NEP Supershooter 16 Plays Key Role at NYC Marathon; Bonded Cellular from CP Comms a Hit
The return of the New York City Marathon this past weekend once again found NEP at the center of the technical planning, the 26th year that NEP has been in that position. This year it worked alongside Film 45 (a division of IMG focused on non-scripted content), CP Communications (who provided wireless camera systems), and the New York Roadrunners (who own the event).
“We provide all the below the line as we do not any longer provide the technical crew,” says Errol Foremaster, operations producer for the show. “We provided all the truck engineers and technical management and then Film 45 provided the above the line Production and operational production support.”
The New York City Marathon has just about as many moving pieces as are possible for a sporting event. There are the thousands of runners, the staggered start times for top wheelchair, women, and men groups. Then there is the city itself, a city that has its own pulse and rhythm with things like last-minute road construction, unforeseen traffic, and this year even weather although for viewers at home it looked like a perfect day.
“It’s such a complex show, with so many pieces outlying all over the place and then you’re working in one of the biggest cities in the world, with all the difficulties of New York City and logistics and everything,” says Foremaster. “It’s just a great challenge and everybody just loves the challenge of having to set it up so quickly. And then, bang, all those signals start coming in and you’re telling a story around the whole city.”
The good news this year is Foremaster says the team had the least number of unforeseen challenges although the weather provided one challenge: Fog.
“This year the big thing was that our helicopter was fogged in on its helipad somewhere in Jersey, but all the pictures from the race showed a beautiful day,” says Foremaster. “We usually have two helicopters, one that CP Communications provides and one that is provided by WABC for the pre-show. The WABC helicopter does the pre-show and then refuels and then the CP helicopter takes over at the top of the show. But that chopper was fogged in somewhere along the Hudson, so the WABC pilot refueled as quickly as possible.”
John Tomlinson , senior overall technical manager for the NYC Marathon, says the biggest technical change this year was the move to complete IP encoding from start to finish. The six camerabikes that play such a big role in the production used CP bonded cellular systems to capture the camera signals and then send them to Verizon fiber circuits that transported the signals back to the compound.
“I don’t think we had more than a half dozen dropouts over the whole course which is super,” says Tomlinson.
Foremaster says that in the past there have been as many as eight bikes on the course, but they were cut back to six as the number of on-course reporters were cut back due to COVID concerns.
Adds Tomlinson: “We did have three remote locations on the course, one in Brooklyn, one on First Avenue in Manhattan and one in the Bronx. They had two cameras that again came back on IP circuits.”
At the start line in State Island NEP had its Atlantic truck operating in remi mode, with camera signals sent back to the main compound. All signals from the course first hit the CP Communications truck in the compound which turned the IP signals into HD SDI for distribution via the NEP ESU unit.
“It assembled the audio and video signals and correctly embedded the audio for each path which then went to Supershooter 16, or the ABC show where the world feed was done,” adds Tomlinson. ABC also edits a show for later playback.
The finish line featured 11 handheld Sony cameras and with coverage beginning at Columbus Circle and then the turn down inside the park and up and down the hills before the final push. Foremaster and Tomlinson joke that once again camera 31 was deployed but remained unused. Why? It shoots across the finish line and is in place for a photo finish which has yet to occur.
“The marathon is a show that we’ve been building over the years, and it has a whole lot of pieces and a certain group of people that know where all those pieces are and what they’re doing,” says Tomlinson.