Live From World Baseball Classic: Fox Sports Gets “Down and Dirty” With Onfield Studio Set at loanDepot Park
Broadcaster adds three cameras to two-camera world feed production
As the main outlet of the World Baseball Classic in the United States, Fox Sports will bring a wrinkle of their coverage typically reserved for the MLB Postseason and the World Series to the global stage. Adding to their tech arsenal for the game production, the broadcaster is setting the table for Tuesday night’s championship between the U.S. and Japan with a mobile studio desk on the dirt of loanDepot Park in Miami.
“We used this setup for the World Series in Houston, and it’s a lot easier to do since it requires less labor,” says Francisco Contreras, director, field operations, Fox Sports. “If we were to do a real desk, we would have to build a structure and added another 50 people to our crew.”
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Prior to the announcement that Fox Sports would become the broadcaster for viewers in the United States, the broadcaster used this time to get ready for the upcoming regular season. After Fox Sports secured these media rights, Contreras and his operations team got to work right away to devise a production plan that was appropriate for the tournament.
“Back in November when we had our first call, we weren’t sure right away what our plans were going to be,” he says. “Having MLB Network take care of everything for us has been a huge help, and us being here for the 2017 MLB All-Star Game made it easier with logistics and getting our studio set.”
Without previous knowledge of how these games were produced, Fox Sports tapped any available experience and lessons to prepare themselves. With MLB Network’s world-feed model in full effect, the crew harkened back to what they learned during the COVID-19-impacted season three years ago. That included supplementing MLB Network’s infrastructure with cameras and workflows of their own and pairing their onsite presence of 90 employees with a 30-staffer crew at their headquarters in Los Angeles. These Home Run Productions are led by VP, Field Operations and Engineering, Brad Cheney; Director, Remote Operations, Phil Abrahams; and Technical Producer TJ Scanlon.
“Since we started doing the world feed mode [back in 2020], we knew this was going to be a bit easier to do,” continues Contreras. “We only have two cameras per game — a high first and a high third — but for the championship game, we’re adding a low first, a low third, and an additional handheld.”
These technologies are meshing well with the energetic and high-intensity atmosphere that fans are bringing. From Contreras’ point of view, it’s a more than decent way to kick off their main game production of this jewel event.
“With this being our first one, it’s pretty electric,” he admits. “I was sitting in the crowd for the Venezuela-U.S. game, and you don’t really see that type of crowd in the MLB postseason. It’s been unique and pretty amazing.”
Home in Foul Territory: Studio Crew Constructs Mobile Set Near First Base
On the studio production side, the remote studio operations team is going mobile for the WBC title game. Unlike Fox Sports’ infrastructure for studio programming at last year’s MLB at Field of Dreams game, the network is opting for a more lightweight solution to their onsite studio kit. The three-camera set is being produced onsite via Game Creek Video’s B4 truck in the compound. To pull off this endeavor, the crew is working inside a small area of foul territory next to first base and the parameters of a hectic pregame schedule. For example, the team only has a short window of five minutes to clean up their footprint during the last commercial break before first pitch.
“We’re working within a very tight schedule with both teams’ fielding and batting practices,” says Rob Mikulicka, director, remote studio operations, Fox Sports. “We’re finding ways to fit segments in and work alongside the crews at MLB, the Miami Marlins, and the World Baseball Classic.”
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Fox Sports’ effort to bring their studio show on the road has immediate benefits: it’s heightening the importance of their coverage of the WBC, but also offering valuable experience for future productions in 2023. Not only will this be prevalent for the broadcaster’s coverage of July’s MLB All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, but this strategy will come in handy for the two-game MLB London Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs on June 24-25 at London Stadium.
“We’re planning for this to be the same desk that we use in London,” adds Mikulicka. “This has been great to do in Miami, so we’ll continue to work on our timing for events happening this summer.”
Coverage of the 2023 World Baseball Classic Championship between the United States and Japan begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on FS1.