In Year Two, HEATV on HEAT.com Playoff Coverage Hits Sun Sports Airwaves
The rarified air that goes with back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals does not come along often, and the HEAT Group, the video-production arm of the Miami Heat, is taking full advantage of the spotlight this postseason. For the second consecutive year, the Group has produced live pregame and postgame programming for every playoff game since the second round via HEATV on HEAT.com. The big difference this year is the presence of the team’s regional-rights holder, Sun Sports, which has agreed to carry the postgame coverage for the first time.
“The success that we had last year with HEATV on HEAT.com helped to convince our cable partner that this was worth hopping on board for for the postgame,” says Ted Ballard, executive director of broadcasting, HEAT Group. “But, at the same time, we were able to preserve our new sponsored asset for the organization, HEATV on HEAT.com. Now, instead of just providing a service to our fans, which was our only original intent, we’ve actually created a new revenue asset.”
Live From AmericanAirlines Arena
The HEAT Group is using many of the team’s existing resources at AmericanAirlines Arena to produce HEATV on HEAT.com, including cameras, talent, and the Biscayne Bayside studios. The operation has once again been built around a NewTek TriCaster 850 provided by the league.
Ballard and company produce the one-hour pre- and post-game shows for both home and away games out of the on-site studio (previously used by the local NBC affiliate) used for regular-season home-game shows. However, instead of producing the shows out of its Mobile TV Group 8HDX mobile unit (the studio does not have a control room of its own), the HEAT Group uses the TriCaster combined with a Sony IXS-6600 studio router (32×32) and a Sony IXS-6700 control room router (112 x 119) to deliver broadcast-quality pre- and post-game shows.
“Even [NewTek] has been impressed by our approach to the technology because we’re never just satisfied with getting [the program online],” says Ballard. “We max this thing out with our Sony router, so we are up to 13 or 14 different sources that can constantly be manipulated based on what we need at a given moment.”
With a full arsenal of cameras on hand at AmericanAirlines Arena, the HEAT group can pick and choose what it needs. Home-game productions use six arena cameras (Sony HDC-1400’s) and a variety of other assets, including a Link Research (a Vislink Company) wireless RF camera system, two PDW-700 XDCams for ENG, two PMW-EX1 camcorders on the set, and three Canon BU-45H POV cameras for interior and exterior beauty shots.
In addition, the Group has six tape playback sources – three PDW HD 1500 VTR’s, two HDWM2000 for HDCam, and two AJ-HD1400 for DVC Pro. For editing, the team has an Avid Media Composer 17 seat turnkey system with a 48TB Isis Storage and AVID’s Interplay media sharing technology.
A Hybrid Approach to Graphics
The big change this year comes on the graphics side, because the HEAT Group must use two entirely different graphics packages for the pregame (branded HEATV on HEAT.com) and the postgame (Fox Sports’ basketball package). To accomplish this, graphics operator Bob Hewitt and his team, with some help from NewTek, have developed a hybrid workflow using Chyron Duet and NewTek LiveText character generators.
“We were able to set up a network that allows Bob to build graphics from his desktop, send them to his laptop, and seamlessly integrate them into the TriCaster through its network inputs,” says Ballard. “No more crashing, no more delays, and you would think we had a Duet on our whole show.”
Sun Sports Joins the Party
HEATV on HEAT.com debuted during the second round of the team’s 2011 NBA playoff run and generated more than 1.1 million page views over the course of the next 16 postseason games. Sun Sports owned the rights to the Heat’s first-round playoff action but declined to carry any shoulder programming during the rest of the team’s run to the Finals, which aired exclusively on ESPN/ABC and TNT.
This year, after Sun Sports completed its first-round telecasts, the RSN agreed to carry the HEAT LIVE postgame show (the pregame is exclusively on HEAT.com), which cannot be accessed by fans with the Sun Sports footprint thanks to the NBA’s “gating” technology.
“Understandably, Sun Sports and the cable operators did not want their product streamed [in-market] while it was on their air,” says Ballard. “So we worked with the NBA to make sure that people in our market can’t access the [postgame show online] but everyone else around the world can. If you are in our viewing area, which is based on ZIP codes, then it is blacked out, and a message comes up that says, ‘Please tune to Sun Sports.’”
The HEAT Group produces the postgame show and sends the feed to Fox Sports’ transmission facility (in the Woodlands just outside Houston) for distribution. Sun Sports and HEAT.com each run their own ads during commercial breaks (Florida Department of Transportation is the official HEATV on HEAT.com sponsor this year).
A Trio of Transmission Devices for Away Games
Although the HEAT Group has made extensive use of its resources at AmericanAirlines Arena, its road productions are equally complex and impressive. Senior Director of Broadcast Services Ed Filomia and his team travel with two Sony XDCAM PDW-700 camcorders to capture practices, shoot-arounds, interviews, and live reports from the visiting arena.
The pre- and post-game shows themselves are delivered back to Miami on Level 3’s Vyvx content-delivery network, and the NBA’s dedicated venue-to-venue fiber-based High-Speed Arena Network (HSAN) provides the pipe for most ENG material shot during the day, as well as for the backhaul of the game and press conferences.
The most intriguing transmission element deployed for HEATV, however, is the Teradek Cube camera-top HD video encoder, which delivers an HD-SDI signal back to Miami over a simple Ethernet or WiFi connection. The Cube provides a redundant transmission path for the pre-/post-shows as well as a means to deliver secondary ENG elements like bus arrivals, scenic shots, and sound bites.
“It’s great for both the quality and the price point, which is just the purchase of the Teradek since we don’t pay anything for the transmission,” says Ballard. “You can change the settings on it to transmit at a rate where it looks like beautiful HD video, and it’s basically free. In addition to a redundant transmission path to Vyvx, which can be very costly, we can often stay on live and run things through our Teradek line even after our Vyvx window has expired.”
HEATV on Heat.com can be found HERE.