NBA Draft Keeps ESPN Guessing – In A Good Way – at Barclays Center
Last night, the 2014 NBA Draft took over Barclays Center and, for the third time in four years, the Cleveland Cavaliers possessed the Number 1 pick. While this year’s top pick wasn’t as obvious as, say, 2003 – when the Cavs selected a small forward straight out of high school named LeBron – the possibilities gave ESPN much to discuss. And through two rounds and 60 picks, ESPN kept the discussion rolling.
On ESPN’s main set, located at the back of the arena floor, Rece Davis opened the telecast with a discussion on the viability of Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins (Cleveland’s eventual pick) and the injured Joel Embiid, as well as Duke’s Jabari Parker, with ESPN College Basketball Insider Jay Bilas and ESPN NBA analysts Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons. As Commissioner Adam Silver took the stage a little after the countdown clock had stopped – prompting a discussion on potential trades — the four stopped to let Silver deliver his first-ever draft pick since taking over the post from David Stern in February.
For the second consecutive year, Brooklyn Nets’ arena hosted the NBA Draft. ESPN exclusively televised the event for the 12th time, deploying two broadcast sets, a fleet of on-site analysts, over 150 credentialed employees, and a plethora of cameras to the state-of-the-art facility.
“Barclays Center is really a terrific place to do television,” says Wendell Grigely, coordinating director, remote operations, ESPN. “It’s unique in the way they park trucks — we bring them out into the elevator and they go down into the arena, so it is a unique set up in some respects — but it’s a very TV-friendly building.”
The NBA certainly made use of Barclays Center’s novel truck elevators and giant turntable, which gives the venue a smaller footprint by housing the truck compound indoors. ESPN tapped Game Creek Video’s Pride A and B for its coverage; the units drove from the NBA Finals in San Antonio and parked in Brooklyn on Monday. On Thursday, the elevators were used again to bus the NBA’s potential draft picks into the building. (The elevator, turntable, and truck compound area is located just steps from the arena floor.)
On the arena floor, ESPN erected two sets behind the draftees’ tables where each could have a clear shot of the stage, located at the front of the arena floor. The main set, which housed Davis, Bilas, Rose, and Simmons, sat to the right, while a secondary set sat on the left, complete with touchscreen for more in-depth analysis.
ESPN deployed 18 cameras to cover the NBA Draft, including the addition of two RF handheld cameras. “They’ll be used within the crowd getting shots, [and] point-of-view shots from different people in the building — whether it’s players or team management — so they’ll be able to move around within the arena,” says Grigely. “[We] just have a lot more freedom to do so without being tethered to cable so that’s a good thing to have amongst a lot of people on the floor.”
The complement also includes three jib cameras, a robotic camera within the center-hung video board, and a Flycam aerial camera system. In addition, ESPN shared resources with NBA Entertainment, which controlled the in-venue video-board show for attendees.
“We put in a Flycam, which is a two-point system, which will be in the back of the floor behind where our set locations are and it can cover either one of our main sets and give us beauty shots and wide shots and things like that,” says Grigely. “[The Draft is] pretty well covered in what we would call a fairly good size operation.”
Because Draft telecasts rely heavily on on-screen graphics to tell the story, ESPN had several Vizrt character generators on site while also leveraging the full force of crews stationed in Bristol. Two outbound and three inbound fiber transmissions connected the remote operation with the studio operation, with Bristol supporting the on-site crew with graphics insertion, editing, player packages, and more. The on-screen result was a perpetual ticker that ran across the bottom of the screen listing picks, a secondary scroll that ran through teams yet to pick, and a countdown clock.
“It is a large scale event that we cover, and it’s something that everyone likes to get involved in and try to make it as big and interactive as possible,” says Grigely. “It’s a great show to be involved with and we [had] a lot of people working down there very hard to keep that presentation in order and make sure its quality is as good as ever.”