Live From X Games L.A.: Tech Vendors Pull Double Duty at L.A. Live, Irwindale, Part 1
ESPN’s technology and facility vendors were thrown a challenge this year at X Games Los Angeles: the network opted to split the competitions between its traditional L.A. Live/Staples Center setting and Irwindale Event Center 20 miles away. But the vendors have taken it all in stride, providing a bounty of tech tools and facilities for the X Games’ last hurrah in Southern California. Here’s a look at how NEP and BSI rose to the challenge.
In a year chock-full of dramatic changes for X Games, NEP proved a constant. Whether it was NEP Supershooters trucks in Aspen, CO, and Los Angeles; NEP Visions units in Barcelona and Munich; or NEP’s two new Brazil-based OB trucks (BR1 and BR2) in partnership with Casablanca Online, all six Global X events were produced out of NEP mobile production facilities.
“It’s really been a collaborative effort this year for us, working through this first year of global X Games with Visions and ESPN,” says Michael Pean, account manager, NEP Supershooters. “We have all worked together before, but it was nice to have everything coming together between us with Visions and our two trucks in Brazil in partnership with Casablanca.”
The big change for NEP in Los Angeles this year is the transformation of SS32, which is serving as the primary mobile unit for X Games’ B venue at Irwindale Event Center. Originally a 3D production truck, the unit was dedicated to ESPN 3D shows over the past two years, including Summer and Winter X Games. SS32 featured CAMERON PACE Group (CPG) Shadow units in the “5D” model, which combined the 2D and 3D shows into a single production, sharing resources, crew, and cameras.
However, when ESPN opted to discontinue its 3D service this year, SS32 was pulled off the road and taken home to Pittsburgh, where the NEP integration team used the truck’s robust infrastructure to transform it into a hulking standalone HD truck. Chief among SS32’s new gear is a Grass Valley Kayenne switcher (4.5 M/E), a reconfigured monitor wall, and 10 Sony HDC-2500 cameras (CPG previously provided the bulk of the 3D rigs, so NEP carried a limited HD-camera complement).
“If you look at the transition from 3D to 2D, we’ve just doubled the capacity of that mobile unit, in terms of the router and the EVS capability,” says NEP Engineering Manager Nick Romano. “All the infrastructure is still there; you just have twice the channels. And [the integration team] didn’t really even have to touch the audio side of things, so that is still solid.”
After X Games, SS32 heads to San Bernardino, CA, for ESPN’s coverage of the Little League World Series Regionals later this month.
BSI (Broadcast Sports Inc.) is also split two ways in Los Angeles, providing RF cameras and microphones and juggling RF operations at each site.
At L.A. Live, the company rolled out its Core Plus mobile unit and provided an RF Steadicam, RF handheld, and the RF link for the skateboard Followcam, which is making its debut at Summer X Games this year after becoming a staple of winter events in previous years.
“Since we have two venues this year, we don’t have to worry about all those elements combined at the same time,” says Lou Meyers, remote operations supervisor, BSI. “Even though we have to have two separate trucks at each location, it’s so much easier, to be honest.”
BSI is providing a similar setup at Irwindale, supplying its ALMS (American Le Mans Series) truck, an RF Steadicam and handheld, and an additional RF handheld for the event-productions staff, which produces the on-site videoboard show. BSI will also mount six cars with two RF cams (one in-car capturing the driver, the other on the exterior of the car) in each of the Gymkhana and RallyCar events.
For the first time at X Game, BSI has also deployed its digital-return-video system, which was first used last year on NASCAR races. The system uses a single transmitter in the truck that BSI sends out over fiber to as many points as necessary throughout the venue. Using a miniature receiver on the RF camera, an operator can see return video to help in framing shots. BSI also feeds the return video to monitors so that talent can view it as well.
“At L.A. Live, if you want to be inside Staples, inside Nokia, and outside on the event deck, it’s all fed on the same system over the same fiber-optic cable that we use to bring the RF signals back in from the cameras, but we use another strand and send RF out,” says BSI Technology Development Manager Clay Underwood. “It’s a digital system, so the receiver just sees it as reflection. Even if it sees two of the transmitters at the same time, it doesn’t care. It makes it very easy, and it’s basically glitch-free as long as you put out enough sites for what you want to cover.”