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2019 NBA Summer League, Part 1: The League Heads for the Next Technological Frontier


2019 NBA Summer League, Part 1: The League Heads for the Next Technological Frontier The legacy of continuing innovation rolls on in Las Vegas By Kristian Hernandez, Assistant Editor

Friday, July 12, 2019 - 11:09 am

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Every summer, the best amateur basketball players on the planet become instant superstars after being selected in the annual NBA Draft. Some who go undrafted make their presence felt moving forward. Whether you wore an expensive suit and celebrated in the green room of the Barclays Center or were dejected after your name didn't flash on the big board, it's time to go to work in the NBA Summer League. While these players strive to create a reputation in The Association, the NBA is extending its own legacy, pushing the boundaries of technology and laying operational groundwork for years to come.

A camera operator 10 rows from the sideline will record a seated angle from courtside.

Last year, [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver declared open season for testing, says Steve Hellmuth, EVP, media operations and technology, NBA Entertainment. We work in a unique partnership with Turner Sports and ESPN. We work together on things, so we share innovation, cameras, ideas, and meetings with vendors. It's a large technical summit that is completely dedicated to basketball. The equipment gets put into place, used, reviewed, and discussed from a league perspective of how these cameras can work in the venues and what we can do to move forward together.


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Las Vegas comes with many freedoms and liberties on its own. At the Summer League, the league takes the motto of free will and runs with it. Having seen astronomical strides in creativity at last year's edition, the NBA has leeway throughout the 83-game schedule, which is spread over 11 days.

Fletcher cameras amongst the crowd will be handled with the help of a pan-bar.

As a broadcaster setting something up at a venue, you simply don't get enough reps: once the game happens, the game's over, says Hellmuth. At the Summer League, it's a unique experience because the Thomas & Mack Center is close to NBA specifications. If something doesn't work, we have another game coming up in minutes where we can fix it and move forward. We [also] schedule games that don't make it to air anywhere, so they are purely for testing. We have established a platform, truck, and facility where we can fail but pick ourselves up and try again.

While the league is spearheading initiatives to implement and test, the teams beneath the NBA umbrella are following suit.

It's great to see video coordinators or team [staffers] sitting on the bench and learning, he says. Every one of our teams get a big promotion during the Summer League, and it's always fun and exciting to watch.

Broadcasters are doing their due diligence as well. According to a Turner Sports spokesperson, the network is developing a new shot-clock graphic that will reside on the hardwood floor.

Cameras Above, Below, and Somewhere in the Middle

The Summer League is marked by an updated camera complement as well as the NBA's ambition to make the viewer feel at home courtside. This year, the technical team is deploying a multitude of aerial, robotic, and handheld cameras to achieve that goal. Within the stands, a handheld operator will be positioned at a semi-low angle to provide the unique vantage point that can be experienced only by a spectator onsite.

We're putting someone in a seat that is about midway between the foul line and baseline, and the camera is going to be operated from the person's lap, says Hellmuth. We'll be able to get a perfect view as if you were sitting on the 25-yard line at a football game. We've seen that shot on social media over and over again. It's a beautiful shot.

About 10 rows back and 15 ft. higher, a Fletcher robo is situated to capture a similar angle and is operated with the assistance of a pan-bar for normal functionality.

From the air, the league has installed three types of robotic aerial camera systems that can be used for any given game and can even be used as the main camera feed for some of the games.

The Spydercam offers a smoother transition and a little bit of a different look, says Hellmuth. We saw some things that ESPN executed on the ACC tournament that we thought went well. We're also looking at the Supracam, which is a two-point hanging system that has been used on a number of sports. We want to see if it could possibly be a replacement for Camera 1 or [be] the ideal camera on a reverse angle to provide full coverage for our playoff games.

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This angle of Jaxson Hayes' poster

A post shared by NBA on TNT (@nbaontnt) on Jul 9, 2019 at 11:47am PDT


Lastly, a 16 ft. JitaCam is placed under the belly of the centerhung scoreboard for the telecasts on NBA TV.

[The JitaCam] can occupy a space that even the Spydercam can't get to, notes Hellmuth. It's something that WarnerMedia is considering for the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago, so we're going to test it out here and see if it works.

Heightened Emphasis on Vertical Video

With a large youth demographic, the league is continuing its efforts experimenting with vertical video. After last year's incarnation saw footage begin to be presented in a 16:9 format, this iteration has made significant steps in producing vertical content in a live environment.

The league is testing vertical video to develop a sneak preview of ongoing games.

The experiment this year with vertical view was to see if we could
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