NBA on TNT Embraces Player Mics, AR for Studio Show

Inside the NBA uses social media to offer deeper analysis

The NBA on TNT’s season is in its second week, and already some tweaks are making a difference, as the production teams on both the game-production and the studio sides (and even the social-media side) continue to enlighten and entertain fans in new ways.

The Inside the NBA studio show uses social media to give viewers a chance to engage with the talent team in new ways.

“From a game perspective, we are working closely with the NBA in an effort to integrate more technology and get viewers closer to the game,” says Steve Fiorello, coordinating director, Turner Sports. “There is a lot of focus on player microphones, and, last week, LeBron wore a mic, and we got some incredible moments that we put to viewers.”

Quantum player mics have been the norm for NBA coverage and continue to become more streamlined and comfortable to wear.

“We have always had the microphone, but what is different is the ability to identify marquee moments,” Fiorello says. “The approval process [for what goes to air] prevents us from giving away key strategic elements or personal moments off-air. We want to get viewers closer to the action, but, sometimes, we do need to leave things on the cutting-room floor. The court is their place of business, and we want to build relationships with the key players.”

Veterans are the players of choice when it comes to on-court audio. They typically are the most recognizable and also most closely aligned with the pop-culture aspect of the game, which, arguably, is as tight as it is in any sport.

“They are recognizable for the casual viewers,” Fiorello points out, adding, “We want to evolve the audio to include elements off the court as well. There is only so much we can share when they are on the court, but there are certain things — like when they are walking into the building or getting ready for the game — where there is an opportunity. Things are a little less intense than when they are on the court, and they can talk about things like music. That’s the evolution, and those elements can also be snipped off and sent to social.”

When it comes to coverage of the game, the camera complement will range from 12 to 14 cameras, depending on the level of the game. NEP SS18 and TS2 are the primary trucks onsite for the production.

“The main approach is to establish a definitive look and angle at plays as they can determine the outcome of the game,” explains Fiorello. “We really haven’t added anything.”

Opening night last week did see the addition of a jib camera and a Steadicam for the Golden State Warriors’ ring ceremony. “A great event and moment,” notes Fiorello.

The NBA on TNT show is also continuing to evolve, and one of last year’s innovations has returned: the use of augmented reality to allow analyst Kenny Smith to virtually walk onto the court for analysis of the action.

“Fans got a kick out of it, it’s cool technology, and the greatest thing is, nobody really knows how we do it,” says Fiorello. “The next evolution will be messing around with different angles, so he can get closer to specific shot angles and dive into strengths and weaknesses. We can do that technically, but the challenge is figuring out how to make it relevant to the game.”

Placing Smith inside the game takes some planning, and the goal is to choose a moment that exemplifies a team’s or player’s philosophy and is not purely an isolated event. “It’s more of a tutorial moment,” adds Fiorello.

In an era of deeper and deeper statistical analysis, the studio show still puts the focus on the more traditional stats. Anyone looking for a deep dive can turn to the social-media side of the show and will find not only additional analysis but also the chance to engage with the on-air talent via “Dear Inside.”

“Fans can ask the guys any question they want, provided it is not an NBA-related question,” says Fiorello. “They can ask Charles [Barkley] about hair loss and how he manages it, and it helps us straddle the line between pop culture and sports. It’s a lot of fun and the segments aren’t overly long, maybe 30-45 seconds. And the guys are good sports about it.”

The NBA season is just under way, and some storylines are already popping to the forefront. But, for Fiorello and the production team, the game being covered in a particular week is always the focus and is treated as the biggest game of the week.

“We cover it from every production angle possible,” he says. “If there are storylines that are not related to the game, we cover them on the studio side of things.

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