Sportsnet Preps for Stanley Cup Playoffs Replete With Canadian Teams

The Canada-based broadcaster plans increased use of unique angles with ankle cam, ref cam

After a 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs campaign lacking a single Canadian team, the hockey gods have blessed Sportsnet with five squads originating from north of the border in this year’s playoff picture. With the Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, and Toronto Maple Leafs in the mix, the Sportsnet production team will have an abundance of opportunities to showcase a growing number of unique angles to fans, including the ankle cam, ref cam, and more.

“This is the most exciting time of the year for hockey fans, but it’s also one of the most exciting times of the year for our production group,” says Rob Corte, VP, production, Sportsnet. “The first round of the playoffs is an intense time but also an outstanding time to be a broadcaster of our nation’s game. Our production team has had a great year, but, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we realize that the stakes are higher. It’s a privilege for us to cover the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The team is ready to deliver all the iconic and memorable moments that are going to unfold over the next couple months, and we’re excited to bring it to Canadians across all our platforms.”

Role of Ankle Cam Grows
Throughout the second half of the regular season, Sportsnet has made a concerted effort to install what it calls the ankle cam at as many Canadian arenas as possible. The miniature Q-Ball robotic camera is built into the boards at each rink to provide a unique low, behind-the-net angle for viewers. Sportsnet viewers can expect ankle cam to be almost ubiquitous throughout the broadcaster’s playoffs coverage in the ensuing months.

“We worked with the NHL throughout the season to install [the ankle cam] in most of the Canadian rinks,” says Corte. “Over the last month and half, [its use has been] ramped up even more. You will see it in most of the Canadian rinks throughout the playoffs. It has presented a nice, unique low look right around the net. It’s a perspective that hasn’t been available in previous years. It’s something we’ve pushed and developed and has worked quite well in the last half of the season. You’ll see a lot of it throughout the playoffs.”

Sportsnet also continues to deploy Q-Ball remote camera systems (from Camera Corps) throughout its coverage, including robos on team benches.

Reflecting on a Season of Innovation
2017 has already been a year marked by innovation in Sportsnet’s NHL coverage, which has featured 4K and virtual-reality coverage, as well as the use of a wireless RF ref-cam system (although no playoff games are scheduled to feature 4K or VR at this time and ref cam will not be used).

After pioneering live 4K NHL coverage last season, Sportsnet has continued on the 4K bandwagon during the 2016-17 NHL campaign with another 15 live 4K productions, Including seven in 2017 alone).

In addition, Sportsnet officially launched the VR era inside the rink this season with half a dozen live virtual-reality productions beginning in February. No word on future VR productions from Sportsnet, but Corte says this season’s efforts provided a quality learning experience.

“[VR] is new technology,” he explains. “There were some wins with it, but there are some improvements that need to be made moving forward. We saw the value in it and were pleased with our first attempt and how it came across. I can tell you our sponsor was happy, as [were] a lot of the viewers who [saw] it. We are talking about moving it ahead for next season, but we are just in the initial stages. It’s something that we think has value, but it does need some tweaks if it’s going to have a long-lasting effect.”

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