NCAA Men’s Final Four: CBS Sports, Turner Sports Remain Committed to Championship-Caliber Production

Nearly 50 cameras cover the game action in Indy for Semis and National Championship

As with every major sports championship event over the past 12 months, the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has required an incredibly comprehensive effort to pull off.

For the joint broadcasters of CBS Sports and Turner Sports – who have partnered for more than a decade on this event in one of sports television’s most unique production collaborations – a unique execution that has included a bubble environment, ten unique production crews, and a global pool of remote resources  comes to a head tonight as Baylor battles Gonzaga for the National Championship (8:20 p.m., CBS).

Despite all of the differences with this year, game coverage will feel quite familiar to the high-powered effort that CBS and Turner put in on the Final Four year in and year out.

There are nearly 50 cameras dedicated exclusively to the game broadcast, including the popular RailCam, a four-point SkyCam , multiple jibs, and 16 super slow motion cameras. There’s also a strong commitment to robotic cameras this year as there are as many as 27 robos in the total arsenal.

These types of decisions reflect the desire for CBS Sports and Turner Sports to “definitely leaning into technology” this year in an effort to overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic, as described by CBS Sports’ Executive Producer/EVP, Production Harold Bryant noted before March Madness began last month.

MORE: March Madness 2021: CBS Sports, Turner Sports ‘Lean Into Technology’ To Meet Challenges in Indiana

Efforts on the lens front are also driving up the quality of the images being captured for the game broadcast. Canon glass that includes some toys from its TS-E series has been used with the Canon C500 Mark II camera that allowed for camera operators to pull in new and interesting looks.

“Disruption breeds innovation and creativity, and this is no different,” Craig Barry, EVP/Chief Content Officer for Turner Sports said prior to the start of the Tournament. “Some of the technology is by design, and some is by necessity. We feel really confident that we have a great mix of technology and innovation. We’re trying to create as much access as possible — to the game, to the court – and get the fan as close as possible. With all the social distancing, we wanted to make sure that that priority stayed intact. And that’s where the technology comes in.”

On the audio front, enhanced crowd audio will be implemented to accompany the reactions coming in from the limited attendance inside the stadium. There’s also a sizeable compound including 14 mobile production units powered by seven twin packs with 12 UPS units.

On-site Studio Presence Remains Strong
Approximately 17,500 fans are allowed to attend this year’s Final Four and National Championship Game, which means, that while the on-site festivities are dramatically dialed down when compared to previous years, there’s still a desire to want to set the scene in Indy and to take viewers at home into the proverbial “bubble” as part of its broadcast.

Shoulder programming is on-site in Indy with two sets covered by seven primary cameras. Those shows – and the main broadcast – are supplemented by eight robotic and POV cameras positioned in places where the networks cannot position physical camera operators for health and safety precautions.  Those positions include team bus drop off points as well as the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium when teams walk from the locker room to the floor. In the past, some of those handheld positions may have been manned but, this year, have gone robo.

On the studio show side, the two broadcasters are working with Ross for augmented reality graphics on the studio set.

Another Team Effort
This Final Four and Championship, which a unique one, also marks the tenth time that these two broadcasters have worked collaboratively to deliver the college men’s basketball championship to viewers.

This effort may feel different on site from  the ones before but the efforts of operations professionals, technicians, and engineers on site is even more impressive as a result.

Patty Power, EVP, Operations and Engineering and Jason Cohen, VP, Remote Technical Operations continue to play key roles for the CBS Sports team at this event while Chris Brown, VP, Sports Production Tech is helping lead up Turner Sports’ end of the deal.

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