Live From NBA All-Star: New Game Format Gives New Energy to Turner Sports Efforts

Fourth quarter will be a tribute to Kobe Bryant

The NBA All-Star Weekend at United Center in Chicago concludes tonight with the main event: the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. And it will be a game unlike any other basketball game ever because the final quarter will be a race to a target score that is 24 points higher than the leading score after the third quarter. It’s all part of a tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who died three weeks ago in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles.

“The new format absolutely has an impact on the production, and the devil in in the details,” says Chris Brown, VP, operations and technology, Turner Sports. “It puts a whole new spin on scoring, the stats feed, and how we manage the scorebug. Everything had to be redesigned because we will not be displaying a clock for the last quarter.”

Chris Brown and the rest of the Turner Sports team are looking forward to a new format tonight that will honor NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

Besides the absence of a game clock counting down the seconds until the end of the game (a shot clock will be in use), there will also be no commercials.

“The hope is that, by eliminating the game clock, there is a chance for a team that is down by 20 points as they don’t have to race the clock,” says Brown. “They can slow the game down and execute to make shots. The coverage philosophy stays the same, but it will be a more interesting story to tell as there are a lot of unknowns.”

A traditional scorebug will have the current score and shot clock, but, during the fourth quarter, a scorebug in the upper right will show the race to the target score, so viewers know how close the teams are to hitting it.

Tech Showcase
“The NBA All-Star Game is a great place to showcase things that have gone through an extensive vetting process,” Brown says. “We hope to bring things in here, and then, by next season or the playoffs, everyone is comfortable with it, so we can put it to use during a real game. It’s really the last step in the vetting process for players and coaches; the Summer League is the first step in real-world testing.”

New production elements for the weekend include NBA on TNT studio analyst Shaquille O’Neal sitting courtside with a 5G camera phone.

“We’ve been working with LiveU and AT&T to provide those phones so that Shaq can do commentary courtside that is sent through the 5G network,” says Brown. “We did a lot of playing with it to optimize the picture quality.”

The virtual shot clock, provided by Vizrt, makes its All-Star game debut tonight, its biggest stage to date. The virtual clock debuted earlier this year during the regular season and makes the clock appear to be built into the surface of the court.

The compound at 2020 NBA All-Star Game Weekend at The United Center in Chicago

“The feedback has been positive, and people want to see it out there,” says Brown. “We hope it becomes a staple of our coverage and something people expect to see.”

The Turner team will also work with CP Communications on Bluetooth IFB units to enable the announce team to talk to talent seated on the bench. Look for it to be used tonight during warmups.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how those work for us,” says Brown.

Team Effort
On hand for the weekend’s festivities is 300+-member Turner Sports crew, along with teams from numerous technology and production partners. NEP EN1 A, B, C, and E units will be at the center of tonight’s coverage, having produced Friday’s Celebrity Game and Rising Stars Game; Supershooter 24 A, B, and C units handled NBA All-Star Saturday Night.

“We like having Supershooter 24 here for Saturday night as we needed more edit space this year,” says Brown. “THUMBWAR this year is providing those nine edit suites as well as four Adobe After Effects systems and a 5.1-surround-sound ProTools audio-editing system.”

The entertainment portion of NBA All-Star Game is another important element of both the pregame and halftime shows, and NEP Supershooter 16 will be used for that show.

The Image-Cam courtside jib is an NBA All-Star Weekend staple.

The NBA All-Star Game was last in Chicago in 1988, when hometown hero and NBA legend Michael Jordan won the slam-dunk contest and was MVP of the game. That game was played at Chicago Stadium, which was torn down in 1994. The Bulls and Blackhawks subsequently moved to a new home: the United Center, which is where this year’s events are taking place.

“It is an older building,” Brown points out. “In an environment like this, there is a lack of fiber in the building, and we needed to bring in Bexel to run the fiber and headends. It’s historic, but those buildings bring their own challenges. We’ve been working with NBA Entertainment and the rigging folks to make this work in a very confined space.”

Bexel handled fiber and cabling at Wintrust Arena, where the NBA All-Star practice and media event took place, as well as camera sheds and Ross Xpression systems at both locations. It also provided player mics for tonight’s game, super slo-mo cameras with EVS units, and an IPTV system at the United Center.

A Fletcher robotic in the main camera gantry at NBA All-Star.

Other key partners for the event include Program Productions for crewing; Lyon Video for NBA TV; and AVS for RF Steadicam, RF handheld, and RF POV for the game, Skills, and House of Blues. Fletcher is also on hand with three Sony P1 robotic cameras and Sony P50 super-slo-mo cameras located above the rims. Image-Cam, meanwhile, provides a key jib camera used for the entertainment show and game coverage.

Expanded Studio Shows, Digital Presence
Turner Sports expanded its studio-show presence this year with two set locations (NEP NCP 11 unit is being used to produce those shows). One of the sets is located in the United Center Atrium, and the iconic Michael Jordan statue was moved inside the atrium to provide a dramatic backdrop for it.

The JITAcamhangs from a truss to give a new look at NBA on TNT studio show.

“One interesting thing is, we have a JITAcam that is hanging from a truss,” says Brown. “That takes it off the floor so that other camera shots won’t see it and we can also sweep in over the crowd and set with a new look.”

The on-air and production team for the studio show were located at House of Blues on Thursday night for a live telecast of Inside the NBA and musical performances. NEP Chromium was on hand at House of Blues along with a Live Media Group truck. Live Media Group was also at the Saffron Rails Warehouse, where Bleacher Report produced its House of Highlights show.

The Turner Sports social-media team is housed in a Live Media Group truck, producing three shows as well as “Kick” segments, which put player sneakers front and center and are shot backstage at the United Center.

“The social side of the production has definitely grown,” notes Brown.

Dome Silver is on hand for world-feed needs of NBA All-Star Game Weekend.

All the production efforts tie the NEP ND1 unit, which handles feed distribution for rightsholders and the world feed produced out of Dome Productions Silver unit. That team has a handheld camera courtside for rightsholders, as well as a hard camera in the main camera platform that can cut around branded elements and other Turner-focused efforts. The world feed is sent to a production cabin in the compound where a Supponor Digitally Enhanced Dashboard allows the Chinese broadcaster to insert its own ads and messaging in the courtside digital boards.