NBC Sports Adds High-Speed Handheld, Specialty Graphics for Marquee NHL Matchup on Wednesday
Bruins-Capitals showdown will be treated like a Stanley Cup Final show
It may still be early in the NHL season, but it’s going to feel a lot like a night deep in the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight: NBCSN will carry a doubleheader headlined by a showdown featuring the league’s top two teams and top two individual scorers: David Pastrnak and the Boston Bruins vs. Alex Ovechkin and the league-leading Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
NBC Sports is rising to this marquee matchup by boosting its production and operations complement to a level that resembles a Conference Finals show more than a regular-season one. The added resources include a super-high-speed camera for replay, a second hard camera focusing on iso shots (regular-season games typically have only one), and high-end specialty graphics typically reserved for NBC’s touted Sunday Night Football crew.
“We felt it was the right game to bring out a few tools that can help us better showcase this game from a production standpoint,” says Charlie Dammeyer, who will direct tonight’s Bruins-Caps game for NBCSN. “The extra hard camera will allow us to constantly isolate both players on the ice at all times, highlighting their skill and how they are defended all night. The [super-slo-mo] hopefully will be able to showcase some of the intricacies of the game. It might come from a stick check, a deflection, a hit, or maybe a player’s reaction — that’s the best part. We don’t know when and where it might happen, but we have enhanced our equipment to help us better capture and show these moments.”
The super-high-speed camera is a Sony HDC-4800, which will be used as a handheld for the first time by this crew, according to Dammeyer. It will be positioned at the “Inside the Glass” position between the team benches. The camera, when used on an NHL game, typically shoots at 360 frames per second (fps), but, tonight, the crew will try to record at 960 fps.
This is a camera that NBC’s Sunday Night Football crew uses in 4K mode for stellar images down the line of scrimmage, goal line, and high end zone. On Wednesday night, NBC is even bringing in one of its top-flight camera operators in Jack Hagen to handle the job in DC.
“I’m a big fan of putting a handheld between the benches, because it’s a great look when it’s a live camera on a whistle and can be a great replay because it’s unobstructed and low to the ice,” says Dammeyer, who has directed numerous Stanley Cup Final games for NBC, in addition to working much of NBC’s half of the NASCAR Cup Series. “It’s essentially the best seat in the house. Combine the best seat in the house and a great camera operator in Jack Hagen shooting at 16X super-slow-motion (960 fps), and, hopefully, you have a recipe for success.”
In the lead-up to the game, Dammeyer noted that the NBC crew would spend Wednesday morning testing the lighting conditions within Capital One Arena to see whether they prefer the look of shooting at 8X or at 16X speed. In-venue lighting plays a key role in the success of super-high-speed cameras at extreme settings like this, because the production crew will want to minimize any light flicker or other ill effects that could result from slowing down the image at such a resolution in real time.
“I’ve used the 4800 before in Conference Final games as well as the Stanley Cup Final but always as a hard camera and utilizing the 4K capabilities,” says Dammeyer. “For [tonight’s] game, I’m going to have Jack shoot tight action during play and seriously hunt for those intimate player reactions. Alex Ovechkin is typically a player who will give you not only great effort and skill on the ice but also excellent reactions. We saw this in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final vs. Vegas as we had some great reactions when he was on the bench. Our producer Matt Marvin is excited to use these instantaneous replays during his show to help illustrate the stories of the two best players on the two best teams as the game unfolds.”
In addition, the crew has added a second iso camera because the production team will look to spotlight both Ovechkin and Pastrnak throughout the night. They will also use high-end specialty graphics typically used on Sunday Night Football to offer detailed animations telling the story of Ovechkin’s scoring prowess from all over the offensive zone.
Besides the Bruins-Capitals matchup, Wednesday night’s twin bill on NBCSN includes a matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Colorado Avalanche (9:30 p.m. ET).
It has been an outstanding season so far for the NHL on NBC property. According to NBC Sports, viewership on NBCSN is up 20% vs. 2018, and this year is the best start to the season since 2016. At a time when not too many ratings are increasing across linear platforms, that’s a notable spike that both NBC and the NHL can relish.