NBC Sports Jolts NHL Productions With SkyCam, 6X Cameras, and File-Transfer Infrastructure
We’re just about a week into the new NHL regular season and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Rangers have already pocketed three wins a piece, Jack Eichel is already posting highlight reel goals for the Buffalo Sabres, and NBC Sports Group already has a handful of national broadcasts under its belt.
105 regular season will air on the NBC family of networks, including the league’s return to broadcast NBC on Thanksgiving weekend (Rangers vs. Bruins, Nov. 27) and the NHL Winter Classic – which is regularly the most watched hockey game of the year in the United States – on Jan. 1 between the Bruins and Canadiens.
NBC Sports is also looking to hoist hockey upon the shoulders of one of its strongest brands – and perhaps the strongest brand in sports television – Sunday Night Football.
“Our goal this year is to continue to build Sunday night and, once the NFL season ends, we hope to continue that Sunday night energy with the Sunday night games on NBCSN during January, February, March and into the playoffs in April,” says Sam Flood, Executive Producer, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “So it’s an exciting time to grow the game. Everyone [here] is passionate about hockey, passionate about growing the game, and everyone’s proud of where we’ve gotten.”
NEP Broadcasting’s ND5 and ND6 return as the main production units working the NHL on NBC circuit, with ND6 receiving upgrades this past offseason with the addition of a Grass Valley Keyenne production switcher. ND5 ill receive the same switcher some time next month. The replay infrastructure on both trucks has also been revamped, bumping up the EVS servers to XT3s.
Many of the changes in the truck are designed to guide NBC Sports into a more file-transfer workflow between the game site and the Group’s production center in Stamford, CT. For the first time this year, NBC Sports Group is utilizing a fiber infrastructure via The Switch.
NBC is also planning on testing some new technologies to its hockey coverage on some key games early in the season, including the Grass Valley LDX 6X slow-motion camera and even introducing in-arena SkyCam systems. SkyCams have been used on outdoor games before but never inside a closed NHL arena.
“We see it as an opportunity in a few of these buildings to try it,” says Flood. “The teams have been wonderfully cooperative to let us test a little bit in the preseason. We’re learning, and want to make sure it’s an enhancement to both game coverage and is something that’s fun to have in the building so that the audience inside the stadiums are as appreciative as we are of the opportunity to do it inside the different barns.”
On the audio side, NBC will be experimenting with 5.1 audio with the hopes of having all games in 5.1 sooner rather than later. The audio team has plans to test in three games this month.