Live From 2020 Winter Classic: Skycam Reaps the Benefits of Spacious, Familiar Venue

Creative freedom was provided by the company’s experience with events at the Cotton Bowl

Nowadays, a televised sports event is not complete or validated without the deployment of a Skycam. In Dallas, the company, which is based in the greater Fort Worth area, drove 38 miles east and took to the skies for this year’s NHL Winter Classic. Luckily, the vendor’s history at the venue offered an advantage and allowed a higher level of comfort, resulting in stunning aerial shots of the crowd and action on the ice.

The four-point camera system covered the entire playing surface.

“The Cotton Bowl is a very familiar venue for us. We have a long history here over the last 10 years,” says Joshua Thompson, EIC, Skycam. “We have been here a number of times, so it’s pretty straightforward. The NHL is very organized with this event by facilitating a lot of the legwork, and that makes it extremely easy for Skycam to get in and out of these buildings. Typically, this event is in places that we don’t have a history with.”

 MORE FROM THE 2020 WINTER CLASSIC

The Go-To Highlights: Skycam Prioritizes List of Visuals
With the four-point camera system in place above the highest structures of the stadium, Thompson and his onsite team outlined what needed to be captured and when the camera was permitted to go to those areas.

“Every place that we set up, there’s stuff that’s worth highlighting and some other stuff that is worth avoiding,” he says. “It’s all about the geometry of the building and what we can and cannot do.”

The technology needed to operate the Skycam

With familiarity as a guide — Skycam has become a staple for the Red River Rivalry between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma — a ton of time was saved by not having to discuss the restricted areas or camera shots with zero value. With added flair — pyrotechnics, fireworks, and the like — at the Winter Classic, crew members spent most of their time rehearsing shots to ensure that they were all on the same page when the Skycam took flight.

“Here, it was pretty basic,” Thompson explains. “We did a bunch of play-by-play [coverage] over the ice, and we did our best to fly within the confines of the pyrotechnics for the entertainment element.”

Room To Work With: Wide Open Spaces Drive Creativity
While fans in the stands enjoyed the fresh air of Dallas, Skycam reveled in the opportunity to perform without restrictions. With the event outdoors, fans watching at home were treated to camera angles that not only came close to the playing surface but also rose to heights not regularly seen during a hockey game.

“We’re limited by the roof and the net cables when we shoot hockey indoors, so we’re pretty condensed,” he points out. “We had a large range [of motion] at the Cotton Bowl, so we did a lot of dynamic, back-and-forth shots for Camera 1 from above the ice. With these [outdoor] venues, we were able to perform big turnaround shots as well.”

A Stellar Start to 2020: Skycam’s Schedule Begins With Outdoor Hockey
For the past decade, Skycam has been fortunate enough to use the Winter Classic as a springboard into its calendar of events every year. Over this time, the company’s relationship with NBC Sports has strengthened, increasing the work of both parties in a positive way.

A good chunk of play-by-play action was captured via Skycam.

“They certainly have gotten a lot more familiar with us, so it has [become] a collaborative effort,” Thompson says. “Despite all of these different venues, NBC is a lot more familiar with this application for game coverage.”

And with success at this spectacle year after year, Skycam has carved out a reputation and lengthened its already long list of programming for the following months.

 “We have a number of massive events, but, every year, the company gets to add more and more high-profile games,” says Thompson. “Right when you think you’ve reached the threshold, they add 10 more events to the program.”