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MLS 2021 Preview: Fox Sports, Univision's TUDN To Deliver Matches Remotely, Deploy Miked-Up Coaches and AR Graphics; ESPN Increases Coverage on ESPN+

16/04/2021

MLS 2021 Preview: Fox Sports, Univision's TUDN To Deliver Matches Remotely, Deploy Miked-Up Coaches and AR Graphics; ESPN Increases Coverage on ESPN ESPN's MLS coverage will include 32 Spanish-language broadcasts By Kristian Hernandez, Associate Editor

Friday, April 16, 2021 - 12:09 pm

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After an abrupt halt to the MLS's 25th season, an Orlando-based bubble hosting the MLS Is Back Tournament, and resumption of play that ended in the coronation of the Columbus Crew as champions, Major League Soccer will return to the spotlight this weekend. The three main broadcasters - Fox Sports, Univision, and ESPN - will rely on remote production, technologies like miked-up coaches and AR graphics, and assistance from league and team officials to provide a safe working environment for small onsite crews.

All-In on Remote: Workflows in L.A., Miami Power MLS Productions Fox Sports and Univision will each have its own set of remote-production workflows for the season's first couple of weeks. Because the COVID-19 pandemic is still discouraging long-distance travel of a large group of people, only a small crew will be onsite for each broadcaster. For Fox Sports' Home Run Production, control rooms located at the Pico facility in Los Angeles will be the main hub of MLS efforts.

Fox Sports will use control rooms in its Los Angeles facility for Home Run Production of MLS matches.

First and foremost, says Zac Kenworthy, lead producer, Fox Soccer, Fox Sports, we're still in the mode of protecting our production staff and finding ways within our confines to push the envelope. There are very stringent COVID-19 protocols that affect the number of people we can have down by the field.

This seems to be the safest, most logical way to begin the new schedule. With continued vaccination efforts signaling the gradual end to the pandemic, the broadcaster's strategy can be adapted depending on the national number of COVID-19 cases. According to Kenworthy, if the trajectory remains positive, a large-scale onsite operation could commence for high-profile matches.

We're pushing towards the backend of the year during that final push in August, September, and October and into the playoffs, he adds. We're going to pick and choose our moments.

Univision's TUDN, the Spanish-language destination for MLS supporters in the U.S., will follow the same production model. Continuing down the remote-workflow path the broadcaster blazed six years ago, crews of 14-15 individuals will be centralized in its Miami facility to handle the season's 25 matches across multiple platforms. The crews -TDs, directors, EVS replay operators, audio technicians - will be situated not only in traditional control rooms but also in conference rooms that the network transformed into working spaces at the beginning of the pandemic.

We are going to implement the same concept of remote productions, says Miguel Angel Garcia, SVP, live events, TUDN. This works for us and also helps us a lot with identifying our team of freelancers that are going to be on location.

Unique Techniques: Real-Time Interviews, AR Promise Different Fan Experience A new season on the pitch means the return of breathtaking technologies. Augmented reality, for example, has taken the soccer world by storm in recent years. Univision has been devoted to bringing a new-age graphics package to life on all of its soccer properties, both in Liga MX in Mexico and throughout its coverage of MLS. AR, especially the broadcaster's teleportation concept, will continue to be a staple of studio programming that airs before, during, and after each contest.

Univision's Miami facility will be at the center of its remote productions for the MLS season.

[AR graphics will] be a part of our look and feel within the studio, says Garcia, and we'll continue to use teleportation a lot more. We're getting better by adding two or three cameras, [which will] be used throughout the full broadcast.

Matches on TUDN will leverage a total of 12 cameras, headlined by a Pico robotic camera with super-slow-motion capability behind the net. The combination of double-digit cameras and AR implementation is a sign of Univision's commitment to the game and to giving fans a high-quality product.

A lot of broadcasters are scaling back, says Garcia, but our plan is going to be very solid. We definitely want to maintain our consistency.

Fox Sports will roll with seven manned camera positions at each game, including an aerial camera system for the first match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. This complement will capture the action on the pitch and also help implement an innovation that provided extra insight into tactics during the MLS Is Back Tournament: real-time interviews with miked-up coaches. For interviews normally reserved for stoppages in play, head coaches will don headsets during the course of the game to provide additional context on the team's mentality and major moments of the match. Fox will position the equipment on the other side of the pitch to present a clear shot of the participating coach.

I think [these interviews] bring a level of unpredictability and excitement to the fan at home, says Kenworthy. It'll give us a really cool look with the players in front of the coaches while we're talking to them.

Another deployment that has caught the attention of sports fans has been the Megalodon, the live mirrorless camera system that has been used on the network's NFL, MLB, NASCAR, and college-basketball properties. Coverage of Liga MX is the most recent use of the technology. Without sideline access because of COVID protocols, the Megalodon will not be featured at the beginning of the MLS season, but, if conditions improve, it'll be one
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2021/04/16/mls-2021-preview-fox-sports-uni...
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