ESPN Surrounds NCAA Frozen Four With Enhanced Multiplatform Coverage, On-Ice Audio
“Why’d you wanna play college hockey?”
In the 2004 movie Miracle, Jack O’Callahan poses this question to Ralph Cox, long before the former would compete against the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics. “Isn’t it obvious,” Cox responds, “for the girls?” But Jack was looking for a more serious answer:
“Well, I wanted to win a national championship.”
Tonight, the four teams competing in the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four will continue their quest to do exactly that. The Quinnipiac Bobcats face off against the Boston College Eagles at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Denver Pioneers at 8:30 p.m. The winning teams will meet in the Frozen Four Championship on Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
ESPN will be onsite with NEP’s M-9 53-ft. expando and B unit at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL, providing live multiplatform coverage of the Frozen Four.
“We had been using trucks out of the NEP fleet for a number of years,” says Larry Wilson, associate director, remote operations, ESPN. “We were using SS23, and we had an opportunity to get a MIRA truck this year that offered a nice-fitting B unit. It was just a good fit.”
The production crew will deploy six hard cameras for game coverage, tight shots, and slow-motion iso shots (ESPN will use a Sony 3200), as well as in end-zone, slash, and reverse positions. Three RF handheld cameras will also be used: one handheld will follow reporters Quint Kessenich, who will report from between the benches; another will capture Paralympic gold medalist Victoria Arlen, who joins the telecast as a features reporter; the third handheld will cover the commentators, John Bucigross and Barry Melrose.
Within the truck, ESPN will have four six-channel EVS replay servers devoted to packaging replays, along with two four-channel ROs. ESPN will also have its Advanced Replay Tool (ART) system on hand, which allows the network to package replays with telestration (a separate producer will man this system).
In addition to the linear telecasts — tonight’s games will air on ESPN2; Saturday’s, on ESPN — the network returns its ESPN3 Surround to the mix. The streaming option allows fans to watch the game from ice level via three robotic cameras mounted on the glass. According to Wilson, ESPN will cut a separate show that includes program audio, with the idea that fans can watch on their mobile devices while enjoying the linear telecast on their TV.
“There are times when you’re watching hockey highlights, where alternate angles are provided on goal-scoring plays or opportunities,” says Coordinating Producer Stos Hall. “This E3 Surround offering hopes to capitalize on these alternate views, ranging from the robo cams mounted on the top of the glass behind the nets to wide-view high–end-zone positions to show a different spatial reference that hockey fans aren’t accustomed to consistently seeing.”
ESPN has a number of audio enhancements planned as well, including 10-12 microphones mounted on the glass and wireless microphones in the goals and worn by the referees. Referee audio will be incorporated throughout the telecast.
Steve Levy will anchor the studio coverage from Bristol, CT, where he will be joined by college-hockey analysts Sean Ritchlin and Dave Starman. Although the Frozen Four will be produced entirely from Amalie Arena, ESPN headquarters will be responsible for pregame, intermission, and inter-game coverage.