College Basketball 2018-19 Preview: ESPN Continues To Evolve REMI for Hardcourt Coverage

The network will produce nearly 3,000 games on multiple platforms

After a season that offered more than 2,500 games on all platforms under the ESPN umbrella, the sports-media giant is sticking with a steady diet of productions for the upcoming college basketball season. Out of close to 3,000 games, about half will be dedicated to digital platforms, including 550 men’s and women’s games on ESPN+ in November. As for the 1,400 linear broadcasts, Associate Director, Remote Operations, Larry Wilson and Remote Production Operations Manager Donna Capone will lead the network’s efforts.

“It takes a lot of preparation,” Wilson says. “With the help of Remote Operations Manager Erin Orr, we have an amazing team that handles the day-to-day of over 1,000 games by being in constant communications with each other.”

REMI Offers Limitless Possibilities
In a season jam-packed with games all over the country, ESPN will continue to use its REMI production model, which it has developed in recent years, for more than 200 basketball productions. To reduce headcount and facilities onsite at remote productions, ESPN will deploy resources and crew at its broadcast centers in Bristol, CT; Charlotte, NC; and the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

“We still have the same amount of producers, directors, and equipment,” Wilson said. “We’re just looking at innovative ways of becoming more efficient by leveraging [this] technology to extend the capture onsite back to the studio.”

For linear telecasts, Game Creek will be the main truck vendor for the Saturday Primetime games. Other mobile units that align with a game’s location and logistical needs will be used as well. To integrate universities and their production staffs, ESPN will use school control rooms for about 20% of games.

ESPN Tips Off Season in Style at Champions Classic
Pulling out all the tech stops at the State Farm Champions Classic to begin its 2018-19 season (on Nov. 6 in Indianapolis), ESPN more than doubled its average A-game camera complement of five for the Duke-Kentucky and Kansas-Michigan State matchups, and College GameDay originated live from Bankers Life Fieldhouse throughout the night.

“We started the season off with a lot of firepower at the Champions Classic,” says Wilson, “and we had some very interesting new products that we’re using.”

Headlining the tech toys in Indianapolis were three C360 panoramic cameras, the first time ESPN has used the system on college basketball (having experimented with it at NBA Summer League this year).

“[The C360 system] is really interesting in that it has a 180- by 360-degree field of view,” says Wilson. “It has a huge capture field, and then you can crop what you’re looking at and take it live or use it on replay.”

ESPN also deployed a Spidercam point-to-point aerial system in Indianapolis, as well as Sony HDC-P1 above-the-rim and Grass Valley 3X-slo-mo Slam Cam robotic systems on each basket (all provided by Fletcher). Also added were a 6X-slo-mo camera system at mid court, an RF and a cabled handheld, two slash positions, and two Marshal POVs capturing behind-the-scenes action.

On the replay side, the network kicked up its total EVS replay channels from 18 for an average A game to 28 for the opening-night tournament.

The Complete Package
On the mic, 2018 Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductee Dick Vitale is entering his 40th season with the network. ESPN’s Saturday Primetime and other prominent matchups will be called by Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, and Maria Taylor. For pregame festivities, College GameDay will once again feature Rece Davis, Bilas, Seth Greenberg, and Jay Williams.

Wilson and Capone, in their third and fifth seasons, respectively, are thrilled to start another great year of college hoops. “It was a great way to start in Indianapolis,” Capone says. “We’re just really excited to kick off another season.”

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