4K For Coach K: ESPN Throws Massive Farewell for Legendary Duke Coach’s Final Home Game at Cameron Indoor Stadium
A 30-camera, native 4K game production, as well as College GameDay and ACC Network studio shows are all on site in Durham
When Mike Krzyzewski stepped onto the floor of Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time as the head coach of the Duke University men’s basketball, it was on November 30, 1980 in a 67-49 win over Stetson. The game wasn’t televised.
It will feel a little bit different on Saturday as ESPN will offer wall-to-wall coverage of the iconic coach’s final home game. From College GameDay to a native 4K* broadcast of the Blue Devils’ matchup with arch-rival North Carolina (6 p.m. ET, ESPN), to an alternate “MegaCast” viewing option on ACC Network, the “Worldwide Leader” is leaving no corner of Cameron untouched in what it’s calling its “largest men’s College Basketball telecast ever.”
“It’s a once in a lifetime moment for us,” says ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer David Ceisler. “It’s an exciting thing to have the opportunity to present this game. We’ve been working all season for this game and we are going to deliver something that’s going to be really special.”
A Game Production for the Ages
ESPN was just over a year old at the time of Coach K’s arrival at Duke. It was on December 5, 1979 when the emerging cable network first produced a live college basketball game broadcast – a matchup between Wisconsin and DePaul. You could say that ESPN and “Coach K” have grown up together. So, its fitting that more than 41 years later that it’s the ESPN juggernaut that’s here to celebrate this momentous finale with a production compound of eight trucks and an on-site crew of more than 200 staffers.
ESPN is preparing a fully-native 4K show that includes a whopping 33 game cameras. The arsenal features a two-point cabled aerial camera system (SupraCam) that’s rigged to fly above the “Cameron Crazies,” nine Fletcher robotic cameras, a shallow-depth-of-field handheld rig (the operator will use a Sony A1 camera with a 50mm prime lens on a DJI OSMO gimbal), a full-sensor Sony HDC-4800 camera at a slash position with a FUJINON SK 20×35 full-sensor Cinema Box lens shooting primarily shallow depth-of-field shots of Coach K on the sidelines (the same setup used last season on Monday Night Football), a live drone flying outside the building, and much more.
The 4K game broadcast will be produced out of Lyon Video’s Lyon 14, which is the same unit that supported ESPN’s weekly 4K game during the college football season. The game broadcast will be feature a front bench of producer Eric Mosley, director Mike Roig, and technical director (TD) Jack Kramer. Associate Director is Susan Pierce and the broadcast is actually utilizing two iso producers to support the game’s needs: Kevin Clark and Kyle Brown.
While a load of attention will be on the main of the hour, Ceisler notes that, at the end of the day, the crew still holds the all-important duty of serving the game first; a game that just so happens to be a matchup between two legendary rivals, each with 20+ wins this season.
“I think if we don’t properly document the game, then we’re in the wrong business,” says Ceisler. “I really do and I think Coach K would be the first one to say that, too. So we want to cover it properly: the right replays, the right commentary that we want within a broadcast. Within that, were we able to create some of emotion, transport viewers into the history, the people, the achievements, the milestones, and the trajectory of Coach K, then I’ll be really happy.”
#CoachK’s Day, ESPN has it covered
— ESPN Front Row (@ESPNFrontRow) March 4, 2022
The Opportunities – and Challenges – of Cameron
As anyone who has worked or attended a Duke basketball game at Cameron Indoor will tell you, it’s an experience unlike anything else in sports. It’s big time college basketball in a venue smaller than most high school gyms. So for the ESPN operations team, it wasn’t as simple as “big show = more resources.” The cozy confines required the ops team headed up by Operations Specialist Michael Sullivan, Operations Manager Catherine Carroon, and Operations Coordinator Tatianna Montalvo to get creative in its planning.
The limited space means finding more spots for cameras like robotics and the SupraCam, which was actually used here once before for a Duke-UNC game in 2019. Sullivan notes that this time around the SupraCam does have more “Z space” mobility, meaning that it can raise and lower in addition to track left to right.
“Since this is such a tight arena, we had to figure out different ways of adding cameras and resources,” says Sullivan. “It’s not like we can just go add a traditional camera position and a camera body. It has to be more robotics and aerial cameras.”
In fact, space is at such a premium that only three of the nine Fletcher robos in the venue will be operated in the building. The other six were outboarded to the nearby Wallace Wade Stadium, the home field for the Duke football team. Those six operators are working out of an announce booth there with the ops team cross-patching fiber from that booth down to the truck dock and out to the camera units themselves in the arena.
“Cameron is a leading character in this play,” says Ceisler, who has overseen the network’s college basketball efforts over the past eight years. “It’s the size of the building, where the camera platforms go, the egress. It creates challenges, but at the same time, it’s a unique building that creates opportunities. The intimacy that it gives us, it will never feel vanilla. It always feels like it looks like the coolest place to go see a game. We want to just take that and put it a little bit on steroids this weekend.”
Surrounded: Studio Shows and and Alternate Viewing Option
As noted, ESPN’s efforts extend far beyond the impressive live game production. Setup has been going on on the Durham campus all week with SportsCenter taking live hits on Thursday and Friday and both ESPN College GameDay and ACC Network broadcasting live studio shows from in and around Cameron Indoor on Saturday.
GameDay is set up to broadcast from four unique set positions throughout the day. A GameDay set is positioned outside of Cameron Indoor and will work with the famous “Krzyzewskiville” as its backdrop. The tent community where undergraduate students line up in hopes of their chances of gaining a seat to the game will be the backdrop as GameDay does hits leading up to Saturday. Then, on Saturday, the two-hour broadcast (which begins at 10 a.m. ET) will bounce back and forth between the primary GameDay set on Coach K Court inside Cameron to the outdoor set, which will rotate 180 degrees to put the arena as the backdrop. In addition, there’s a set inside the arena tucked in a corner that will serve as the desk for GameDay in pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage.
ACC Network is also here in Durham with an outdoor set with the front steps to Cameron as its backdrop. ACCN’s Nothing But Net pregame coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. ET.
In the compound, College Gameday is supported by Game Creek Maverick, while the ACC studio efforts are being run from Live Mobile Group’s LMG HDX-10.
There’s also the alternate viewing option of the live game called Coach K Curtain Call that will air on the ACC Network as a companion experience to the game. That show is being produced from Duke University’s on-campus control room and will be produced by the team at Blue Devil Network, which is headed up by Executive Director of Blue Devil Network Dave Harding and Director of Live Events and ACC Network Chad Lampman.
The Coach K Curtain Call “MegaCast” has three exclusive cameras on its own on the floor, in addition to full access to all of the camera feeds and audio resources of the main game telecast. They also have their own 4 replay servers to utilize in the Duke-operated control room.
*The game broadcast of North Carolina vs. Duke on Saturday will be available in 4K on DIRECTV, Comcast, YouTube TV and Verizon FiOS.