Inertia Unlimited xMo Plays Key Role at Super Bowl XLIV

Added 5/2/2010

Inertia Unlimited xMo Plays Key Role at Super Bowl XLIV
By: Ken Kerschbaumer, Editorial Director | Published: February 5, 2010

Inertia Unlimited’s Jeff Silverman and his crew (along with the folks from Vision Research) have been busy this week prepping xMo systems for use by both CBS Sports and NFL Films. Viewers on Sunday can look forward to CBS Sports’ capturing images of the action from four positions at 440 frames per second; NFL Films will use two handheld units at 960 fps.

Why the difference? “NFL Films will be shooting for commercials, and they have unlimited time to play them back and edit them,” says Silverman. “If CBS shoots much slower than 440 frames per second, they will have problems playing the replays back.”

With both the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts gearing up with high-flying attacks that could feature a lot of no-huddle action, the pressure is greater than ever on the replay operators. “They’re going to have to be cued very tight, or they could run long,” adds Silverman.

CBS Sports will have one handheld unit, two xMos located on sideline carts, and three xMos upstairs, one shooting down each goal line and one at the 50-yard line. Those six units are the most that have ever been used at a single event.

Since the previous Super Bowl in Miami (2007), the xMo has undergone a series of improvements, and even the camera used at last year’s Super Bowl could be considered old news. Silverman and his team continually look to improve xMo and, in the past 18 months, have overcome such issues as operating in low-light and nighttime situations and the ability to both simultaneously play back in real time and play back a replay. And now it also has direct integration with the EVS server via HyperMotion.

“SuperVision cameras have improved the quality of the shot [they can get], and operators have learned how to frame the shots better,” says Ken Aagaard, CBS Sports EVP of Operations and Production Services.

“We’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the reaction to the most current version of the camera,” says Silverman. “From the producer to camera-operator level, everyone has been excited about the potential of what we can do.”

NAB attendees can expect to see the next step in improvement, including a physically cleaner handheld unit that includes EVS integration. Inertia Unlimited is also working on improving the performance when the camera is simultaneously being used for both replay playback and as a live camera signal. “We’re going to get both of those signals in harmony,” says Silverman.

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English Rugby’s 6 Nations Tournament Gets HD, 2D, 3D Coverage

Added 5/2/2010

English Rugby’s 6 Nations Tournament Gets HD, 2D, 3D Coverage
By: Kevin Hilton, European Correspondent | Published: February 5, 2010

The England rugby union team begins its 6 Nations campaign on Feb. 6, with coverage in HD and SD on the BBC and in 3D in 40 Odeon and Cineworld cinemas around the UK. The game against Wales is hailed as the biggest British sporting event to be screened live using stereoscopic technology so far and comes barely a week after Sky previewed its 3D service with the Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United.

England’s sponsor, telecom company O2, has organised the 3D broadcast of the team’s home games at Twickenham Stadium during this year’s tournament, with the clash against Ireland on Feb. 27 also to be transmitted in the format.

The production is coordinated by Inition, which has considerable experience in stereoscopy over the past few years and was involved in the 3D-test screening of the England-Scotland game during 2008.

That event was for a private, invited audience. This time around, the paying public will have the chance to see what all the fuss over 3D is about. Outside-broadcast facilities at Twickenham are provided by SIS LIVE, the BBC’s regular contractor for the 6 Nations.

The coverage will use eight 3D camera systems: six Element Technica Quasar rigs (three mirrors, three side-by-sides), a 2D camera running through a JVC 3D converter for player close-ups’, and an integrated two-lens stereoscopic radio camera on a Steadicam.

A SIS LIVE OB unit on-site to provide production services will have three EVS XT[2] production servers configured in 3D for instant replays and a full 5.1 surround-sound mix.

The broadcast will be distributed in the Sensio 3D transmission format to cinemas, which will screen it using Real D technology to audiences wearing polarised glasses. Event producer and Inition Director Andy Millns notes that the production could be shown in any digital cinema with 3D capability.

Among the lessons learned from the 3D England-Scotland match two years ago were that directors had to rethink zooms and camera angles, while stereoscopic graphics were seen as necessary to give viewers what they would expect from an SD production.

Wurmsers, a specialist in sports outside broadcast and a regular contractor on the 6 Nations, is providing the 3D graphics. These are based on Chyron’s HyperX3 system, running with Lyric PRO, which features stereoscopic tools as standard. The Chyron Creative Services department has worked with Wurmsers to develop the graphics, which are intended to enhance the 3D look of the coverage.

Wurmsers Managing Director Jeremy Tidy says that, because the 6 Nations is a “very branded sport,” his team had to stay within “certain creative guidelines” but, while the look will be familiar, it is in a “very different environment.” He adds, “The genuine anticipated excitement created throughout the country for this groundbreaking event bodes well for the future of 3D productions of sport and many other live events.”

Millns believes that the 3D graphics and match statistics are among the major differences between this year’s 3D 6 Nations coverage and what was done in 2008. Other changes are “3D replays, more camera angles, more mirror rigs for close-ups, and a Steadicam,” along with the commercial edge of having paying customers in 40 cinemas. In general, he says, this will be “everything you would expect from a quality 2D sports production but in 3D.”

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Ball State Immersion

Added 3/2/2010

Ball State Immersion Program Creates Next Generation of Sports-Production Pros
By: Ken Kerschbaumer, Editorial Director | Published: February 3, 2010

In 2008, Ball State University launched an innovative TV-sports-production program called Sports Link. To gain real-world experience in all aspects of sports production, university telecommunications students rotate among different disciplines from one production to the next in an effort to prepare for a career. Less than two years later, the program is an unqualified success, giving students an advantage in a competitive job market, the athletic department greater exposure, and local and national media outlets access to highlights, feature stories, game coverage, and more.

“Within a short amount of time, the number of students signing up for the program grew, and, when we began this past fall semester, the students knew they were part of something special,” says Chris Taylor, instructor in Telecommunications/Sports Immersion and Media. “This immersive learning experience is a real cornerstone and differentiates us from other telecommunications programs. It’s unique for students to be able to earn college credits while working on sports productions.”

Taylor was hired last year on a full-time basis to run a program that, this semester, will produce 13 live sporting events. Currently, 16 students are signed up for the spring semester, up from 10 in the fall. Students have a chance to sample a number of job duties, working the same position for two consecutive productions. That allows them to get their feet wet on one production and have a chance to apply lessons learned to a second.

“The challenge is scheduling the remotes so there is an opportunity for proper learning in class between the events,” says Taylor. “The students meet as a class twice a week for two hours and then pull together story ideas, schedule guests, cover press conferences, and work on the remotes.”

Priceless Experience
Producing all that content gives the students a tremendous amount of real-world experience. Last semester, the 10 students logged more than 5,000 hours during the 14-week program.

Rick Johnston, a senior telecommunications major currently in the program, says the experience has been priceless, giving students a chance to work in such diverse positions as EVS replay, cameraperson, audio mixer, and more. His career goal is to be a play-by-play announcer, but his skill set has him ready for any potential opening.

“When I graduate in May, I am going to be head and shoulders above others who are graduating, no questions asked,” he says. A typical live-remote day involves getting on-site at 7 a.m. for pre-production and to set up cameras. Then, it’s off to class and back to the venue at 3 p.m. to begin working on the show.

“We can also practice as much as we want out at the truck and build up our comfort level and work experience,” he says. “We really have the outlets to do what we want.”

Taylor says it isn’t only the program’s students who learn. Because the athletes get interviewed on camera more often, they become more accustomed to answering questions, an important skill for future professional athletes. “The experience this provides our students on a daily basis and the exposure it creates for the athletes and university make it worth any school to try and figure out how to do a sports program.”

The exposure extends well beyond campus, with content seen across Indiana and across the country. Content is streamed via the Internet nationally, but the local campus PBS station broadcasts programming. Content is also available on-demand via the local Comcast system. And a network of TV stations across the state receive highlight reels via FTP (File Transfer Protocol), and audio reports are heard on 18 radio stations in Indiana.

“Students learn that this is a deadline-oriented profession as they work late making melt reels for local TV stations,” Taylor adds.

And even ESPNU has tapped into the Ball State program. On Jan. 14, The Malik Perry Story, a program produced by Ball State Sports Link seniors Seth Tanner and Nick Yeoman and sophomore Ben Wagner, aired on the network.

“We’ve built a strong relationship with ESPN, and, from the production side, we can send them and any of the networks events as needed,” says Taylor. ESPN on-air talent, including Linda Cohn and Andy Katz, have also stopped by to teach students about a career in broadcasting.

Starting a Program
He believes that every college or university with a telecommunications department and an athletic department could offer a similar program. The key is finding believers at the top ranks of the school.

“You need an AD who sees this as important and also a dean and a president who think it is important,” he explains, noting, “Sports is one of the most consistent PR and marketing tools a school has throughout the entire year.”

Taylor’s background working in an athletic department makes him a believer in the power of electronic media. As more and more departments move towards electronic online media guides, for example, video and audio content will become a necessity.

“With the exception of the majors and a few mid majors, most schools don’t have the resources or a video department that can create that content,” he explains. “But we’ve been able to put together 60 athlete profiles that have been viewed more than 10,000 times.”

In most cases, Taylor believes it is best for the Athletic Department to reach out to the educational side because it is ultimately the Athletic Department that has the need for content.

Perhaps most important, there is a revenue component to a properly run program. First Merchants Bank has stepped up as a corporate sponsor, and the students support the effort by building video billboards and other content.

“First Merchants Bank has been blown away by what the students do for them,” says Taylor. “And that makes the athletic department look great but also fulfills the academic mission. It’s a win-win, and we see that continuing as a number of other corporate sponsors are interested in getting involved.”

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or CBS, NFL Playoffs Are a Stepping Stone to the Super Bowl

Added 19/1/2010

For CBS, NFL Playoffs Are a Stepping Stone to the Super Bowl
By: Carolyn Braff, Managing Editor | Published: January 13, 2010

The Super Bowl is still several weeks away, which is great news for CBS Sports. The network, which will broadcast Super Bowl XLIV from Miami, will deploy 50 cameras on Feb. 7 and is using the playoff weeks until then to begin Super Bowl-sizing its production. For this weekend’s AFC Divisional Playoff games, CBS will use Skycam in both Indianapolis and San Diego and plans additional cameras and EVS playback at both sites.

“The next two weeks absolutely serve as a stepping stone for the Super Bowl,” says Harold Bryant, VP, production, for CBS Sports. “We have added an additional super-slow-motion camera and super-slow-mo EVS playback to each game as well.”

Each of this weekend’s CBS games will have a total of 22 cameras, 14 playback devices, and two Vizrt graphics machines. The San Diego crew will also have a handheld high-speed camera at its disposal.

“The handheld cameras give us more flexibility in getting to isolated parts of the field,” Bryant says. “They also give us different angles on the play. We typically use 480 frames per second on the high-speed cameras, but we sometimes adjust and can go up to 540 frames per second.”

For next week’s AFC Championship game, CBS will bring in more cameras and an additional tape truck to simulate the Super Bowl setup in Miami.

“By the time we get to the Super Bowl, we will have 50 cameras, with six of those being high-speed, and close to 30 tape machines,” Bryant says. “And that is just for the game. We will also have our full studio on-site.”

All together, the HD equipment for game coverage at Super Bowl XLIV includes 21 hard cameras, four hard super-slow-motion cameras, three cabled handheld cameras, two handheld super-slow-motion cameras, two RF handheld cameras, one RF Steadicam, six ultra-high-frame-rate cameras, a SkyCam, and robotic cameras on the goal posts and focused on the coaches. Booth cameras, clock cameras, and beauty-shot cameras round out the live-coverage arsenal. Twenty-two EVS devices with 61 output replay channels and three Vizrt graphics engines will also be on hand.

The Super Bowl Today studio show on-site will deploy an additional six hard cameras, five cabled handheld cameras, two cabled cameras on jibs, two RF handheld cameras, a Steadicam, seven ENG cameras, a fixed-wing–aircraft camera, and four robotic cameras. Nine EVS replay devices will be used for the studio show, along with five Vizrt graphics devices and five Avid non-linear edit suites.

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