NBA Summer League Is Turner Sports’ ‘Giant Petri Dish’ for Testing New Tech
Specialty cameras, mics, and AI top list of production tools tried out
Every summer in Las Vegas, the NBA Summer League provides an invaluable opportunity for the league and its broadcast partners to test out new technologies and explore new ways to deliver the game to fans. This month, Turner Sports took its innovation efforts to the next level with a caravan of production-tech vendors rolling out bleeding-edge products in Vegas.
“The Summer League is this wonderful opportunity because it’s like a giant petri dish,” says Lee Estroff, director, technical operations, Turner Sports. “The NBA is very cooperative and supportive of us experimenting and testing at Summer League. You have a lot more access, and it’s a really conducive for trying things out that you may not normally be able to do during a regular-season NBA Game.”
Turner Sports welcomed a large cross-section of vendors to demo various technologies during the opening week of Summer League, including shallow–depth-of-field and other specialty cameras, lenses, microphones, and AI technologies. Onsite in Vegas were C360, Canon, CP Communications, Fletcher, JibTek, LMG, Mirriad, Q5X, Ross Video, Shure, and Sony.
“We wanted to look at a variety of technologies for NBA but also for other properties,” says Estroff. “We were looking for [production tools] for hockey and baseball and things that could be used across multiple properties.”
Also onsite in Vegas were members of his production team, who gained first-hand experience with the new technologies and provided valuable feedback to the vendors.
“It was a unique opportunity for our production staff, who don’t normally get in front of the vendors and manufacturers, to be able to give them direct input,” says Estroff. “It was beneficial both for us and for our partner vendors and manufacturers.”
He appreciates the league’s creating an environment at Summer League that caters to technical innovation and exploration. Specifically, extensive on-court access allowed Turner’s production team to test technologies that Estroff hopes to deploy for future Turner Sports productions.
“I give a lot of credit to the NBA supporting their rightsholders,” he says. “They could not have been more hospitable to us and accommodating us, and that gave us a lot more freedom to try new things.”