Live from NBA All-Star 2022: Live Player Mics, Canon Viewpoint Make the Big Game More Immersive
A large mix of vendors are supporting a variety of events all weekend
The 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend is set to tip off later today, but it’s on Sunday night when the innovations will come fast and furious. It will be the first NBA All-Star Game to feature live miking of players and coaches (with a 10-second delay and three NBA personnel monitoring), a live drone inside Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, and the Canon Viewpoint system giving a whole new look to replays. Oh, and let’s not forget a separate broadcast on TBS called Inside the All-Star Game, anchored by its Inside the NBA crew of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green will also contribute to the TBS telecast from the sidelines.
“There is a ton of anticipation going into the weekend from the standpoint of production because production is going full force and pushing the limits on everything,” says Chris Brown, VP, operations and technology, Turner Sports. “That positive energy from production and their willingness to continue to create and innovate is definitely in the air. And couple that with the fact that we’re fortunate enough that the NBA is working with us to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the league, and it just makes it super exciting.”
The innovation begins tonight with the Rising Stars Game at Rocket Mortgage. The three-game tournament this year features four teams, each drafted by a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team: Rick Barry, Gary Payton, Isaiah Thomas, and James Worthy.
“The new iteration means a new technology stack for how the graphics are presented,” says Brown. “We’re working with Mixon Digital, who basically does the lion’s share of in-venue graphical presentation, and, with the new format, it made sense to work with them on stats and data. They will generate the information that we need for our graphics, and we’re loading that into the template they’re creating. It’s going to create a very cool graphics representation.”
Also today, the Canon Viewpoint system will get a tryout. The system comprises 100 Canon cameras and lenses placed around the arena to capture the action from all angles. The system synthesizes the images and allows for a virtual camera to fly through the space and create replays from virtually any angle.
“It’s going to be used during Rising Stars,” says Brown, “so we can see what it can really do and see if we can build it into the Saturday show.”
Saturday afternoon will see the addition of a new event: the NBA HBCU Classic, to be played at the Wolstein Center and featuring Morgan State and Howard University. That game will be carried by both ESPN and Turner Sports.
“There was a lot of collaboration with ESPN on the operations side,” says Brown. “We will take over the Game Creek Spirit truck that is doing the celebrity game and then flip it from 720p to 1080i. We’ll build the graphics for the show in the B unit and finish the setup. It should be a good game, and we’re excited about it. ESPN and Game Creek have been good partners.”
All-Star Saturday Night
All-Star Saturday Night returns with the bells and whistles launched last year: for example, the Canon EOS C500 with a fixed 50mm lens, which can be swapped out for a 24-70mm lens.
“That is definitely coming back,” says Brown. “We’ll also have another Steadicam, which will give us four this year, not including rigs for entertainment. We’ve added a wireless super-slo-mo camera on a Steadicam for Saturday night and are hoping to get some really compelling images for replay.”
A C360 camera will be built into the bottom of the stanchion to capture wide images allowing for zoom and video grabs for replay.
“The production team has been playing around with it in rehearsals,” says Brown, “and I think there’s an opportunity to catch some really compelling images from that camera.”
Mixon Digital will also be involved with All-Star Saturday Night, its system ingesting all the scoring data for the in-arena videoboards. “We’ll leverage that and reformat it for our telecast graphic look,” adds Brown.
NEP Supershooter 24 will handle All-Star Saturday night; NEP EN1 is handling Rising Stars Challenge and the All-Star Game. NEP NCP 11 unit is handling the studio show (NEP Supershooter 32 was onsite Thursday for the NBA on TNT broadcast from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), and Supershooter 16 is doing the entertainment portions of the weekend.
Signal distribution is being handled via an IP core in NEP Supershooter CBS.
“NEP has handed out 23 IP gateways to distribute video,” says Brown, “and that has tremendously decreased the number of fibers we need to connect the compound to the venue IO panel. We need only three or four fibers to handle 200 video paths vs. 20 or 30 fibers.”
Inside the All-Star Game Production
Sunday night will see the biggest leap in production innovations at an All-Star Game in quite some time. For the first time ever, there will be live player and coach mics.
“The goal is to lean into those, lay out, and listen to what they’re saying on the court,” says Brown. “There will be three NBA screeners listening to the microphones, and production will get their prompts from them.”
The simulcast broadcast on Sunday night will also liven things up, with one of the industry’s best studio teams opining on the game, the players, and anything else that strikes their fancy.
“The Inside crew are basically going to spin around on the set and give a reflective look on the All-Star Game,” says Brown. “Green will have a wireless headset, and the studio production team will produce the TBS simulcast, which should be very compelling.”
That feed will also be produced out of NCP11 with Supershooter 24 handling audio with a submix of the player mics laying the foundation for Johnson and the rest of the crew (a Shure array microphone will help capture audio). A robotic camera mounted on one of the backboards will be used to shoot the talent when they are facing the court.
“It’s mounted in an unusual place, on top of the 24-second clock, so that it can shoot the stage when the talent is turned away from the studio-show cameras,” says Brown. “We’ll also do a live drone flight with Kaze Aerial Production for the studio show. We’re pretty excited about that as well.”
A total of 65 cameras will be used over the three days, including two Jitacam telescoping cameras, a Fletcher pan-bar system, a Skycam, and even a 5G-powered camera.
The EVS server network has been expanded up to 30, a move that gives the production team in Cleveland and also back home in Atlanta access to everything they need. Bleacher Report, a big part of Turner’s social activations, is calling Lyon Video Lyon-3 home in the compound and will also have access to those calips.
“A lot of live Twitter activations are going to take place from inside the arena and will be managed out of that truck,” says Brown. “A byproduct of all of our groups meshing together is, their support level for these events goes off the chart so they will also be over at Ingenuity Cleveland. And they have access to the full resources we put into this place, and that will make for a stronger event for them as they will hopefully have fewer hurdles and can elevate the product.”
The Turner editing team in Atlanta will also be able to take advantage of that network.
“In the past,” says Brown, “we have had 12 editors onsite. This year, we have only three, but the others back home can have all the content we’re generating on the EVS network. We’re working with THUMBWAR on that, and [THUMBWAR VP, Engineering,] Trevor Carlson, is managing the network.”
“We continue to build our relationship with Firehouse, who is still managing all of our arena wireless-audio needs with the exception of the studio show,” he notes. “And AVS has a lot of wireless as well; NEP has obviously provided the majority of our facilities. When the NFL shifted the schedule by a week [NEP Broadcast Services, VP, Engineering and Operations,] Jason Honkus and the NEP engineering team went straight to work, trying to figure out what the next solution was gonna be. We originally were supposed to use NEP ND1, and they came up with Supershooter CBS as the core, developed a plan, and executed it.”
Some of the technology has changed, as have some of the people, with new tech managers involved. As usual, the All-Star Weekend is an All-Star list of technology providers.
Brown notes that this year’s lineup represents the largest mix of vendors he has ever worked with at All-Star. Besides THUMBWAR, NEP, Game Creek, and Kaze Aerial, Lyon Video’s Lyon-15 unit is supporting NBA TV’s media-availability needs, and CP Communications is also involved with Turner’s efforts.
Brown credits the foundation of the All-Star event, which was built over years and years, making it easy to expand offerings and bring in new people and technology: “I give a big tip of the hat to those who built the foundational process of the show so that, as we add things, we can tweak them but the foundation is still the same. That makes it easier to bring new people in as we have a tried-and-true process we have executed year after year after year.”