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MLB Postseason: ESPN Modifies REMI Model To Produce Up to 21 Wild Card Games in Four Days

29/09/2020

MLB Postseason: ESPN Modifies REMI Model To Produce Up to 21 Wild Card Games in Four Days ESPN to present Squeeze Play, the first live MLB whiparound show By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 - 3:36 pm

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Today, ESPN and ABC kick off an unprecedented run of MLB postseason games, with exclusive rights to seven of the eight Wild Card series and as many as 21 games in four days. It's a tall order and one that would not have been possible if it weren't for the modified REMI production model ESPN cultivated during this year's shortened regular season.

Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez and Tim Kurkjian call an MLB regular-season game remotely. (Photo: Kelly Backus/ESPN Images)

Over the past two months, ESPN has been taking clean feeds from the home team's RSN for all weekday MLB games and producing the final telecast out of control rooms at its Bristol, CT, or Charlotte, NC, facilities - a model it will continue to deploy for this week's Wild Card Series.

When ESPN secured the rights to seven of the eight [Wild Card series], says Paul Horrell, remote operations manager, ESPN, it was a bit of a head scratcher in terms of how we were going to do all these games. But I think the work we did this season has really paid off. Given the logistics required for travel and the sheer volume of games, it was a no-brainer to use the same weekday-game model that we've been using all season. We tweaked the model, but that was definitely the only way we were going to be able to manage [potentially] 21 games over four days.

At the Ballparks: Leveraging RSN Crew, Trucks Onsite Alex Rodriguez and Matt Vasgersian handle play-by-play for MLB Opening Day game from a studio in Bristol. (Photo: Kelly Backus/ESPN Images)

To pull off series in Minneapolis, Oakland, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, San Diego, and Los Angeles, ESPN has enlisted the same producer/director teams, largely similar production crews, and the same mobile units used by the RSNs in the respective markets. The fleet of mobile units consists of Mobile TV Group's HDX35, HDX36, 43Flex, and HDX26; NEP's M11 and M12; and Lyon Video's MU6.

During non-exclusive weekday games this season, the home team's RSN provided ESPN with a clean world feed and supplied two unilateral cameras that ESPN could integrate into its final telecast (exclusive Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts were full REMI operations this year, with all camera feeds going to Bristol). However, since ESPN is the exclusive broadcaster of these Wild Card Series, the production crews are tailoring their coverage specifically for ESPN. Production teams inside the truck will receive net return, control-room return, and commentary from the home control room and will be in direct communication with ESPN's producer/director in Bristol or Charlotte.

Remote control room during the MLB regular season (Photo: Kelly Backus/ESPN Images)

In the regular season, explains Phil Orlins, senior coordinating producer, Major League Baseball, ESPN, we would take a world feed and enhance it with two of our own cameras. But here they will be [creating the world feed] just for us. They get our commentary, our network return, and our control-room return feeds back to site so they can see what we're doing and hear our commentators. They will also be [in communication] directly with our producer and director in Bristol so they are synced up and working together.

ESPN has authorized a modest increase in the production capacity for each of the local clean feeds, boosting camera counts from typically seven or eight cameras (plus the visiting RSN/national-broadcast unilaterals) to a standard of 10 hard cameras plus robos, including four super-slo-mos.

Back Home in Bristol and Charlotte ESPN is deploying two production-control rooms apiece in Bristol and Charlotte, each receiving five feeds from onsite: the clean feed, a backup feed, a multiview for commentators, the centerfield K-Zone camera (to produce highlight packages back home), and a roaming ad hoc camera.

Five play-by-play talent will be calling games remotely from Bristol, while all analysts will be providing commentary remotely from their respective homes using ESPN's Live From Home kits (with the exception of one, who will be in Bristol). Two production crews are scheduled to double up on games on Wednesday and Thursday, when ESPN is scheduled to televise up to seven games per day. In addition to the producer and director, graphics, scorebug, K-Zone 3D and home-tracker animations, and highlight packages will be located at the broadcast center.

Employees work in a control room during a Major League Baseball regular-season game. (Photo: Kelly Backus/ESPN Images)

With very few exceptions, we're not traveling any ESPN people to site other than the reporters, who mostly live within a few hours [of the game site], says Orlins. It's a remarkably nimble, efficient, and low-travel plan. Typically, on the final Sunday of the season, to prepare for the tiebreaker game and one playoff game, the number of people working, traveling, and dealing with logistics is just crazy. But, Sunday night, we had the games set around 9:00, and, by 10:30, the plan was done.

Since ESPN holds exclusive rights to the Wild Card series, all games will also feature virtual-ad insertion with two systems in Bristol and two at ESPN's Seaport Studios in NYC.

ESPN Goes Full RedZone With Squeeze Play Wednesday, Thursday ESPN MLB reporter Buster Olney is among the few crew members onsite for games this season. (Photo: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

This week will also see ESPN 's first live MLB whiparound show, Squeeze Play, on both Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Commentators Jason Benetti, Kyle Peterson, and Mike Petriello (who will also call MLB Statcast-dri
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2020/09/29/mlb-postseason-espn-deploys-mod...
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