ABC Sports expands tech for NBA Finals

By Ken Kerschbaumer
The 2006 NBA season came to a conclusion this week but some of the technologies that ABC Sports used during its production of the Miami Heat championship run in the NBA Finals will continue to be relied on more and more.

Clearly the Finals are the highest rated event during the season so we upgrade our facilities, says Tim Corrigan, ABC Sports coordinating producer. For example, he says, more than twice as much gear is used for the series, pushing trucks provided by NEP and GameCreek to the limit.

For Corrigan and the team it s all about having enough cameras and other gear to tell the story properly. NBA Finals tend to draw more female viewers so having cameras on hand to capture reactions of wives and family members becomes important. And for the men in the audience three super slo-mo systems are used to capture additional dramatic, powerful images of NAB superstars sailing to the basket.

NBA players weren t the only things sailing through the air. So was a Skycam unit. We ve been using it for four years now and it s playing a larger role, says Corrigan. It brings viewers closer to the athletes on the court and makes it easier to see how big and athletic they are.

The flexibility of Skycam and its ability to zoom alongside the court and also over it is something ABC Sports is still something ABC is adjusting to. There were certain times when it was used over the court for free throws where we re getting into a groove to get the timing right for getting it off of the court, he says. In football it s a little bit easier because you can be behind the play and be pretty sure you won t get in the way of the game.

But the learning is happening, and every year ABC, Turner Sports and others become more comfortable with using Skycam on a basketball telecast. In fact, expect it to become more and more of the production every year.

Another new camera was Freezecam, developed by Sportvision. Freezecams are mounted next to regular game camera units capturing images in such a way that ABC analyst Hubie Brown can literally use a joystick to fly around an image and see the play from different angles.

And the game coverage wasn t the only thing that was improved. A new show open was built that celebrated what the NBA Finals are all about. We worked with the same group that helped produce the open for the Oscars, says Corrigan of the 40 day-and-night project that involved 60 people based in California and even Croatia. The Croatians helped render and rotoscope the images from past NBA Finals and there was also an orchestra in Croatia that scored the music.

Neither team had been to the Finals before so personnel at both arenas were very excited and helpful, says Corrigan. And that made a difference when we built our little TV town for not only the ABC telecast but the pre-game, world feeds, and NBA TV telecasts.

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