MLB Postseason 2021: MLB Network Excited to Be Back on Site for ALDS

It’s playoff time for Major League Baseball and for MLB Network it’s a chance to build great studio content around all of the action, hit the road for the World Series, and this week broadcast two games: the Chicago White Sox vs the Houston Astros in Houston on Friday night and the Tampa Bay Rays against vs the Boston Red Sox in Boston on Sunday afternoon.

MLB Tonight is already into full post-season mode and this weekend the network will broadcast two ALDS games.

“These two games are our Super Bowl,” says Chris Pfeiffer, MLB Network, senior coordinating producer, Live Events. “They’re a little bit different than a regular season game in June as every pitch means something and it’s a different level. And it’s more about what’s happening on the field and making sure you document everything. That’s what’s most important and we take a lot of pride in that.”

Jason Hedgcock, MLB Network, senior director, remote technical operations, says that the same production facility levels will be deployed in both Houston and Boston. Game Creek Video’s Webby and Edit 3 trucks will be at Minute Maid Park in Houston while NEP’s EN2 will be at Fenway Park.

“We have different mobile unit vendors, but we are still partnering with Fox, so our camera complements are the same,” says Hedgcock. “In terms of specialty stuff, we’re going to have two Phantom cameras in the low camera wells, and we will have a Megaladon to get great shots.”

Adds Pfeiffer: “Everything will be on site with the exception of our graphics operations like Viz and the score bug which will be done out of Secaucus.”

MLB Network will have to compromise a bit on camera positions as fans are fully back in the stands. But Pfeiffer says there will be plenty of other bells and whistles.

“There were a lot of really interesting things from a broadcast perspective that we were able to do last year without the fans in the stands,” says Pfeiffer. “And particularly in the first round of the Division Series we had camera angles that we don’t have now interesting technology. So, there’s a little bit of a walk back in terms of technology, but then there’s also increased dependence on additional Statcast resources like 3D pitch and studio-based graphical elements which we’re trying to fully integrate with our roadshows. Thankfully in August we were back on the road and able to come up with good workflows for the postseason.”

Tom Guidice, MLB Network, VP, Remote Operations, says that there won’t be an on-site studio show for the two Division Series games but that will change once the World Series starts at the end of the month.

“We’ll be on site with our large presence, on-the-field set and wall-to-wall coverage throughout the day from the field,” he says. “For the other games we will be on site with reporters for hits throughout the day with Ballpark Cam.”

The lack of fans last year allowed all sports to experiment with new camera angles and now, as fans come back, the technology providers behind innovations like the Speed Cam that was a camera dolly on top of the dugout that could hit speeds of 25 mph are trying to figure out how to decrease the footprint so it can be part of the broadcast even with fans in the stands.

“We are looking at how do we make that camera smaller,” says Pfeiffer. “Maybe in the future that camera is on the front lip of the dugout. It was just a cool angle that we always wanted to try, and we were able to do it last year.”

The playoffs this year cap off another year that required maximum flexibility as world feed productions ruled early on and the MLB Network team was not back on site until the All-Star Game.

“It makes a difference to be on site and we’re all heading off to Houston and Boston, so we’re excited about it,” says Guidice.

The excitement also includes an original show open for the playoff games, something that has become a tradition over the years.

“Normally we try to do some kind of nice open for our playoff games and get pretty creative with it,” says Pfeiffer. “And this year we were talking about comparing, the post-season, our biggest stage, biggest stage, to Broadway. So, we have some Broadway performers and even one of the music directors from Hamilton involved. It will be a cool comparison of the big stage and something you will see on Friday.”

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