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NBA Finals 2024: ESPN Rolls Out Skycam, Shallow Depth of Field, Live Drone in Both Boston and Dallas

06/06/2024

NBA Finals 2024: ESPN Rolls Out Skycam, Shallow Depth of Field, Live Drone in Both Boston and Dallas ESPN is using Game Creek Video trucks in Boston and NEP facilities in Dallas By Jason Dachman, Editorial Director, U.S.

Thursday, June 6, 2024 - 3:51 pm

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With its biggest NBA production of the season set to tip off tonight in Boston, ESPN's operations team has taken full advantage of the extended 10-day break it was gifted between the Eastern Conference Finals and Game 1 of the NBA Finals tonight. In both Boston and Dallas, ESPN not only has sprawling production compounds at the arena but will also deploy a Skycam, RF shallow-depth-of-field camera, and live drone as part of its arsenal of cameras and technology.

ESPN's ops team in Boston: (from left) Luis Manuel Lopez, Christine Rouskas, Kelley Nagi, Eddie Okuno, Tommy Clark, Paul Kucharski

It's always an honor to cover history, says Eddie Okuno, senior remote operations specialist, ESPN. The NBA Finals are truly history-making. What's going to be documented here will live on forever, and our team is ready for it. It has been a long journey this season, and we all feel very privileged to be here.

A Tale of Two Compounds: Game Creek in Boston, NEP in Dallas In Boston, ESPN has rolled out Game Creek Video Varsity A and B mobile units for its main game production and Spirit A and B units. Game Creek Gotham is on hand for the broadcaster's studio shows, including tonight's NBA Finals Special edition of the NBA Countdown pregame shows (as well as halftime and postgame shows) for each game, NBA Today weekday show, and Hoop Streams digital pregame show (on YouTube, Facebook, and the ESPN App).

Game Creek Video trucks will house ESPN/ABC game and studio operations.

In Boston, ESPN oversaw construction of the 65,000-sq.-ft. compound, which is driven by CES Power and located in the Mass General Hospital parking lot adjacent to TD Garden. In addition to ESPN's facilities, the compound houses the NBA world-feed production operating out of Mobile TV Group 39 FLEX (MTVG's Edge live-production suite is handling the commissioner's press conference) and NBA TV's Live at the Finals productions out of NEP Pegasus.

We have a lot of familiarity [putting on NBA Finals] in Boston dating back to the late 2000s, says Okuno. We've built a great relationship with both the Celtics and the TD Garden folks. Because of that relationship, we were able to secure the Mass General Hospital lot, and it has been our home for big events like this for many years. It has been a real team effort to get it all done, and we're very thankful for the entire team in Boston.

NEP Pegasus in on hand in Boston for NBA TV.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, ESPN is deploying NEP EN1 A, B, C, D, and E units (the broadcaster's Monday Night Football trucks) for the game production and NEP NCPII (along with the Beta flexible B unit) for studio shows and robotic-camera operations.

[The ops team] started loading in on Monday in Dallas, says Okuno. If the Stars had ended up having a Game 7 [in the NHL Western Conference Finals], they would not have been able to start until Wednesday. I have to shout out the NHL folks and ESPN's NHL ops people for working so closely with us while on overlap planning [in case the Stars made the Stanley Cup Final]. We all knew we were headed for a collision, but everyone was on the same page, and we were ready for whatever happened.

MTVG 39 Flex serves as the NBA world-feed truck.

Spare No Cameras: Three Have Virtual-Graphics Overlay Capability ESPN has deployed a total of 45 cameras in Boston (with similar plans for Dallas) for its 1080p SDR production. The complement is headlined by a trio of cameras with full AR/virtual-graphics overlay capabilities: the Skycam system (with integrated SkyTrax data), RF shallow-depth-of-field roving handheld (provided by AVS and FACTION Media), and a live drone outside the arena (provided by Disney's in-house drone team).

Skycam features Skytrax data enhanced with AR/VR/MR overlay.

The shallow-depth-of-field RF camera has virtual-graphics capability, and AVS has a two-way transmitter that gives the operator a real-time return, says Okuno. That way, the camera operator can see the positioning of those graphics as they frame the shot. You've got to see that positioning, or you're running blind out there.

In addition, NEP's Fletcher has positioned Antelope Nucleus 4K high-frame-rate robos (with PTZ cutout/zoom capabilities) as Below the Rim (BTR) cameras under each basket.

Fletcher used it on the [NCAA Men's] Final Four and brought it to our attention, says Okuno. We were impressed with it and now have put our own spin on it. It has worked out really well. It provides some great super- slo-mo looks from that low floor center-basket position.

Fletcher Nucleus camera in basket stanchion cutout

ESPN will have a whopping 16 high-frame-rate cameras in both cities, largely Sony HDC-5500's (with Canon 122X lenses) operating at a mix of 4X and 6X slo-mo. Fletcher also has plenty of robos on hand, including its typical Above the Rim (ATR) cameras on each basket.

At this point, our Finals-level show is pretty much the same as the Conference Finals, says Okuno. We do that so everyone can get up to speed for a show of this size and with this many cameras. We get all the kinks out so that, by the time we get NBA Finals, we're 100% ready to go and have everything dialed in. Our confidence level is very high because we know the technology has all been ironed out in advance.

ESPN has also enlisted a crew equipped with a TVU wireless camera/transmission system to capture live shots in and around the arena, the game, the pregame show, Hoop Streams, and the Kevin Hart altcast scheduled for
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2024/06/06/nba-finals-2024-espn-rolls-out-...
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