Fox Sports Tips Off Inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship With SkyCam, C360 Systems
Plans call for ‘all-access’ coverage, use of SkyCam and C360
Fox Sports is bringing plenty of technological firepower to its production of the inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship this week at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando. In addition to outfitting coaches and parents with mics throughout the tournament in an effort to provide “all-access” coverage to viewers, Fox is using the Jr. Championship as a breeding ground for innovation by deploying a SkyCam point-to-point aerial camera system and a C360 360-degree camera system.
“You don’t oftentimes get to be part of an inaugural year of something that the NBA has been working on for a long time. So we wanted to bring a lot of new ideas on how we can make the event feel special,” says Mike Davies, SVP, field operations, Fox Sports. “At the same time, we’re also looking at these cool [production elements] to see what we might be able to do with them at the college or NBA level in the future.”
The inaugural event brings together the top 32 boys’ and girls’ teams (16 U.S. and 16 international) that advanced from regional competitions earlier this year, culminating with the World Championship games on Sunday.
SkyCam, C360 Bring New Perspectives to Hardcourt
Fox and the NBA are building on the NBA and ESPN’s SkyCam and C360 experiments at Summer League last month in Las Vegas by deploying the systems for the fast-paced youth basketball tournament in Orlando.
“We wanted to focus on a couple technologies that would allow us to get the most out of this event,” says Davies. “SkyCam [offers] a unique viewpoint for basketball. It will be very interesting to see how it works with a game like the Jr. Championship, which is typically a very fast-moving sport. So we see SkyCam really catering to that.”
The C360 system is nothing new to Fox, which has deployed it for its MLB All-Star Game coverage the past two seasons. This week, it will mount the system in the above-the-rim location traditionally handled by a robotic camera.
“For [basketball], we see C360 as a potential above-the-rim robo 2.0 in that it gives you the same kind of shot but it doesn’t actually having any moving parts,” Davies explains. “We’re very excited to have it for this event, but we’re also interested in how we can use this technology for future basketball events.”
Making Jr. NBA World Championship a ‘Network-Level Game’
Round-robin pool play at the tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday (airing on FS1) is taking place on two separate courts at Wide World of Sports. Rather than rolling out a mobile unit, Fox is using two of the facility’s control rooms for early-round play. Starting with quarterfinals on Friday (on FS1), Fox will pool its resources from both courts into a nine-camera show (including SkyCam and C360 systems) using a WWoS control room for single-court coverage throughout the weekend on Fox.
“With eight or nine cameras plus the SkyCam and C360, we’re throwing a lot of [resources] at this. It’s a real network-level game,” says Davies. “I think, when people tune in, they’re going to be really surprised at just how high a level that we’re covering this event. This is huge exposure for these kids to be on a [broadcast network] like Fox, and it’s going to be our job to introduce them to the world. So we want to treat it like a real championship event.”
To provide that exposure and give viewers all-access, wireless mics will be installed on coaches and parents onsite in Orlando throughout the tournament. As in ESPN’s Little League World Series coverage and other youth sports events, the players’ families and supporting cast are expected to play a key role in Fox’s coverage.
“In staying with the spirit of this event, we felt deploying a lot of wireless mics was very important,” says Davies. “I think that hearing that type of emotion on the sidelines is going to be very cool. With the Jr. NBA, the parents, relatives, and friends are a huge part of the event — much more so than [with college or professional] sports. We wanted to bring them into the storyline, and we’ll improvise with how we use them to give some color and definition to the event.”
In addition, Fox’s roster of on-air talent for the tournament will include the debut of eight-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter; play-by-play announcers Gus Johnson, Mark Followill, and Brandon Gaudin; analysts Donny Marshall and Sarah Kustok; host Charissa Thompson (who will anchor an onsite pregame show on Sunday); and reporter Noah Eagle (son of sports announcer Ian Eagle).
“Whether it’s the FIFA U20s and U17s or the Little League World Series,” says Davies, “more and more people are tuning into these events to see the top players coming up through the ranks, and the Jr. NBA is a great example of that. Also, together with our Fox [RSNs], we’re one of the NBA’s biggest broadcast partners in terms of sheer volume of games, but we don’t do anything with them on a national level. So we’re excited to have an opportunity to do that and work with the great people at the NBA, who are very passionate about this particular event and are putting a lot of effort into it.”