Winter X Games Live: Tech, Facilities Vendors Unite in Aspen, Part 1
ESPN’s technology and facility vendors are back in Aspen this week for another chapter of Winter X Games. From mobile units to power to cameras, these vendors are all over the Buttermilk Mountain truck compound and competition venues to help deliver the 18th edition of Winter X.
BSI Has RF Under Control
A longtime X Games veteran, BSI (Broadcast Sports Inc.) has rolled out one of its 53-ft. straight trucks to coordinate the variety of RF activity taking place in Aspen.
In terms of cameras, BSI is providing ESPN with a wireless Steadicam and a wireless handheld to rove between Venue A and Venue B, two wireless handhelds to the Event Production team for the in-venue show, three Followcams for SlopeStyle and Pipe competitions, and a camera for the host set.
On the audio side, BSI has rolled out 26 wireless mics altogether: 19 effects mics and parabola packs and seven talent mics (three for Event Productions and four for the television production). The company has also provided IFBs for communication with the talent and producers.
And BSI has deployed its digital return-video system, which was introduced in 2012 on NASCAR races and made its X Games debut in August in Los Angeles. A single transmitter in the truck sends the signal to as many receive points as necessary throughout Buttermilk Mountain. Via a miniature receiver on the RF camera, an operator can see return video on the viewfinder to help in framing shots. BSI also feeds the return video to monitors so that talent can view the program feed while announcing.
“With this, [a commentator] doing replays can see the replays they are talking over,” says BSI Technology Development Manager Clay Underwood. “We also give it to the camera operators; it comes in through their camera finder so that they can frame the shot correctly and see where graphics are going to be and what their shot looks like inside the show.”
Fletcher Back, in 2D World
Fletcher Chicago is on hand again this year, providing 12 robotic camera systems (including two booth cams, one in the athletes lounge, and a unique high-angle with 33X lens covering the snowmobile course), and two Ikegami-NAC Hi Motion II ultra-slo-mo camera systems (one roving and one in a hard configuration at the finish line of the X Course downhill events). All robos have been outfitted with full power and remote-wiping capability, allowing the lens to be automatically cleared in case of rain or snow.
The biggest difference for Fletcher — and several other ESPNers and vendors, for that matter — this year in Aspen is the absence of a 3D show.
“The benefit [of not having 3D] for us is that we are providing full turnkey systems again,” says Fletcher’s Nick Serna. “For 3D, [CAMERON PACE Group] would give us their rigs, and we would mount them on our robotics. We’ve always been a turnkey, self-reliant kind of [vendor], who brings our own stuff and anticipates what we might need [at the last minute]. So it’s nice to have our own cameras and be fully turnkey again.”
ID Powers ESPN
For the 12th consecutive year, Illumination Dynamics is there to provide the energy behind it all, supplying power to ESPN facilities all over Buttermilk Mountain.
Redundant power for the TV compound consists of six production trucks, technical power inside eight office trailers, and power for several workstations inside the Inn at Aspen at the base of mountain. ID is also on hand to provide redundant twin-pack power for the main TV-control tower at the base of the Superpipe course, as well as power for all the Musco lighting and TV power on Pipe. In addition, the company has rolled out multiple single generators for the X Course, athletes lounge, radio trailer, catering, and downtown Aspen for the concert in the park.
In terms of lighting, ID has provided the TV-lighting package for ESPN’s host set, theatrical lighting for the Big Air course, Snowmobile-course starting point, and Award Stage.
“It’s been great to come here every year and not only see our friends at ESPN but also those with [Aspen Ski Co.] that have helped us provide the best services possible,” says Illumination Dynamics Director of Broadcast Services Rich Williams. “Each year presents new challenges with course designs and changes. It’s been a great opportunity for us each and every year.”