College Football Preview 2014: BTN Polishes Its Replay Quality
Big Ten faithful have grown accustomed to top-of-the-line television productions. Entering its eighth year, Big Ten Network (BTN) pioneered the conference network and continues to set a high bar for its peers, especially when comes to what it does best: football Saturdays.
This year, BTN is putting a strong focus on improving its replay capabilities, adding Grass Valley’s new LDX ExtremeSpeed 6X ultra-slow-motion system to its production workflow. The system, which will be used on the network’s A games each week, will make its debut when the Big Ten football season kicks off Thursday night with Minnesota hosting Eastern Illinois (7 p.m. ET).
“Today in college football, the days of three or four looks at a replay are basically over because of the speed of the game,” says Mark Hulsey, SVP, production/executive producer, BTN. “So our thoughts are, those replays that you show better be impactful; that one look better be the most impactful. So, when we looked at what we wanted to improve this season, the quality of our replays in football was a big point of emphasis.”
Mobile TV Group is back as the chief production-truck provider for BTN, with the network regularly using the company’s newest unit, 36HDX. BTN also works with IMS Productions, which will roll out its new HD5 production vehicle, introduced at NAB 2014.
BTN brass are excited by the new replay system, which easily integrates into existing mobile-production workflows and does so at speeds higher than 3X.
“It’s the first super-slo-mo that is a real truck camera,” says Hulsey. “It looks, feels, operates, and shades just like any other camera in the truck. When you look at the shading controls on the camera itself, you really can’t tell it from the other Grass Valley cameras.”
The system is an interesting storytelling device, allowing the operator to change speeds of the clip during playback, which offers the chance to use super-slow motion at only the critical moment of the play. In addition, the Big Ten Conference allows replay review, and the replays provided by this system will be used by conference officials on a disputed play, if warranted.
Hulsey adds that the Grass Valley system will also find its way to selected Olympic events throughout the fall as the network’s production team grows familiar with the solution.
Expanding BTN Field Pass
BTN is expanding the offerings in its popular digital-exclusive offering, BTN Field Pass. As an added feature on the BTN2Go digital authentication app, BTN Field Pass provides an hour-long live look-in at all of the pregame festivities going on at all the stadiums on a given Saturday.
According to Hulsey, BTN production personnel have found a way to provide a separate router cut inside the production truck that will allow multiple cameras to be cut during the show. In past years, BTN Field Pass was a single fixed-camera feed.
“We try to do this better every year, and it’s very gratifying seeing the numbers of people that log in and look into these games on BTN2Go before kickoff,” says Hulsey. “It’s growing every year for us.”
Welcoming New Blood
2014 is the dawn of a new era in the Big Ten, which officially expands to 14 with the introduction of Rutgers and Maryland. BTN executives and technology specialists have spent more than a year ensuring that both campuses and their athletic facilities were properly fibered to the network’s home office in Chicago.
All venues at Maryland are ready to go.
Rutgers is executing a two-phase plan. All fall-sports venues and the Louis Brown Athletic Center (home to men’s and women’s basketball) are fibered and ready to go. Phase two will connect the campus’s spring-sports facilities, which are located on a separate portion of the Piscataway campus and includes the Class of ’53 Gruninger Baseball Complex, Rutgers Softball Complex, and Bauer Track and Field/Field Hockey Complex.
On the programming end, BTN is making new members feel at home, hiring on-air talent that fans of Rutgers and Maryland are already familiar with. For the Scarlet Knight, Eric LeGrande and Sean O’Hara will work as analysts on selected Rutgers telecasts; at Maryland, Joe Beninati ¾ known for his work as the Washington Capitals’ play-by-play man — will call selected Maryland games alongside former Terp Scott McBrien.
“We really wanted to localize it so people there knew that we understand the marketplace and the history of those schools,” says Hulsey. “We are a part of the East Coast, and we wanted to hire talent that were easily identifiable in those markets.”