NBA Tipoff 2021: Turner Sports Brings Back Onsite Productions, Debuts Vibrant NBA on TNT Graphics Package
NBA coverage joins NHL, MLB Postseason productions during Turner’s busiest time ever
Turner Sports is in the midst of the busiest stretch in its history. Its first-ever NHL season and the return of the MLB Postseason are in full swing. And tonight, the broadcaster welcomes back its longest-running property: NBA on TNT.
“There have definitely been growing pains because we have had to stretch our team in ways that they haven’t been stretched before,” says Chris Brown, vice president of operations and technology, Turner Sports. “While we have been able to increase our headcount and hire more people, we haven’t filled all those positions yet, so we do have a number of people doing double or even triple duty. Everybody — myself included — has to step up and pitch in to make sure we’re giving all three properties their just attention. It has definitely been a team effort across the board to get to this point.”
Turner Sports will tip off the league’s 75th-anniversary season tonight with an opening-night double header featuring the Nets-Bucks in Milwaukee and Warriors-Lakers in L.A. And with it, the iconic NBA on TNT brand will have a brand-new look — a wrap-around graphics package — and plenty of new production technologies to bring the hardcourt action to fans.
Productions Are Onsite After REMI-Heavy 2020-21 Season
After centralizing the bulk of its productions at its Techwood Campus in Atlanta and remoting from a truck to the facility for nearly 60 NBA games last season, Turner Sports is hitting the road again for NBA broadcasts. Deploying NEP TS2 and Supershooter 8 mobile units, Turner plans to deploy nearly all announcers and crew onsite at the arena.
“Last year, COVID accelerated a lot of concepts that we were already thinking about,” says Brown. “However, because of COVID, we had the unique opportunity to have a lot of space that I don’t anticipate will be available as we push into the new year and start returning to the office. While we’re excited about the technology and I think there’s going to be a time and a place for us to eventually move to that as one of many different production options, we’re just not quite there yet in terms of core infrastructure and space [in Atlanta].
“What we were able to do last year was prove a concept,” he continues. “I think that was significant because, if and when we have the available infrastructure at the facility in Atlanta to manage things like this on a full-time basis, we now know we can do that. I think there are definitely ways that we can look at being more efficient, particularly with basketball. But, for now, the plan is to get back to a pre-COVID type of operation.”
Turner Sports’ current use of REMI production workflow will be limited to the virtual–shot-clock operator, who will be located in Atlanta. All other crew, however, will be onsite in the truck.
“The production team has made very clear to us that they are much more collaborative when they’re in the same room and that makes the product better,” says Brown. “That’s the approach that we’re taking for now. From an operations standpoint, the execution of the physical remote is going to look a lot more familiar, and everybody is going to be a lot more comfortable in terms of how they execute. I think that is going to continue to improve the broadcasts and bring the audience experience back to what they’re used to seeing and hearing, which is a big win.”
New Graphics Package Celebrates NBA’s 75th-Anniversary Season
Turner will roll out a brand-new graphics package for wraparounds tonight, debuting its revised NBA on TNT look. The package is built on a diamond motif, matching the league’s special diamond-shaped logo for its 75th season. In addition, viewers will see refracted light on many graphics elements as if they were looking through a diamond.
“We’re coming from a package that was very monochromatic and dark with everything desaturated to a very vibrant, colorful, juicy package,” says Jordan Shorthouse, VP, creative director, Turner Sports. “I think it’s phenomenal, and it’s going to play perfectly into this year’s telecasts. We loved the [previous package], but we’ve been living with that dark package for four or five years and were definitely ready for a change. We just wanted something with more vibrancy, more color, more fun, and that’s what you’re going to see when this package hits air.”
Although the insert, scorebug, and virtual–shot-clock graphics will not change, the new wraparound package will give NBA on TNT broadcasts a wholly revamped look. The LED monitors in the Inside the NBA studio have also been updated with the new graphics look.
After opening with Tuesday and Thursday games this week, TNT will primarily carry games on Tuesday nights before transitioning to both Tuesdays and Thursdays in mid January. At that point, the Tuesday-night telecasts will also be updated to reflect the diamond-motif package but with a twist: all elements will be black and gold.
“Tuesday night is more about the culture, fashion, and style of the NBA,” says Shorthouse. “We’re trying to be a bit sleeker and play into that whole culture concept so that is why everything is black and gold. We did that last year, and now we’re updating the package to reflect that same color scheme but with the new design style.
“As soon as Opening Night is over,” he continues, “we’re going to start working on the Tuesday-night package to get everything turned black and gold.”
Shorthouse adds that building a new NBA graphics package was no easy task for his team, which was concurrently tasked with creating new packages for NHL on TNT and the MLB Postseason. To keep up with the tsunami of work, Turner hired a fresh crop of freelancers and added new equipment to its operation (which is still largely remote from people’s homes).
“It has been a challenge, but it feels great to finally be at the finish line,” says Shorthouse. “MLB and NHL are up and running, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. And there’s no doubt in my mind that, when NBA airs, people are going to love it. All three packages are great in their own special way. It’s a great feeling to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and our team has been absolutely amazing.”
Turner Goes All Out for NBA Opening Night in Milwaukee, L.A.
As it does every year, Turner has gone all out for its coverage of NBA Opening Night, including an expanded 90-minute TNT NBA Tip-Off live pregame show from outside Staples Center in Los Angeles beginning at 6 p.m. ET. The pregame coverage will feature the announcement of 25 members of the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team, the Bucks’ ring ceremony, and live reports from Milwaukee’s “Deer District” outside Fiserv Forum
Tonight’s opener in Milwaukee will feature 24 cameras, including a Canon C360 under the scoreboard, Canon C300 EOS with a cine-lens on an RF Steadicam rig, Canon C-70 EOS on a Ronin rig, four super-slo-mos, a two-point aerial SupraCam in the Deer District, and an exterior jib.
After debuting on Turner’s NBA broadcasts last season, shallow–depth-of-field cine-style mirrorless cameras will be a staple on its broadcasts beginning tonight with a pair of Canon EOS cameras in Milwaukee. According to Brown, fans can expect to see plenty more of the look this year.
“We are definitely continuing to lean into the shallow depth of field,” he says. “We still have to navigate safety protocols and gaining access for those [shallow–depth-of-field cameras] to able to use them as effectively as we want. But we certainly hope we’ll see more of those this season as we work with the NBA to find the right time and spots [to deploy them].”
On the audio side, in addition to a variety of shotgun, condenser, parabolic, and other types of microphones deployed across and around the court, three or four Shure MX710 linear-array microphone assemblies will be deployed in key locations.
A rectangular array will be mounted on each backboard, just at the 90-degree point where the vertical support meets the horizontal arm supporting the backboard. A third will be placed just in front of the announcers’ table, about an inch from the floor. A fourth array will be placed on the opposite side of the court, in front of the scorers’ table if the league allows. CLICK HERE for more on Turner Sports’ audio strategy.