NBA Returns: NEP Taps Panasonic PTZ Cameras for Key Functions

In March, the NBA suspend its season indefinitely after a player tested positive for COVID-19. In the resumption of its season, the NBA is playing the rest of its games in the Bubble they’ve created at the ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWoS) Complex, located at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. At the WWoS, 22 NBA teams resumed the season in mid July.

Panasonic PTZ cameras from NEP US Specialty Capture are playing a big part in the NBA’s return to the court.

To cover the games, the NBA has built a 200,000-sq.-ft. broadcast/production facility and is playing games in three venues in the WWoS. To capture the behind-the-scenes action, 60 Panasonic robotic PTZ cameras, mainly AW-UE150 4K/HD units, are in use at the complex. 

Dan Grainge, president, NEP U.S. Specialty Capture, whose company recommended the Panasonic AW-UE150 4K/HD PTZ and other Panasonic high-end 1080p PTZ cameras to the NBA,  says the decision to move forward with resuming NBA games was made in late June and NEP had two weeks to build out production systems as the players were scheduled to arrive in Orlando on July 9.

Because the NBA Bubble follows strict health and safety guidelines, Grainge says the league didn’t want cameramen and technicians as well as local photographers or news crews in the quarantine area. “The NBA wanted its practices closed to outside people and to cover them with robotic professional PTZ cameras,” he adds.

In the NBA Bubble, nine practice courts, all on the WWoS complex, were equipped with two UE150 cameras to record team practices. In several cases, the NBA converted large ballrooms in a Disney hotel into practice courts, each court equipped with two UE150s. Building on the success of the UE150s at the practice facilities, the NBA decided to expand the use of the cameras. The UE150s are used for interview areas at the practice facilities and in the arenas and for coverage in locker rooms, hallways, and other spaces to capture the behind-the-scenes action.

“We choose Panasonic PTZ cameras because the features they offer are second to none,” says Grainge. “The UE150s have shined, from delivering exceptional 1080p video to their single cable installation to their wide range of connectivity options. The UE150s worked great out of the box and their excellent success in the practice facilities resulted in the NBA thinking of other uses for the remote-controlled cameras.”

More than 60 Panasonic PTZ cameras are being used by the NBA across the Wide World of Sports complex.

In figuring out a way to interview NBA players without in-person human interaction, the NBA is also utilizing the UE150 in “frictionless” interview set-ups. In the Bubble, players cannot be interviewed at courtside after a game by their local media. They now go to an off-the-court location with set lighting, audio and an AW-UE150 camera for these interviews. The UE150’s large, built-in tally light provides an extra level of confidence to NBA players. They know when the tally light is green, audio is working and that anything they say is broadcasting live.

In addition to creating a working broadcast facility very rapidly, another big challenge was the need to transport the 1080p video back to a central location from different environments, like the hotel ballrooms that were not built for that purpose.

The UE150’s extensive connectivity, including 12G-SDI, 3G-SDI, HDMI, IP, and optical fiber output, allows the video to be sent via ethernet or fiber, depending on their location, to the central recording hub in the broadcast facility where all the cameras are controlled. At the broadcast facility, Panasonic AK-HRP1000 remote control panels are used for camera shading and AW-RP150 touchscreen remote camera controllers are in use for camera control.

“The NBA needed to control, sometimes from several miles away, all 60 of the Panasonic PTZ cameras. The Panasonic cameras are easy to control and very straightforward,” adds Grainge. “The UE150 was the most complete camera available to cover the practice

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