NHL on TSN Back on the Ice With Beefed-Up Graphics
In Canada, the three hockey-less months of the NHL off-season feel like an eternity. But, last year, when three months were turned into seven by the prolonged lockout, NHL fans up north — not to mention TV-rights holders like TSN — were fit to be tied.
However, instead of wallowing in the NHL-less abyss, TSN went to work, revamping its graphics and animation packages in preparation for puck drop, which finally occurred on Jan. 12. After launching these elements during its Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage earlier this year, TSN is seeing the fruits of its efforts from a year ago.
“We used the time we had during the lockout last year to have the creative-services group start creating and revamping a bunch of those new elements for us,” says Mark Milliere, SVP of production, TSN. “We have super player bios and super player-matchup bios and some real high-end–looking bumper animations. We launched those in the playoffs and have upped the ante on that going into this season.”
4K Video and 3D Graphics, Too
The new graphics look was launched along with TSN’s decision to begin shooting and distributing its NHL telecasts in 16×9 and leaving behind the 4×3 safe window that it had maintained for viewers still watching on SD television sets. This allowed TSN to take advantage of the entire 16×9 window in building its new graphics and font look.
After debuting the elements during the Playoffs, TSN producers hit the road in early September for a series of preseason shoots with players in order to expand these elements. Beginning in New York City with the player media tour and then continuing on to all seven Canadian NHL cities, TSN producers conducted what Milliere lovingly refers to as “the carwash”: a two-station carousel in which TSN used a Sony F55 4K camera to capture hero shots of each player and a still camera to take stills of players taking shots and skating, goalies making saves, and so on.
The ultra-hi-res Sony F55 shots have been incorporated into TSN’s in-game features, openings, bumpers, and stings to break, as well as its studio shows (That’s Hockey, That’s Hockey 2Nite, and SportsCentre) and promotions. TSN’s mobile units (all provided by Dome Productions) incorporate these elements when packaging presentation elements to enhance the storytelling of the game.
For the still images, TSN used 3D-camera–calibration software (Maxon’s Cinema 4D software) to re-create the camera’s position, tilt, lens size, and focal length. Producers created a skeletal mesh for each player and projected the still image onto the geometry. TSN can then move the camera in 3D space, creating the Matrix-style illusion of action suspended in time. These elements were then integrated into a 3D-style arena environment, and the scenes were edited together to create the final bumper for the telecast.
More than 5,000 images were created, with the cream of the crop incorporated into a computer-generated background and into individual players/stars’ profile graphics. These also will be incorporated throughout all of TSN’s NHL studio shows.
“We are using all these elements throughout our openings, promos, and bumpers going to break,” says Milliere. “It helps tell the story of the game and takes everything up to a whole other level.”
Scotiabank Cards Take the Ice
TSN has also worked to integrate its sponsors into its graphics elements this year, most notably incorporating title sponsor images of Scotiabank’s team-oriented credit card into player bios and goalie matchups.
“We got pretty creative with Scotiabank,” says Milliere. “Rather than just slapping flat titling onto goalie matchups and other boards, they really wanted us to integrate them [into the telecast], and the creative team did a fantastic job. They have a Visa [card] that features all the team logos, so we took the credit-card look and actually incorporated it with its logos into those goalie matchups and individual player bios. I think it really adds to the package rather than taking away.”
That’s Hockey Taps Troika Design
The in-game package isn’t the only new look for TSN’s NHL coverage. That’s Hockey, the network’s half-hour daily hockey newsmagazine show, enlisted Troika Design to totally redesign its graphics and animations package in the offseason. Troika is also responsible for TSN’s SportsCentre graphics package.
“Because it’s a show out there every day, we wanted it to look super high-end,” says Milliere. “We have a very good relationship with Troika. We worked with them over about six months developing the package and are thrilled to launch it.”