As Team USA Looks to Rally at the America’s Cup, NBC Sports Puts Its Best Tech Foot Forward in Bermuda
NBC's coverage from Bermuda features the return of the Emmy Award-winning AC LiveLine virtual-graphics technology
With a 3-0 lead heading into the final weekend at the America’s Cup, Team Emirates New Zealand is threatening to swipe the Auld Mug away from two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA, which would need to win seven races in the coming days to retain the Cup. However, U.S. rightsholder NBC Sports Group knows first-hand that it’s far from over in Bermuda. After all, in 2013, the Peacock covered one of the most dramatic comebacks in America’s Cup history, when Team USA trailed Team New Zealand 8-1 before winning eight consecutive races to keep the Cup stateside.
“The America’s Cup is the premier sailing competition in the world, and it remains one of the greatest events in all of sports competition,” says Dan Steir, SVP of Production and Senior Coordination Producer for NBC Sports Group. “The America’s Cup has been a great partner and we look forward to an exciting finale to the America’s Cup Match in Bermuda.”
AC LiveLine Headlines NBC’s High-Tech Production
Regardless of the outcome, America’s Cup viewers in the U.S. have been privy to one of the most state-of-the-art live sports productions of the year courtesy of NBC and America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA), which produces the ACTV host broadcast.
Once again headlining the tech toys on hand in Bermuda is Emmy Award-winning AC LiveLine graphics system to provide viewers real-time on-course information throughout the event. Developed exclusively for the America’s Cup by Sportvision (now a division of SMT), the AC LiveLine tracking/telemetry system overlays geo-positioned lines and data streams at an accuracy of within an inch on live race course video shots that are taken from rapidly moving helicopter and water-based platforms. This allows real-time virtual graphics to be integrated into the telecasts, including ahead-behind lines so audiences can clearly see who is leading the race.
In addition to retaining the features introduced for the 2013 America’s Cup, all AC LiveLine graphical images have been upgraded for the 35th America’s Cup. In addition, the system has added commercial branding in boundary graphics and gates to enable greater exposure and ROI for commercial partners. ACTV and NBC Sports have also added biodata to illustrate heartrate and showcase athleticism of the sailors working at the extremes of performance. The coverage is also measuring true wind direction and heading off the yachts.
“All of these elements are designed to increase and enhance viewer engagement,” says Steir. “We believe all of these technological evolutions, like LiveLine and the sailors’ biodata, will help provide context to what viewers are seeing on the screen, and add depth and richness to the coverage.”
NBC Makes Itself at Home in Bermuda With Support From ACTV, RMP
In order to produce the U.S. domestic telecast, NBC is taking the ACTV world feed provided by ACEA and also has access to isolated cameras to supplement the world feed (NBC is taking 12 total feeds from the ACTV truck in the broadcast compound). Although NBC is capable of cutting to these iso’s during the race, they are primarily used to produce race recaps with on-camera highlights and features to supplement the broadcast. NBC is using the ACTV host-feed announcers for its commentary.
“Our communication and coordination with ACTV have made for smooth sailing,” says Steir. “ACTV has been outstanding and we have daily communication with executive producer Denis Harvey. Their coverage and resources are really second to none.”
NBC’s on-site studio set oversees the finish line on the Royal Naval Dockyard at the Bermuda Great Sound, as well as the natural amphitheater dockyard and AC Village. The three-camera set features a Versa Desk where anchor Todd Harris hosts NBC’s coverage along with analysts Nathan Outteridge (skipper for Team Artemis Sweden at this year’s America’s Cup) and Chris Draper (helmsman for Team Softbank Japan).
One factor always on the production team’s mind during the coverage in Bermuda is weather. “What’s really unique in regard to production is that it’s a sport that is truly impacted by the weather,” says Steir. “There can always be weather in many outdoor sports, but this is dependent on the right conditions to hold competition.”
Ross Mobile Productions (RMP) is providing its 24-foot FIN5 production truck in Bermuda for NBC’s studio and racing-coverage, as well as additional facilities and support.
“[RMP] is a vendor that we work with periodically on a variety of events,” says Steir. “We have a great relationship with Ross and they have proven time and again to be efficient and reliable.”
NBC Sports’ Signature Storytelling Style Sets Sail
In addition to the live racing and studio coverage, NBC Sports Group has rolled out a host of features and original elements to weave into the telecasts. Using the Peacock’s signature Olympics-style storytelling, NBC is focused telling the stories of the athletes involved, as well as the history of the iconic America’s Cup.
“We always aim to tell the stories of these athletes and the histories behind events, and the America’s Cup has no shortage of historic storylines,” says Steir. “It’s a perfect complement to our other world-class international properties, like the Premier League, Formula One, and the French Open to name a few, and we treat it as such in that we always aim to bring viewers closer to the action, and engage viewers with the storylines that really matter.
The 2017 America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, is a best-of-13/first to seven points event. NBC Sports’ coverage continues Saturday at 1 p.m. ET with Race 5 and Race 6 on NBC, and continues on Sunday on NBC at 1 p.m. ET with Race 7 and Race 8. NBCSN will carry coverage Monday and Tuesday coverage (beginning at 1 p.m. ET) if necessary.