With the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors set to face off in the NBA Finals, it’s déjà vu all over again for the ABC/ESPN production and operations team. Not only will the same two teams face each other for the second straight year, but ESPN will once again use the occasion to debut a brand-new Sony high-speed camera on the hardcourt. Having rolled out Sony’s HDC-4300 camera for last year’s Finals, ESPN will launch the brand-new HDC-4800 4K 8X slo-mo camera for this year’s series.
ABC’s 14th consecutive NBA Finals, which tips off Thursday night, will be yet another colossal production for ESPN and feature an extensive onsite presence at both Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Commentators (from left) Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mike Breen along with reporter Doris Burke (not pictured) will call their record seventh NBA Finals as a full broadcast team — the most for an NBA Finals quartet on TV.
“One thing we learned last year was that we have very good building-management people in each city. They are, without question, some of the best,” says ESPN Operations Manager Pete Rintelman. “They help us do anything that we need to do to put on our show, and we’re excited to be working with them again this year.”
The HDC-4800 high-frame-rate camera with cut-out zoom will be paired with the PWS-4500 server at the Finals. Accompanied by a choice of telephoto Canon and Fujinon PL-mount lenses, the camera system and server will be used to capture the fast-paced Warriors-Cavs action in 4K at a high frame rate.
The HDC-4800, which debuted unofficially for CBS Sports at Super Bowl 50 and was officially unveiled in April at NAB 2016, offers 4K recording at up to 480 frames per second in 4K or 960 fps at HD resolution. Coupling it with the BPU-4800 baseband processor unit/replay server creates a fully networked, 4K live ultra-high-speed production workflow. The HDC-4800 makes use of a new Super 35mm CMOS sensor and wide color space (BT.2020 and BT.709) and also supports PL-mount lenses.
The HDC-4800 headlines a massive 40-camera complement that will feature a total of 13 high-speed cameras. The NBA will also provide high-speed above-the rim cameras on both backboards.
ESPN’s production in Cleveland, handled out of Game Creek Video’s PeacockOne (A and B units) for the game production and Spirit (A and B units) for the onsite studio show, will feature all HDC-4300s. In Oakland, NEP’s EN1 (A, B, C, and D trucks plus an E support unit) will serve both the game and studio shows.
Intel’s 360-Degree Replay Back on the Court
Intel’s 3D 360-degree replay technology will also be used in ABC’s NBA Finals telecasts — as it was during ESPN’s Eastern Conference Finals coverage. Intel’s technology delivers 360-degree replays and highlights using massive data collected from UHD cameras that enable viewers to virtually fly around the action and see it from almost every conceivable angle. Intel 360 replay technology stitches together video captured by these cameras into one seamless shot, which can then be manipulated and rotated for a view of the play from all angles.
Connecting Both Cities With Bristol
ESPN also continues to evolve its file-transfer and content-sharing workflow between its Bristol, CT, operations and its NBA remote productions. The effort began during the regular season, following deployment of a similar workflow for Monday Night Football remotes. However, since ESPN deploys a variety of trucks on its NBA games (MNF uses EN1 solely), the network was forced to create custom kits to make the workflow a reality.
“CMSI [Creative Mobile Solutions Inc.] is a big vendor for us on that because one big difference for NBA vs. [Monday Night Football] is, we don’t have the same truck every single show. So we have had to build kits that work for any truck that we use,” says Rintelman. “It’s an initiative that we started this year, and it’s been very successful, so we definitely want to keep advancing [it].”
ESPN relies on CMSI hardware kits and remote management to synchronize highlight, program, and melt footage between cities via CMSI’s 10Gb software and hardware, giving EVS operators and editors full availability to all media in both cities.
Plenty of Onsite Studio Presence
The team of Mike Breen, analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, and reporter Doris Burke will call a record seventh NBA Finals as a full broadcast team – the most for an NBA Finals quartet on TV. Former NBA official Steve Javie will provide analysis from the NBA replay center in Secaucus, N.J. ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Tim Corrigan will produce the NBA Finals on ABC, and Jimmy Moore will direct.
Every game will be preceded by a 30-minute onsite edition of NBA Countdown pregame show on ABC featuring host Sage Steele and analysts Doug Collins and Jalen Rose. Additionally, Paul Pierce, 10-time NBA All-Star and 2008 NBA Finals MVP, will join the Countdown crew as a guest analyst for selected games.SportsCenter will take its 6 p.m. show (hosted by Lindsay Czarniak) on the road for the majority of the games as well as for onsite postgame SportsCenter coverage. The Jump, ESPN’s new daily NBA show featuring Rachel Nichols, will also hit the road for the Finals (weekdays at 3:30 p.m. ET)
All NBA Finals games will air live on ESPN Deportes TV (called by Alvaro Martin and Carlos Morales with reporters Claudia Trejos and Sebastian Martinez-Christensen), preceded by a 30-minute NBA Previa show featuring commentators Ernesto Jerez and Fabricio Oberto.