Live From MLB All-Star: Tech/Facility Vendors Swarm Citi Field Production Compound
By Brandon Costa, Jason Dachman, and Karen Hogan
The MLB All-Star production compound is always among the most action-packed of the year on the sports television calendar and this year is no different. With Fox Sports, ESPN, MLB Network, MLB International, MLB.com, and a host of international broadcasters on hand, an army of technology and remote-facility vendors are on hand providing gear, engineering support, and plenty of valuable experience.
Always a major player at large-scale events like the All-Star Game, Fletcher Sports is providing a total of 20 robotic cameras to ESPN and Fox Sports (about 10 each), as well as a several ultra-slow-motion cameras.
“For ESPN we have about 10 robos, including those in front of the batter, and the main angle behind the pitcher providing angles we wish could be replicated during the regular season due to their dramatic affect,” says Dan Grainge. “This year, for the first time, we will be using a special film lens on our I-MOVIX Ultra-Mo that is so light-sensitive we will be able to shoot the Home Run Derby at over 3000 frames per second under the stadium lights. Using normal broadcast lenses we are forced to stop at about 600 frames per second during a normal night game.”
The 10 Fox Sports robos are located throughout the park, including on top of the roof – a key angle that is only allowed during the All-Star Game.
“We are proud to be providing equipment for the entire All-star weekend to the various networks,” says Grainge. “Every year we try to bring something new to the coverage and this year is no exception.”
As has been the case for many years at the Derby, Bexel is on hand at the Citi Field compound providing a variety of equipment rentals and engineering support to broadcasters. Bexel has also set up a full eight-channel IPTV system with 20 drops throughout the compound that is being used by several networks inside the truck area. Bexel has also supplied four Apple Final Cut Pro editing systems to Fox for its on-site editing needs.
Fox is also utilizing the company’s fully-configurable 53-foot BBS1 trailer for office space and executive viewing lounge.
“[BBS1] can be used for various applications depending on [the client’s] needs,” says Lee Estroff, VP of Account Development, Bexel. “Generally, Fox uses it for office space and as an executive lounge, like they are doing here. We have seen Turner and CBS use it for full-blown editing trailer, but Fox usually puts that stuff into its C or D unit.”
Aerial Video Systems
Aerial Video Systems (AVS) is providing aerial coverage of the All-Star Game and surrounding events for ESPN, MLB Network, and Fox Sports. On Monday and Tuesday, AVS is flying an A-Star helicopter with a gyro-stabilized Cineflex HD camera system on the nose.
AVS’s helicopter will provide an aerial camera for ESPN’s Futures Game, Celebrity All-Star, and Home Run Derby; MLB Network’s Red Carpet and Pregame shows; and Fox Sports’ pregame and All-Star Game coverage.
Aerial cameraman Dave Arnold will capture All-Star Week for AVS. Arnold’s work for AVS includes Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, Bering Sea Gold, Thursday Night Football, and Monday Night Football.
CAT Entertainment Services
When the temperature hits triple digits, like it nearly did yesterday, it’s preferable for people to escape the heat. It’s essential for equipment. CAT Entertainment Services (CES) was out in full force, keeping the mobile units parked at Citi Field cool.
For its third consecutive MLB All Star Game, CES has deployed eighteen 20-ton air conditioning units, which pre-cool the air that feeds the air-conditioning units installed in each mobile unit. In addition, CES is providing one- to two-ton air conditioning units inside Citi Field to cool the sets.
While the compound at last year’s All-Star Game in Kansas City was more spread out, the condensed Citi Field compound has more mobile units to power.
“We’ve got more trucks this year than last year, and it’s bigger in that respect,” explains Bobby De Luna, senior account executive, CAT Entertainment Services. “Last year, we had 14-full size trucks and then we had a few of the smaller Corplex-size trucks. This year, we’ve got 18 trucks and then multiple uplinks.”
In total, CES is providing over 2,000 kilowatts of power, with an additional thousand kilowatts of redundant power. Ten generator sets are run by CES’s three-person staff, who are supported by six local IBEW staffers.
A regular on Fox Sports national and regional baseball telecasts throughout the year, Sportvision is bringing its high-tech pitch and hit tracking cameras and software to Citi Field for the All-Star Game.
PITCHf/x, which tracks everything from a pitch’s location to its break and speed, will be a fixture on the telecast. HITf/x, and more specifically HIT SPEED, will gather information as to how fast a ball leaves the bat following a hit.
Sportvision has three tracking cameras (positioned at mid-first baseline, mid-third baseline, and centerfield) that measure the area between the pitcher and the hitter and to calibrate the strikezone.
Fox began experimenting with HIT SPEED on some of its regional baseball telecasts in May and it is now in use on all 16 of Fox’s MLB broadcasts. An extension of Sportvision’s popular PITCHf/x software that has been a part of Fox MLB broadcasts for the past few years, HITf/x uses the same software-based camera technology used to measure the speed of pitches coming from the mound. Now, its simply used to also track that same ball leaving the bat.
Sportvision will also supply its virtual signage technology which allows for Fox to place ads on the wall behind home plate.
Kernwer is back at All-Star designing and constructing several on-site studio sets for MLB Network, Fox Sports, and Fox News. In all, Kernwer has provided four sets at Citi Field – an on-field set for MLB Network (12’x12’), a outfield MLB Network set (16’x16’), a center-field circular set with a podium in the middle for Fox Sports’ Joe Buck, and a 16’x16’ set on the Pepsi Porch for Fox News.
In addition, Kernwer provided a set near Bryant Park for coverage of the MLB All-Star Red Carpet festivities Tuesday morning. All five stages have been constructed using Kernwer’s new-and-improved stage platform.
“All of our sets have our new stage platform. It is an improvement over our previous work in that we added a few more center braces to it and made it a lot sturdier,” says Kernwer President and Founder Patrick Santini. “It has four supports and it carries the same bolt pattern as the rest of our product.”
While Kernwer is out in full force in Queens this week, Santini and company is looking to become a more constant force in the New York area, recently agreeing to a deal with Showman Fabricators to leased the Kernwer product line and offer it locally in New York.
“They are going to be offering our full capabilities on a local basis and they are the first to do that,” says Santini. “We’re really excited about it and see it as a big opportunity for us.”
Make sure to check out all of SVG’s ‘Live From MLB All-Star’ coverage throughout the week for more coverage of the broadcasters and technology vendors on hand at Citi Field.