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Behind the Scenes of ESPN's Graphics-Laden Marvel's Arena of Heroes' Alternative NBA Broadcast

04/05/2021

Behind the Scenes of ESPN's Graphics-Laden Marvel's Arena of Heroes' Alternative NBA Broadcast Unlike past ESPN efforts, this was a standalone production with dedicated truck and crew By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 3:34 pm

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Last night, in an effort to bring new audiences to its NBA broadcasts, ESPN debuted its first-ever Marvel-themed alternative presentation during the Golden State Warriors-New Orleans Pelicans game. The broadcast featured Marvel-themed 3D virtual characters, custom graphics and animation packages, and a custom-designed Avengers-esque studio set at its Bristol, CT, headquarters, where a dedicated team of announcers called the Marvel's Arena of Heroes presentation.

ESPN's Creative Studio group produced the Marvel Arena of Heroes graphics package.

The Marvel-centric broadcast - carried on ESPN2, ESPN+, and ESPN Deportes alongside the traditional broadcast on ESPN - follows ESPN's MegaCast efforts and marks its latest attempt to appeal to demos outside the traditional sports fanbase. However, unlike most of the past efforts, the Marvel's Arena of Heroes NBA show was a full side-by-side production alongside the main broadcast production, with its own truck and crew onsite at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

ESPN transformed Studio Z into a Marvel-themed set for the broadcast.

This is a bit of a departure from [ESPN's MegaCast and other alternative presentations]: as big a show as the main telecast vs. what we normally would do with MegaCast and other [alternative presentations], which is to add to the existing resources and present it in a different way, ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Ed Placey said before last night's game. This is a true side-by-side production, so it's a very different undertaking and required a very different mindset.

The Narrative: Avengers Seek New Members Via Marvel Hero Points' System At the top of the broadcast, ESPN's pregame show set the scene from the Marvel-themed set in Bristol: the Avengers are looking to recruit a new member for their team from the NBA elite and are observing the battle between the Warriors and the Pelicans, focusing on three star players from each team (the Warriors' Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins and the Pelicans' Zion Williamson, Grandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball).

Each of these players gained Marvel Hero points during the game (based on points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, as well as missed field goals, free throws, or turnovers plus 10 points for the winning team), and the player with the most Marvel Hero points - which ended up being Draymond Green - was crowned Marvel's first Champion.

ESPN's Creative Studio group created the look and feel of the broadcast, working alongside the Marvel Creative Team and technology providers SMT, Second Spectrum, and Girraphic. Among the highlights were comic-book-style insert graphics and scorebug; player- and shot-tracking graphics; Marvel-themed animations overlaid on the basket at each made field goal; and other augmented-reality elements, including a viewing deck above the floor where the Avengers (as 3D virtual renderings) monitored the action on the court.

All insert graphics were given a new comic-book-style look for the alternative presentation.

Our amazing ESPN Creative Studio group built everything, says Placey, and the Marvel Creative Team worked side by side with us, providing the assets, giving feedback, and guiding us every step of the way. It has been a wonderful collaboration between ESPN and Marvel, and we couldn't be happier with it. It has taken our previous projects and stepped [them] up to a new level.

Marvel Broadcast Is a Full-Fledged Standalone Production ESPN rolled out NEP EN3 mobile production unit and a dedicated crew in New Orleans (graphics operators were located in Bristol) to produce the Marvel broadcast. The production controlled its own complement of nine cameras (including the Above the Rim robos), shared eight other camera feeds from main telecast and the six cameras provided to both shows by the arena.

The production team set up a low corner camera to serve this angle featuring 3D virtual animations of Marvel characters like Black Panther.

This is a true side-by-side, so we're down in New Orleans with our own truck separate from the game truck, says Placey. We're sharing a few of the main game cameras for a replays. But we control all the cameras that we're cutting for the Marvel telecast. The other cameras are just to make sure we have additional replay angles so nothing gets missed on either show.

AR elements were featured heavily in the Marvel-centric broadcast.

On Sunday, ESPN brought a local team into the Smoothie King Center to conduct a thorough rehearsal for the Arena of Heroes broadcast. After months of development, this was the first time hundreds of Marvel-centric elements were integrated into a live game. ESPN Monday Night Football director Phil Dean and Sunday Night Baseball director Doug Holmes were at the front bench.

A 3D virtual rendering of Iron Man looks on from the watch deck above the floor.

Placey notes that this was significantly different from ESPN's previous alternative-presentation productions - such as MegaCasts for the CFP National Championship Game and last season's NFL Wild Card Game or the recent NBA Daily Wager Special - which used primarily a clean feed from the main show.

On the other broadcasts, he says, including the NFL Wild Card and the National Championship MegaCast, we made it a point to make sure that nothing was taking away the primary focus on the main ESPN telecast; everything was supplementary. But this strikes more of that equal balance and gives us a great opportunity to s
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2021/05/04/behind-the-scenes-of-espns-grap...
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