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Live From the NBA Draft: ESPN Follows Future Stars in Green Room to Backstage With RailCam, Post-Pick Cam


Live From the NBA Draft: ESPN Follows Future Stars in Green Room to Backstage With RailCam, Post-Pick Cam A four-point camera system also flew overhead at the Barclays Center By Kristian Hernandez, Assistant Editor

Friday, June 21, 2019 - 3:35 pm

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If you're Zion Williamson, you were the first one to hit the stage and shake Commissioner Adam Silver's hand at the 2019 NBA Draft last night. From nervousness prior to selection to jubilation within the backstage pressroom, ESPN retraced the steps of Zion and the subsequent 59 picks courtesy of a RailCam, a four-point aerial camera system, dedicated RF wireless cameras, and more.

A four-point camera system hovered above the players in the green room.

The NBA is trying to enhance the player green room and where the players are going, so we're trying to do a better job covering them after they leave [the green room], says Lee Kalinsky, technical operations producer, ESPN. We can follow these players backstage [on their way to] radio interviews or whoever they're going to speak with.

The Happiest Walk of Their Lives: End-to-End Coverage

In the past, ESPN has consistently tinkered with an efficient yet intriguing way of recording the drafted player's figurative transition from amateurism to the professional ranks when his name gets called.

We've always been trying to figure out how to shoot players with regular cameras, says Kalinsky. [For prior Drafts], we put Marshall cameras in the player green room. We tried a cue ball [POV[ last year, but you don't know where everyone is going to sit.

In 2019, the network decided to deploy a wrinkle usually deployed for live sports productions. Using a technique typically reserved for basketball events, such as CBS and Turner Sports' production of the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four and the Big Ten Tournament, All Mobile Video supplied a Sony P1 with RF capabilities and mounted the camera on a 50-ft. track to slowly run parallel with the stage. The system served a dual purpose, knocking out two production birds with one stone.

This is the first time we're using a RailCam at the NBA Draft, he says. [The idea] was two-fold because it obviously shows the viewer what's happening on the stage but it can turn around and show you the players inside of the green room as well.

With RailCam working on the ground, aerial shots of the entire Draft floor were provided by a four-point camera system that emanated from the rafters. The crew upgraded this setup and moved away from the traditional point-to-point method.

A 50 ft. RailCam joined the draftees on their path to NBA superstardom.

When players ventured from the stage and into the media frenzy, including multiple sets dedicated to social media, the network comprised various teams that followed the players through the circuit with the help of eight RF cameras, including Steadicams and M Vis. Backstage, CP Communications supplied seamless connectivity that withstood the rigors of a packed arena and a cavalcade of media responsibilities. Admiral Video took care of capturing all the backstage activity via Marshall POVs planted in the ceilings of the backstage passageways. To stay connected, the ESPN team leveraged Riedel Communications' Bolero wireless intercom system.

We have some really high-powered communications here, so we can follow them anywhere, says Kalinsky. All the camera operators can pretty much get wherever they need to be in the building.

Overall, a total of 35 cameras were dispersed throughout the venue, including a jib camera that followed the players up the stage steps, three Fletcher robos (including one in the corner of the Draft stage that provided the jib camera with another angle), and an additional jib camera positioned outside the arena and used for virtual-reality graphics.

No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn: Familiar Setting at the Barclays Center

Kalinsky and his New York-based team had a little trick up their sleeve to ensure a smooth broadcast. With a calendar full of games that take place in Brooklyn and previous NBA Drafts taking place in the venue since 2013, the Barclays Center is not foreign territory to the people who produced the show.

[Thanks to] relationships with operations, events, and security staff, the electricians, and different union groups we deal with in the venue, it's a perfect building to work in. They also know what the NBA folks are looking for, Kalinsky says. A lot of this is local knowledge and knowing where to get cable from and where it needs to go.

One of those folks is Catherine Chalverus, operations producer, ESPN. Out of Kalinsky's 20 NBA Drafts, she has worked hand-in-hand with him for the past seven. To go about their business with precision, the duo and the rest of the onsite team meticulously worked out every detail of the production. As the event gets bigger and bigger, the staff takes just a bit longer to plan.

Planning for this takes a very long time, says Kalinsky. For my staff and me, it's a year-long project. We were able to come out and do a couple of surveys [to see] where the RailCam and Fletchers are going to go. We also needed to work out the heights in relationship with the rest of the rigging and the jumbotron. We've done Fletchers before that were behind the commissioner, but, as the NBA builds their stuff up more and more, we try keeping up with their progress.

ESPN claimed the biggest real estate of the night with a full on-air studio set.

In the compound, the A and B units of Game Creek Video's 79 mobile production unit is the heart of technical services. With more than 150 onsite staffers, departments were split in half. In the A unit, audio mixing and the production staff, including ESPN directors Ed Curran (in his 10th NBA Draft) and Jeff Nelson, work
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