NBC Sports Headlines Premier Lacrosse League’s Third Season With Keeper Cam, Cinematic Handheld, Full Onsite Effort
Canon’s EOS R5 will be the league’s version of the popular ‘Megalodon’
The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL), building on the momentum of its 2019 first season, powered through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 with a two-week-long bubble tournament in Herriman, UT. For its third year, the league and its broadcasting partner, NBC Sports, are upping the ante with technological enhancements, such as new POV angles from inside and near the cage and a new mirrorless camera for cinematic takes from the field.
“The Premier Lacrosse League continues to be on the leading edge of broadcast quality and innovation,” says Matt Borzello, producer, NBC Sports. “NBC Sports Group prides itself on being the absolute best partners they can be, and these production enhancements reinforce our company’s commitment to the PLL.”
Between the Pipes: Keeper Cam, Pole Cams Offer Field-Level Look
In an effort to supply new and engaging angles on the sport, NBC Sports is installing a handful of POV cameras in hard-to-reach areas of the field. Most notable is the Keeper Cam, a micro-HD camera embedded in the frame of the goal to highlight close plays in the crease and sniped shots scored in the top corners. This deployment is made possible by the league’s relationship with its official ball and goal partner, Wolf Athletics, which has worked on this product over the past year.
“The camera will give the viewer an unobstructed, super-wide-angle view of all the exciting action around the goal like never before,” says Borzello. “Wolf Athletics has developed this custom camera technology alongside a private camera–engineering partner, so we’re looking forward to its release during the 2021 season.”
In addition to this camera embedded in the pipe, other technology will capture the run of play from field level. Two Pole Cams, fully operated robos attached to a stanchion about 20 yards from the net, will provide a closer look on how scoring opportunities are formulated. From a production standpoint, this pair of cameras (one located behind each goal) is intended to offer the close-up vantage points seen on other mainstream sports broadcasts.
“The objective,” Borzello notes, “is to provide angles similar to what you see in hockey with robotic cameras behind each goal, as well as the Above the Rim cameras seen in basketball that allow more-dynamic looks in both replay sequences and live gameplay.”
Best of the Rest: Cinematic Cameras, In-Game Comms Round Out Broadcast Tech
Reflecting a trend that has swept across sports-video production, NBC Sports will leverage its version of a mirrorless, shallow-depth-of-field camera on selected broadcasts. In this case, the Canon EOS R5 will roam the sidelines and on the field during play stoppages for cinematic shots of the game.
Fans will get a chance to see player personalities and what goes into the game via in-game interviews and analyst-to-player conversations. Created with the help of Gubser & Schnakenberg (GSC) and debuted during the inaugural season, audio devices will be installed in player helmets for seamless communication with the broadcast team of play-by-play Brendan Burke, analyst Ryan Boyle, and sideline reporter Paul Burmeister.
“We will continue to push player access as far as possible,” says Borzello. “In addition to players with in-game communication devices, multiple other players will be miked up to help bring the viewer closer to the action.”
In-game interviews will be captured with a standard RF handheld camera along with the Canon EOS R5.
In the Compound: Ross Production Services Powers Workflows Onsite
Unlike many productions over the past year, remote workflows will not play a role in the upcoming PLL schedule. COVID-19–related protocols are still in effect — wearing of masks, a required PCR test 72 hours prior to each game, a rapid test on arrival at the venue — but the games will be conducted with traditional pre-pandemic workflows. In the compound, Ross Production Services is leading the way with its RMP6 mobile production unit along with a trailer for support.
At Gillette Stadium, the truck will have a handful of feeds coming from all sorts of cameras inside the venue. For example, all five of this weekend’s games will have a total of 11 cameras: the main game camera, a tight follow, one located at low left attack, a player iso at high left slash, either a high end zone or slash, the two Pole Cams, the two Keeper Cams, the Canon EOS R5, and an RF handheld — and Ross PIERO Sports graphic analysis for in-depth breakdowns of recent plays.
National Tour: Production Crew To Travel to 11 Sports Venues
Having produced a two-week tournament in the Utah bubble, the PLL is expanding to 11 markets across the U.S. for its 3½-month season: Boston’s Gillette Stadium (June 4-6); Kennesaw State University’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Atlanta (June 11-13); Baltimore’s Homewood Field (June 25-27); Long Island, NY’s Shuart Stadium (July 2-4); Minneapolis’s TCO Stadium (July 9-11); All-Star Weekend at San Jose, CA’s PayPal Park (July 18); Colorado Springs, CO’s Weidner Field (July 30-Aug. 1); University of Albany’s Tom and Mary Casey Stadium (Aug. 13-15); Quarterfinals at Salt Lake City’s Rio Tinto Stadium (Aug. 20-21); Semifinals at Philadelphia’s Subaru Park (Sept. 5); and the Championship at Washington, DC’s Audi Field (Sept. 19). Despite the constant travel, productions won’t be affected.
“Travel itself should have minimal effect on the game production,” says Borzello. “In last season’s bubble, the crews were averaging almost two games per day for the first eight days, so there was little time to prepare between games. With five games per weekend regularly scheduled from Friday to Sunday, the crews will have more time to prepare and advance the storylines for the next weekend.”
Growing Game: NBC Sports and Premier Lacrosse League Aim To Boost Coverage
After gradual progress over the past few years, 2021 has ushered in immense growth for lacrosse. On the collegiate level, the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Final Four in East Fairfield, CT, and the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Final Four in Towson, MD, added Skycams to both tournaments. In the professional ranks, NBC Sports is giving the PLL ample coverage by live-streaming all 44 games on Peacock as well as 21 games (four on NBC and 17 on NBCSN) on linear. Starting this weekend, the league looks forward to embarking on its next chapter.
“Lacrosse continues to be one of the fastest-growing sports for both men and women,” says Borzello. “The PLL has been a great group to work with, and we are privileged to be a part of the sport and the league’s growth and evolution.”
The 2021 PLL season begins tonight with Redwoods LC vs. Cannons LC on Peacock at 7 p.m. ET.