that backhauled the audio and video feeds, while the third was hardwired to the primary production truck parked outside American Airlines Center. This third camera and one of the RF cameras were tasked with capturing the homestretch of the parade.
The helicopter for aerial coverage was made available by Fox O&O KDFW, which carried the “Mavs Live Championship Celebration” when FSSW switched to coverage of the Texas Rangers-New York Yankees game at noon CT.
“We’re using a ton of cameras and gear,” said Anastassiou. “They may not all be used at the same time because the parade obviously happens in phases. We are moving our camera operators to different spots throughout the parade where cameras are already set up.”
American Airlines Center as the Base
FSSW used Mobile TV Group’s 28HDX mobile unit for the parade, the same truck the network uses for Mavs, Stars, and Rangers game. The trucks were based at American Airlines Center in an effort to take advantage of the facility’s connectivity.
“I needed some time to really figure this out, but I woke up Tuesday morning knowing that I would need to park the truck at the [American Airlines Center] because I needed to take advantage of the in-bound circuits there and the infrastructure that the arena provided. Once we decided to create a sort of [broadcast-operations compound] at the arena with our mobile units, it became a lot easier because we have in-bound fiber circuits there and cabling was pretty simple.”
LiveU Promising but No Sure Thing
The LiveU backpack system was the wildcard going into Thursday morning’s telecast. The system combines connections from a mix of Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile cellular networks to transmit HD video on the fly. While it promised to provide intimate, up-close shots alongside the parade, it also relied heavily on the crowded cellular networks being used by 3,000 Mavericks fans at the event.
“The streets are going to be lined with thousands of people texting and sending photos, so I don’t know how much bandwidth we’re going to be able to get together, but we’re going to give it a shot,” Anastassiou said prior to the parade. “If that works well, then we will be able to ride alongside the parade for the entire route and get that video back to us.”
The Mavs Take Over
When the Mavericks arrived at American Airlines Center, FSSW turned over production responsibilities to the team’s in-house crew for the rally itself. FSSW play-by-play man Mark Followill served as MC, and ESPN Radio KESN-FM play-by-play man Chuck Cooperstein conducted interviews.
“It’s not all that different than the way ESPN covers the Heisman trophy, where you have an MC and then they kick it over to an interview set,” says Dave Evans, the Mavs’ former director of broadcasting who now serves as a consultant for the team as founder/president of Vantedge Consulting Group.
The Mavericks deployed four cameras to shoot the rally: two hard cameras and two handhelds. At press time, the team was also debating adding a fifth for interview cutaways throughout the rally. This is in addition to FSSW’s low-slash and high–behind-the-basket cameras that captured the arena crowd during the parade coverage.
“This is basically a normal in-house shoot from the arena’s control room,” said Evans. “They send a clean feed to the Fox production truck. At that point, the in-house feed is switching Fox’s program feed.”