Mayweather-McGregor: Showtime Sports To Deploy Most Cameras Ever for Record-Breaking PPV Fight
The 24-camera complement includes a SkyCam, two Sony HDC-4800 4K high-speed systems
Showtime Sports is set to deliver what is expected to be the most-watched worldwide PPV event in history on Saturday night when Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor finally enter the ring at Las Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena after months of hype. The multiplatform production will be available via MVPDs, will be streamed on the Showtime PPV app and UFC.tv (and via a variety of providers worldwide), and will be shown in movie theaters and bars through Fathom Events.
With potentially the largest audience in the history of modern boxing, Showtime Sports aims for an equally historic production, with a record-high 24 cameras, including a SkyCam system and a pair of Sony HDC-4800 4K ultra-slo-mo cameras.
“At Showtime, we’ve always had high-level productions — certainly for our pay per view and even on our Championship Boxing programs — but we’re taking it even further for this fight because we anticipate this to be the most widely distributed pay-per-view event of all time,” says Gordon Hall, SVP, Showtime Networks. “So we want to give the record number of viewers at home their money’s worth. When it comes to the production, we want that ‘big-time-event look’ to translate across the screen.”
Two Dozen Cameras Headlines Plenty of High-Speed
Although high-profile fights are nothing new for Showtime, which has produced everything from Tyson and Holyfield fights in the ’90s and 2000s to Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015, Saturday night will set a new bar for the network in terms of camera coverage. The production will deploy 24 cameras to cover the ring, including a SkyCam cable-suspended system inside T-Mobile Arena, two Sony HDC-4800 4K ultra-slo-mo cameras, one aboard a helicopter for aerial shots of Las Vegas, and additional high-speed cameras covering the action inside the ring.
“We’re going to have more cameras than we’ve ever had In all of my years at Showtime,” says Hall. “We understand that the playing field is a 24×24 ring — with the ropes at 22×22, in this case — but we felt 24 cameras was necessary in order to cover not just the ring but also the many VIPs and celebrity entrances. We’re also going to have all fighter arrivals covered, as well as backstage hallways and dressing rooms. And we will have live [aerial] coverage outdoors with the helicopter and indoor with the SkyCam.”
The action inside the ring will be covered primarily by three Sony HDC-4300’s (operating in HD mode at up to 480 fps), two HDC-4800 4K ultra-slo-mos (with up to 480-fps capability in 4K), and an Inertia Unlimited Phantom ultra-slo-mo system operating at 1,000 fps overhead.
“Today, it’s all about high-speed cameras and taking [viewers] inside that ring,” says Hall. “We’re really ramping it up with additional cameras maximizing the high-speed factor.”
In addition, the ring action will be covered by two roving RF HDC-2500 cameras and a pair of POVs in both corners serving as trainer cams.
The HDC-4800’s, which will be positioned on the main-coverage side and opposite the main, will be key to Showtime’s coverage. They will be paired with Sony’s BPU-4800 processor unit/replay server, which provides Showtime with full HD cutout and zoom capabilities from the 4K frame. By taking a wide shot of the entire ring with the HDC-4800 and cutting out HD-quality closeup images for replay, Showtime will be able to provide viewers with closeups of key punches, as well as analysis of potential low blows, head-butts, and more.
“We were early adopters of 4K [cameras in the HD production] a number of years back, and we’ve continued to push that [technology],” says Hall. “Since our playing field is only 24×24 — or 22×22, in this case — it allows us to take those 4K images and blow up that [HD] picture and play it back in extreme slow-motion multiple times throughout the broadcast. It’s not like having one at the end zone [in a football game], where you’re going to get maybe three or four plays in a whole football game to use that money shot. We expect to get those money shots throughout our broadcast using those two 4K cameras.”
SkyCam, Host Set Add ‘Big-Event Feel’
Given the large footprint of T-Mobile Arena, Showtime opted to deploy a SkyCam system for indoor aerial coverage as opposed to the JitaCam it used for Mayweather-Pacquiao and other big-ticket fights at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“We’ve been in discussions over the years, but we’ve never used it for boxing,” says Hall. “But, in this case, since T-Mobile is a much larger arena, we believed we needed to get some more movement in this really big space. We love the JitaCam, but the SkyCam allows us to go up and down easier, and we can track over some [fighter] walk-ins. In such a big arena, it will give us more movement, which I believe will give it more of a big-event feel.”
To add to the big-event feel, Showtime will erect a host-set position at T-Mobile Arena — as it does for all its fight telecasts, including Showtime Championship Boxing. The desk, built by Creative Dimensions and reskinned with a customized design for the Mayweather-McGregor telecast, will feature two pedestal cameras and a jib.
Host Brian Custer will emcee coverage from the host set, and play-by-play announcer Mauro Ranallo, analysts Al Bernstein and Paulie Malignaggi, and ringside reporter Jim Gray will call the fight. Showtime has also added UFC Hall of Famer Pat Miletich to provide MMA-focused analysis throughout the telecast. Executive Producer David Dinkens Jr. and director Bob Dunphy, both longtime Showtime boxing fixtures, will be at the front bench inside the truck.
Third Phase of Truck Upgrades Debuts in Vegas
The fight will also mark the debut of NEP’s third phase of renovations to Showtime’s primary NCP-14 truck (A and B units). Given the truck’s busy schedule on the road, NEP planned the upgrades in three phases over the past 18 months, according to NEP U.S. Mobile Unit Director of Engineering Robert Walsh.
Phase 1 centered on upgrading NCP-14’s EVS replay systems from the XT2 to the XT3 platform, as well as a 10-GBps network infrastructure. The new EVS complement comprises two 12-channel LSM systems, two eight-channel LSM systems, and one six-channel SpotBox. In addition, Showtime’s Sony HDC-330 slo-mo cameras were upgraded to Sony HDC-3400’s.
During Phase 2, NEP upgraded the Utah Scientific router to include embedded and de-embedded crosspoint cards, as well as 12 new UCP-LC80 router panels for the tape room. Other improvements to the tape room include 14 Wohler iAM-MIX8 MADI listen stations and seven Video Devices Pix270i record machines. In addition, the truck’s ChyronHego graphics system was upgraded from Duet to Mosaic XL.
Phase 3, which was just completed, included installation of a Calrec Artemis Beam audio console (replacing a Calrec Sigma) with MADI, Hydra2, and Dante audio networking. In addition, NEP added Dante PL and IFB boxes, as well as three intercom panels for positions on the floor (and the infrastructure to support them). Lastly, NEP removed the copper infrastructure tying the Showtime B unit to the main unit and replaced it with fiber so that the two trucks are now tied together via two TAC 12 fiber cables.
More Than Just Showtime on the Strip
Although Showtime is handling the primary production and domestic PPV distribution of the fight, the international feed is being produced by UFC (now owned by WME-IMG, which is well-versed in world-feed production/distribution) out of NEP’s Atlantic mobile unit. Showtime will provide UFC with a clean program feed and various iso cameras, and UFC will have a handful of unilateral cameras to cut into its show.
Fox Sports is on hand producing a one-hour Pre-Fight Show (6 p.m. ET) followed by two hours of preliminary fights on Fox and Fox Deportes. Following the PPV, FS1 and Fox Deportes will present the Post-Fight Show. FS1 and Fox Deportes will also carry the live weigh-in show tonight at 7 p.m.
Hall notes that more news outlets — ABC, CBS, and NBC News; CNN; ESPN; and others — are onsite in Las Vegas this week than for any other fight in his recollection.
“The preparation took on a little different dynamic, but it’s been a great experience working with both [UFC and Fox],” says Hall. “We’ve dealt with them a lot, and all the effort that is being put into this is simply amazing.”