MLB Postseason Preview: New Studio Anchors Turner Sports’ October Run
Foul pole cameras, fresh graphics package bolster game coverage
It’s October, and the production and operations team at Turner Sports is ready to welcome back the MLB Postseason with a shiny new mother ship.
The crown jewel of this year’s MLB Postseason coverage on TBS is a bright, new, video-screen–filled studio, whose design is inspired by many of the modern ballpark designs seen around the league today. The space houses a desk with a curved LED monitor for graphics, statistics, and other logo integration, and a moveable pillar in the back of the room can be re-created using augmented-reality graphics, thus opening up the set for freer camera movement.
Called simply Studio F, the space hosts five mounted 75-in. plasma screens and a multiscreen backdrop that encourages the use of large scenic images, data, logos, and player images. There’s a total of 162 individual monitors in the studio and more than 380 light fixtures, 60 of them LED. Lighting was a focus because the Turner team loves the ability to use lights and colors to set the studio mood for both the time of day and the teams playing. There are four cameras on the set: two hard, a Steadicam, and a Techno-Jib that boasts the ability to handle advanced augmented-reality graphics.
The facility has been nearly a year in the making and is the result of the work done by Turner Sports’ VP/Coordinating Director Steve Fiorello and the team in Turner’s Atlanta facility.
“We wanted to blow it out and do something really cool,” says Tim Kiely, VP/executive producer, production, at Turner Sports. “We’re going to have a lot of fun with it. I’m a firm believer that, when you have all of the gadgets, [you should] experiment with it, even midstream while we are on the air.”
Turner Sports has long prided itself on the engaging uniqueness of its studio programming, including the popular Inside the NBA, a TNT staple since 1989. A lot of that spirit comes from collaborative work between the on-air talent and the behind-the-scenes production and operations teams.
Kiely notes an instance when Kenny Smith asked if he could put the highlight reel he would be commenting on onto a big display wall so he could run over to it and point observations out in real time. The screen wasn’t originally designed to that, but the crew gave it a shot.
“I hate to use the word organic, but that’s really what it is,” says Kiely. “When it comes from the on-air guys, that’s so key. If it’s their suggestion, obviously, they are invested. And most important, they are comfortable.”
Turner’s game coverage of tonight’s American League Wild Card Game, as well as the American League Division Series (ALDS) and League Championship Series (ALCS), will also feature an element originally proposed by one of its on-air talent. Cal Ripkin Jr., who serves as an analyst on the main on-air team — along with play-by-play man Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling, and reporter Sam Ryan — will not be in the broadcast booth but, instead, will be stationed at field level alongside one of the team’s dugouts. TBS has tried this arrangement on a couple of late-season games and been pleased with the result. The goal is to provide a more intimate perspective from a former player familiar with that atmosphere.
“It’s one thing to hear from a reporter on the field,” says Kiely, “but from a guy like Cal, who has been there before? He was full of observations. He can see managers and players doing things that you can’t see when you are way up in the booth and watching off of a monitor. He was seeing everything. It was unbelievable. You could tell he was back in his comfort zone.”
Turner’s game-camera complement receives a boost to 23, with five robotic cameras and five Sony HDC-4300 high-speed units, during the Wild Card and Division Series (it will jump to six HDC-4300 cameras for the ALCS). For the first time, Turner is also positioning additional cameras on the foul poles, shooting straight up to capture fair or foul home-run balls. There are also cameras watching over the top of the fence in case there is need to show replays on home-run–saving catches or fan interference.
Turner will use a LiveU pack and camera to capture images from a specific location in the visiting team’s home city to show reactions of fans there.
Out in the compound, Turner Sports will roll in NEP’s SS18, TS2, SS25, and Chromium for both rounds of the ALDS. For the ALCS, the game will be handled by SS25 and ND7, with SS18 and TS2 taking care of onsite-studio coverage.
The main broadcast team of Johnson/Darling/Ripkin/Ryan — which will call tonight’s Wild Card Game, one of the ALDS games, and the ALCS — will be supported in the truck by Scott Cockerill, a veteran producer of more than 30 years, and lead director Matt Lipp. The second ALDS game will be called by the team of Brian Anderson, Dennis Eckersley, Joe Simpson, and Matt Winer, with producer Jeff Randolph and director Lonnie Dale in the truck.
Turner Sports’ exclusive coverage of the American League Postseason begins with tonight’s AL Wild Card between the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays. TBS coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET and continues through the ALDS and ALCS. Live streaming of all MLB Postseason games airing on TBS will be available via www.tbs.com and the Watch TBS app.