Turner Sports, CBS Sports Will Deliver Select NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Games In 4K HDR

The March Madness productions are a 1080p HDR upconvert in 5.1 surround sound

March Madness begins in earnest tonight in Dayton, Ohio and the production and operations teams from Turner Sports and CBS Sports are wasting no time in innovating. The networks will be distributing a collection of select games from this year’s NCAA Tournament in 4K HDR (high-dynamic range) beginning with tonight’s First Four.

Turner Sports and CBS Sports will produce a selection of games during this year’s NCAA Tournament in 1080p HDR with an upconversion to 4K HDR on DIRECTV. Sony cameras will play a role in the show.

The on-site productions will be done as a 1080p HDR upconvert to 4K, meaning that the production can be integrated with the standard HD production and will not require addition, side-by-side resources. The 4K HDR games will be able to be viewed on DIRECTV.

By tournament’s end, there could be as many as 15 games produced in this 1080p HDR workflow. All First Four games and any game in the Tulsa (First and Second Rounds) and Anaheim (Sweet 16 and Elite Eight) regions where the HD show will air on a Turner network (TBS, TNT, truTV) are the games where the 4K HDR production will be done.

“[Doing a 1080p upconvert] is based on making sure we bring the best product to the fans and avoiding having to [sacrifice anything] in the primary production group,” says Craig Barry, EVP and Chief Content Officer for Turner Sports. “When you bring in another truck you ultimately start to dilute that primary production and create the possibility for error.”

It’s a similar workflow that CBS Sports used during its 4K HDR tests at the Masters last year. Turner and CBS also ran a test of the workflow in the basketball environment just a couple of weeks ago at the Missouri Valley Conference men’s tournament. According to Tom Sahara, VP, Operations and Technology for Turner Sports, this crew has benefitted from the knowledge learned by CBS in its golf tests last year and also benefits from the production being inside.

“What really helps is that we are indoors and in controlled lighting conditions so we don’t have the wild swings of sunlight and shadow,” says Sahara. “That helps a lot. We’ve been able to get settings and the conversion to standard dynamic range and it looked really good. In fact, I would say that the SDR derived from the HDR looks better because you can see more detail in the dark areas. In arenas, where you do have a lot of dark areas, that’s huge. Even in shadows under the baskets where you have a lot of players together, you still see more details in the darker areas. Its subtle in that you don’t really notice it until you put it side by side with a SDR.”

A Game Creek Video production truck anchors the compound outside of University of Dayton Arena, the site of the NCAA Tournament’s First Four matchups on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

At Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s First Four, the crew will be using Sony HDC- 4300 cameras

In traditional basketball shooting positions. For conversion, they are using a pair of Sony HDRC-4000s and 21 Evertz UDX cards. According to Chris Brown, Director of Technical Operations for Turner Sports, the Sony’s are for final transmission to create the 1080i SDR feeds for CBS, Turner, and ESPN International. The UDX’s are handling source conversion for POV’s, graphics, etc.

All of these special productions will be done out of Game Creek Video production vehicles on site. They will send the upconverted HDR signal via HEVC to CBS’s 1080p integration facility based in Los Angeles. From there, the product is delivered to DIRECTV (also based in L.A.). In the meantime, the traditional HD show is sent to CBS’s broadcast facility in New York where it can be delivered to its dedicated CBS or Turner network.

On the audio end, these productions will be done in 5.1 surround sound.

Here’s a list of the games that are confirmed to be produced in 1080p HDR and delivered in 4K HDR:

Tuesday, March 19
(16) Prairie View A&M vs. (16) Farleigh Dickenson (6:40 p.m. ET, DIRECTV in 4K HDR, truTV in HD)
(11) Temple vs. (11) Belmont (Following above game, DIRECTV in 4K HDR, truTV in HD)

Wednesday, March 20
(16) North Carolina Central vs. (16) North Dakota State (6:40 p.m. ET, DIRECTV in 4K HDR, truTV in HD)
(11) St. John’s vs. (11) Arizona State (Following above game, DIRECTV in 4K HDR, truTV in HD)

Friday, March 22
(14) Northern Kentucky vs. (3) Texas Tech (1:30 p.m. ET, DIRECTV in 4K HDR, TNT in HD)
(11) St. John’s/Arizona State vs. (6) Buffalo (Following above game, DIRECTV in 4K HDR, TNT in HD)
(14) Georgia State vs. (3) Houston (7:20 p.m. ET, DIRECTV in 4K HDR, TBS in HD)
(11) Ohio State vs. (6) Iowa State (Following above game, DIRECTV in 4K HDR, TBS in HD)

Sunday, March 24
– any Second Round games in the Tulsa region where the HD production is going to a Turner-owned networks (TBS, TNT, truTV)

Thursday, March 28
– any Sweet 18 games in the Anaheim region where the HD production is going to a Turner-owned networks (TBS, TNT, truTV)

Saturday, March 30
– any Elite Eight games in the Anaheim region where the HD production is going to a Turner-owned networks (TBS, TNT, truTV)

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