MLK Showcase lets NBA TV experiment with new production techniques
By Ken Kerschbaumer
The NBA’s third-annual MLK Showcase for Developmental League players, coaches and officials kicks off on Jan. 15 and this year it will be more than just a showcase for the next round of NBA professionals: it will also showcase new production techniques that could work their way into NBA regular season and playoff telecasts.
“In the past we’ve televised games from the MLK Showcase on a tape-delay basis and put them on over a couple of weeks,” says Tim Kane, NBA TV senior director production. “But this year 10 of the 12 games will be live and it’s a huge chance to use the D-League as a laboratory to see the game in a different light.”
Topping the list of innovations will be the use of two job cameras, one located on each end line, capturing the vast majority of play by play. One will be 26-feet long and the other 28-feet long.
“We’re excited to see how it will frame the court,” says Kane. “The ability to go up and down with the jib will give us a different look of the play on the floor. We’ll be able to pivot and turn and frame the shot right.”
Just one traditional play-by-play camera location will be used to capture hero and other shots. The two jib cameras will be complemented by a Steadicam located courtside. “We’ll be judicious with how much we’ll make the camera person run,” says Kane. The Steadicam will be used primarily to go onto the court during the first free throw attempt to get a unique perspective on the action.
Audio will also have a special wrinkle with two players on each team outfitted with wireless microphones. “They’re very small and will be sewn in to some part of the uniform,” explains Kane.
“We’re always looking at technologies and asking will the viewer like this?,” says Kane. ”We always look at an idea, try it out and then file it away to see if we can use it down the line.”
Not surprisingly fans give the league a quick thumbs up or down on any new technologies. NBA.com gives fans an online forum to post comments almost immediately on experiments like the use of dual Skycam last season and an announcer-less game between the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets.
“We have a sport where the people in the arena are very close to the action and we want to bring that experience within reach of a fan at home,” says Kane. “The dual Skycam made all the viewers feel like they were sitting in the greatest seat in the building.”