Turner Sports’ Techwood Facility Is Center of NBA Playoffs Production
Three conference rooms have been converted into control rooms usually housed in production units
The NBA on TNT shifts into playoff mode tonight with a State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament doubleheader that will bring some March Madness one-and-done energy to the professional level. And, given Turner Sports production team’s the experience with March Madness, there is no concern that May Madness will be lacking.
“We’re definitely not pulling back on our coverage, because these games have teams fighting for those last spots in the playoffs,” says Chris Brown, VP, sports production tech, Turner Sports. “And we will follow our same unilateral production methods where we come in with our truck to cover it.”
Turner Sports relies on six NEP production units for its NBA Playoffs coverage, and Brown says NEP gave the network early access to the trucks to make sure they could be positioned in time for the play-in games tonight. The truck lineup comprises TS2, Supershooter 8, Supershooter 9, Chromium, Iridium, and NCP VIII.
NCP VIII will do full onsite productions and, via the NBA’s in-arena network, send sources to Turner’s Techwood facility in Atlanta, where graphics, announcers, and other elements will be integrated. Audio and video signals will be sent, via Turner’s Haivision SRT network, to Evertz or Lawo routers at Techwood.
Three conference rooms there have been transformed into large workspaces that are essentially the control rooms usually housed in three production units for a game.
“One replicates the front bench of the production truck with the producer, director, and the AD,” he says. “And then there is a second conference room that has the graphics team for things like the bug box and our virtual shot clock as well as animated shot charts. The third and larger workspace is where we have up to four EVS operators.”
The trickiest part of the setup, says Brown, is router control because the routers at Techwood are connected to those in the trucks at the various venues.
“We boiled it down to two router types: it’s either Lawo or Evertz,” he explains. “We’re connecting with a Layer 2 network to move the information between Techwood and the production trucks. We’ve now moved over to a Layer 3 network, which allows us to provide individual IPs to help cut down on some latency so one-way traffic is around 400 ms.”
The announcers will also be in Techwood, a move that allows them to work side-by-side (COVID-19 protocols are strictly enforced).
“In addition to not having to worry about one announcer being 400 ms delayed and the other 800 ms delayed,” says Brown, “they are closer in time with the action and can play off of each other. That means it will sound more natural and seamless to the viewers.”
As for new production elements, he says that, apart from increasing the super-slo-mo count, there won’t be any big changes to the core coverage. (UPDATE 5/22: Turner will add two cinema-style shallow-depth-of-field wireless systems featuring Canon EOS C500 Mark II cameras on a handful of early-round games, beginning with Game 1 of the Hawks-Knicks Round 1 series on Sunday).
“One thing we are working on with Mixon Digital are animated shot charts that will be a cool part of the storytelling and will prove pretty compelling,” says Brown. “The animated shot charts are built in Atlanta, output to the trucks, and then come back so the team in the conference room can use it in the show. There was quite a lot of thinking put into the workflow.”
The NBA Playoffs are always an exciting time for the production teams, and, while many have mixed emotions about not being able to be onsite, they all understand the need for safety and have adjusted to working in a conference-room environment.
“It’s a lot closer to the truck environment,” says Brown, “and they are comfortable with producing the games this way.”
And, just in case, there is a backup plan for any issues with signal connectivity between the teams in Techwood and the arenas.
“If we do lose connection,” says Brown, “we can put up Camera 1 with the scorebug, and the announcers can keep talking.”