Live From MLB All-Star Game: Inside MLB Network’s Triple-Play Production
As the Midsummer Classic takes the sports stage this week in Minneapolis, it’s only appropriate that the national pastime’s network is on hand to chronicle it.
For the 85th MLB All-Star Game, MLB Network is more involved than ever, adding live coverage of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game (which aired Sunday night) for the first time to its busy programming slate, which already included the MLB All-Star Red Carpet Show (Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET) and a grab bag of studio shows (Monday and Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET from first pitch to postgame event).
With it, the network’s production staff and a slew of facilities and gear are on-site at Target Field to make it all possible.
SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
MLB Network will tackle the Futures game with its top-level production crew, headed by the producer/director tandem of Chris Pfeiffer and John Moore, which regularly handles its “Showcase” games. The network will share many of the resources for the game with MLB International, including the mobile unit Corplex’s Chromium.
“There’s only so much room in the compound; it would have been very difficult for us to bring in another truck,” says Susan Stone, SVP, operations and engineering, MLB Network. “Plus, we’re all part of the same team. We’ve had some great sharing relationships with International in the past.”
Since MLB International, which produces the world feed of the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, doesn’t have to begin setup until Monday, MLB Network will essentially provide it a head start. MLB Network will deploy International’s cameras throughout the stadium and leave them hooked up for when International comes in.
MLB Network will position nine hard cameras throughout Target Field for the Futures game telecast, including a super-mo. The crew will also add one RF handheld and a broadcast-booth POV robotic camera.
On the audio end, the network will deploy RF to mike two players and one of the umpires. One of its reporters will also use a wireless stick mic. All RF in the stadium for All-Star Week will be powered by CP Communications.
MLB Network will use its standard game-telecast graphics package running off a Vizrt engine.
MLB All-Star Red-Carpet Show
For the past few years, MLB Network’s marquee All-Star event has been the All-Star Red Carpet Show, a parade of the game’s biggest names through the streets of the game’s host city.
This year’s event, which will take place Tuesday afternoon, will prove a more optimal situation than last year’s, with the parade ending at the Majestic Clubhouse Store right outside Target Field. It’s a stark change from a year ago, when the MLB Network crew had to set up an entirely new compound outside New York City’s Madison Square Park, 10 miles from Citi Field.
The event generally has obvious challenges, its location usually not one conducive to a television production.
“With every different city,” says Stone, “you have to react differently and have a general production plan depending on the logistics of the parade and where the camera positions can be and where the parade ends.
This year, Game Creek Video’s Larkspur will not be in the general compound but will be on Target Field property. Ten cameras will be deployed along the parade route, including aerial coverage with AVS’s Partenavia P68 Observer aircraft. Three on-field cameras will be RF, two roving and one hard.
“When you’re dealing with a parade route,” notes Stone, “sometimes it’s easier to make a hard camera an RF, rather than to cable it or to try and figure out how to get to a transmit point.”
Encompass Digital Media is MLB Network’s encoding and muxing vendor at the red-carpet show.
Onsite Studio Coverage
On Monday and Tuesday, MLB Network may not have the rights to the live coverage of either the Gillette Home Run Derby or the All-Star Game, but that won’t stop the network from offering fans wall-to-wall coverage of the two events.
On Derby Monday, coverage from the ballpark will kick off with four hours of shows live from batting practice at Target Field — High Heat With Christopher Russo at 4 p.m. ET, Intentional Talk with Kevin Millar and Chris Rose at 5 p.m., and MLB Tonight at 6 p.m. — plus a highlight-filled MLB Tonight after the Home Run Derby.
On All-Star Tuesday, following the red-carpet show, it’s a similar lineup of programming with High Heat With Christopher Russo at 4 p.m. ET, Intentional Talk at 5 p.m., and MLB Tonight at 6 p.m. on-field leading up to and immediately following the game.
The centerpiece of the network’s shoulder programming is a Kernwer-designed on-field set that the crew can break down and shuttle off the field in under six minutes, giving the network maximum time on-field before the action begins.
Capturing that set is a jib camera and two handhelds. There are also two roaming RF cameras and four hard cameras (positioned at center field, high first base, high third base, and high home) shooting batting practices and isolating players on the field.
A unique feature will be what MLB Network is calling “netcams.” RF cameras will be placed on the batting cages at Target Field before the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game and will make those camera feeds available to Fox and ESPN.
The production team also has a secondary set on the concourse level, a repurposing of the existing Fox Sports North set regularly on hand for Twins home games. The set is also designed by Kernwer, making it easy to swap in appropriate logos and signage.
All of MLB Network’s on-site studio coverage is directed in the compound from Game Creek Video’s Victory.