With Two Baseball Openers and Two Playoff Teams, CSN Chicago Braces for Busiest April Yet

By Carolyn Braff

It’s a busy time at Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The regional sports network (RSN) is already juggling the Bulls and Blackhawks, and, with both teams in position to make the playoffs and the Cubs and White Sox set to lead off their seasons on April 6, next month should bring four teams to the network’s air. However, for senior executive producer Jim Corno Jr., the possibility of having all four teams sharing airtime on the RSN is more a thrill than a deterrent.

“April’s going to be a crazy time, but we’re ready for an exciting year,” Corno explains. “For that six-week overlap of all four teams, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

This year, all Cubs and White Sox games on CSN Chicago will air in high-definition for the second straight season, including both home and away games. Trio Video is CSN Chicago’s mobile partner for all home and road trucks and crews, and a Chyron Duet supplies all the HD graphics for both teams.

“Within the packages, there are custom elements for each team, different sponsorships, different promotional interests that are unique to those teams,” Corno says, “but essentially, it’s the same tape and graphics packages branded to each team.”

A new high-speed-shutter camera at both the White Sox’ U.S. Cellular Field and the Cubs’ Wrigley Field will create a new way to bring the viewers closer to the action.

“We call it high-speed-shutter cam,” Corno explains. “We’ve had to do some minor installing of a tripod head or cut out parts of a fence to make it work in both ballparks. That camera is a lock-down on first base, so any time there’s a close play at first, we’ve got this high-speed-shutter cam.”

Much like a super-slo-mo camera, the high-speed-shutter cam allows CSN Chicago to view a play frame by frame, but, unlike a super-slo-mo device, this camera is a standard HD camera run in high-speed-shutter mode.

“It’s a standard handheld camera that we put in high-speed-shutter mode, and then we iso it into a tape machine and frame it the way we want it,” Corno explains. “Really, the framing and the positioning of the camera are as instrumental to the success of those shots as the high-speed shutter is.”

CSN Chicago relies on eight cameras plus a robotic for every home-game broadcast and six for road games. A new graphics and music package will unite the look of CSN Chicago with every other Comcast SportsNet regional, but some fans will hear that music in better quality than others.

“We are 5.1 where available,” Corno says. “At home, we are 5.1 every day for baseball, basketball, and hockey, but on the road, sometimes we’re limited by a technician’s expertise. Generally, in those situations, we will follow our gut instincts. We can produce the game in stereo on-site, and then we have a simulator in the shop [in Chicago] that can make 5.1 for those viewers who desire it.”

To make the month of April a bit more hectic for CSN Chicago, April 6 is an historic day for the network: for the first time, both teams will open their seasons on the same day — the White Sox at home and the Cubs on the road. To throw another wrench into the works, the White Sox have extended an invitation to super-fan President Obama to throw out the first pitch.

“We may not know if this is going to happen until Opening Day, but if it does, we’ll do everything we can to promote it,” says Corno. “Being a Chicago guy, we’re very excited about the possibility.”

Opening Day is less than a month away, and SVG is counting down to the first pitch with a look at the regional sports networks responsible for producing games for all 30 Major League Baseball teams. SVG is checking in with each RSN to detail the news and expectations leading up to the 2009 baseball season one conference at a time. For the complete SVG 30 In 30 Index, click here.

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