Comcast SportsNet Chicago Goes ‘Behind the Lens’ With Multi-Angle Viewing Experience
With a new year come new ideas from the production folks at Comcast SportsNet Chicago. During Monday’s Bulls game and Tuesday’s Blackhawks game (vs. Colorado, 8 p.m. ET), the regional sports network is offering an additional HD channel presenting an alternative viewing experience.
CSN Chicago calls it “Behind the Lens,” and the channel features multiple viewing angles in a “quad-box” format. The primary main feed of the game is locked in the top left corner, and the other three boxes show a variety of camera angles the way CSN’s production crew sees the game inside the truck.
“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and I still get a buzz when I sit in the control room of a truck,” Jim Corno Jr., executive producer, events, Comcast SportsNet Chicago. “It’s such a cool experience. The genesis of this whole idea was, I want everyone to have a chance to feel that even if it’s just for a few seconds or for one game.”
According to Corno, who will be making the final calls on what angles are featured in each box, alternative angles include isolated shots of players as well as feeds from the scoreboard’s overhead robotic camera (which the crew is particularly fond of) and low-angle handhelds. Some plans for isolated shots include following a single player (such as Blackhawks star forward Patrick Kane) for a prolonged period and taking advantage of some story-telling opportunities not typically available on a single-screen telecast (for example, locking off a camera on goaltender Corey Crawford to see what he goes through during a power play or penalty kill).
Says Corno, “The goal is, instead of us deciding what [the viewer] will see, to provide them with three alternate angles and let their own eyes decide what they would like to follow.”
On the operations side, the show requires little extra infrastructure or gear. Both productions come from NEP Phoenix, CSN Chicago’s primary truck at the United Center. The 53-ft. unit is anchored by a Grass Valley Kalypso production switcher. Only one additional camera is deployed and dedicated to producing an angle specifically for “Behind the Lens”; the other two windows on the screen are a repurposing of cameras already in place and shooting for the traditional telecast.
The game audio for “Behind the Lens” special presentations is the same as normally heard on the main Comcast SportsNet channel, featuring Bulls announcers Neil Funk and Stacey King and Blackhawks announcers Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk. NEP Phoenix uses a Calrec Sigma audio console.
Bulls telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Chicago are produced by John Walsh and directed by Todd Benjaminson. Blackhawks telecasts are produced by Mike Leary and directed by Dave Turner.
CSN Chicago plans to produce more “Behind the Lens” programs in the coming months, with another pair of Bulls and Blackhawks events in February and March. Those events will be executed differently, not necessarily using the quad-box deployed this time. According to Corno, the network plans to listen closely to social media to monitor what fans take to the most and design new alternative programming based on that feedback.
Comcast SportsNet’s “Behind the Lens” special game presentations will air exclusively on Comcast SportsNet Plus (in HD on Comcast ch. 201 in the Chicago area and South Bend, IN; ch. 285 in Comcast’s Peoria, Springfield, Rockford, and Champaign, IL, markets; and AT&T U-verse homes); viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com for the exact CSN+HD channel location in their area.