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WNBA Finals 2022: ESPN Covers Cross-Country Series With Deep Storylines, Top-Line Tech


WNBA Finals 2022: ESPN Covers Cross-Country Series With Deep Storylines, Top-Line Tech Whether Las Vegas Ace or Connecticut Sun, it will be the team's first title By Kristian Hern ndez, Senior Editor

Thursday, September 15, 2022 - 11:38 am

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The Las Vegas Aces are one win away from clinching the franchise's first WNBA title. Facing off against the Connecticut Sun, also vying for their first championship, Sin City could clinch a three-game sweep in Connecticut tonight at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. From start to finish, the network has been with the league to tell the tale of this championship series.

This is a pretty significant production, says Michael Sullivan, lead remote operations specialist, ESPN. We're at an NBA Finals-level in terms of cameras and resources. There are important stories to tell, and our company has bought in on giving us the tools to do it properly.

Seeing in AR: New Technologies Include Virtual Graphics on a Handheld Camera Looking to evolve coverage of the WNBA Finals year after year, the ESPN operations team is infusing new technologies into the production. One of the main highlights so far is virtual graphics shown through the lens of an RF M VI camera. Typically used on a stationary camera, the technique has been deployed for other major events throughout the year, including Super Bowl LVI, the Men's Final Four, and the NBA Finals. In the WNBA wrinkle, fans get a courtside view alongside the virtual graphics. To improve the viewing experience, the technology has changed throughout the course of this series.

We learned a lot from Game 1, utilized those lessons in Game 2, and decided to have it used on an RF camera [in Game 3], says Sullivan. The feedback so far has been pretty positive.

Game Creek Video Riverhawk has led the onsite production of the first two games of the 2022 WNBA Finals.

The new virtual-graphics handheld is supplemented by other cameras. As was done for the NBA Finals, the RF M VI operator is also tasked with providing cinematic shots from down on the court. Deploying either a Sony Alpha 1 or a DreamChip ATOM one, the league has allowed this camera to get on the court and walk up and down the sideline behind each bench for various shots: players walking off the floor during stoppages in play, timeouts, free throws.

We worked with Faction Media and CP Communications to come up with a unique camera and lens combination and worked with the venue to acquire the space, says Sullivan. It gives us a lot of flexibility, and, with our partnership with the WNBA, they've been forward-thinking in allowing us to try out new things.

Enhancements to the WNBA Finals complement include a robotic camera installed at each end of the scorers table. Initially tested during the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game in Chicago, these robos have become the main source of isolated shots of Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon and Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller.

Each game is captured with more than 20 cameras, including six Fletcher robos below and above the rim, a reverse camera for player interviews and isos, super-slow-motion feeds via two Sony HDC-4300's, and in-game audio.

Across the Country: Ops Team Handles Logistical Challenges Led by Sullivan, the operations crew is responsible for serving logistical needs for a series whose venues are 2,705 miles apart. Sullivan and ESPN Remote Operations Manager Leigh Michaud have deployed a two-pronged approach. For the first two games in Las Vegas, Remote Operations Producer Alice Garrett focused on all venue- and location-specific details. In Uncasville, CT, Remote Operations Producer BJ Smith will assume the same role for tonight's game.

An RF M VI camera captures cinematic shots behind the team benches.

Game Creek Video provides a mobile unit at the respective compounds. At Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, the crew operates from Riverhawk, which arrived shortly after the Western Conference Semifinals in Seattle on Sept. 6 before WNBA Finals Game 1 on Sept. 11. Parked outside Mohegan Sun Arena is Justice, which has been in Connecticut since the Sun's series-tying win on Sept 6 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Each venue also has an Edit truck for additional support.

If the Sun are victorious this evening, the two crews will have different issues to deal with. With a potential Game 4 on Sunday, Sept. 18, Smith and company will have to disassemble their equipment to accommodate very different events at Mohegan Sun Arena - Daniel Tosh's Leaves and Lobster Tour on Sept. 16 and Il Volo Live in Concert on Sept. 17 - and reconstruct it on game day.

If the proceedings reach a winner-take-all Game 5 in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Sept. 20, Garrett and her crew will have to reassemble their equipment at a brand-new venue, MGM Grand Garden Arena. Assisting for efforts in both Las Vegas and Connecticut are Remote Operations Coordinators David Quintanilla and Jalen Taylor, handling gear shipments, equipment inventories, multisite credentialing, and hotel requests.

We've been planning for months about how we're going to get people back and forth and how we're going to support each site, says Michaud. We made sure to have two sets of equipment since we didn't know [before the end of the semifinals] if we were going to be in Seattle, Connecticut, Chicago, or Las Vegas.

On the remote side, ESPN is tapping into its REMCO (remote controlled) model for a handful of services. Located at its headquarters in Bristol, CT - 63 miles from tonight's contest - graphics operators are inserting the scorebug and implementing Vizrt's Viz Libero telestration from an offsite control room. Four EVS replay servers are working out of their home base. One of the broadcaster's biggest remote lifts is a REMI produc
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