Utilizing Video Library, ESPN To Offer NBA Draft in HD

By Carolyn Braff

For its seventh year of NBA Draft coverage, ESPN is bringing some extra clarity to the event, presenting the proceedings in high definition for the first time. ESPN’s analysts at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden will be broadcast in HD, along with the highlight packages the network has assembled to showcase each of the drafted athletes.

ESPN has used the 16:9 format for the NBA Draft in the past, using the extra space on the HD channel to display a constant-crawl on-screen graphic of Draft updates, as well as information in the side columns, such as Jay Bilas’s best available prospects and results of ESPN.com real-time interactive polling. That information will once again be included in this year’s broadcast, but the main-screen video will be produced in high definition, with mobile-production support from NEP’s SS25.

“Everything inside the Garden will be in HD this year, which is great, and our clips will all be in HD,” says Dan Steir, senior coordinating producer for ESPN. “It’s not going to be full wide-range because there’s some compression going on because of that right-side bar that has additional information on it, but we always want to take it the next step. I think any event that’s important and big needs to be in HD.”

Thirteen cameras will ensure that the analysts and athletes inside the Garden are covered from every possible angle. Four will service the main set, including a long house jib that will also provide shots of the entire theater. A secondary set is serviced by one hard camera, a handheld, and a short-arm jib. Another camera is focused on the podium where the picks are announced, and one is positioned at the back of the theater to provide a wide picture of the proceedings. Two handhelds and a Steadicam will cover the green room, where invited players await their fate.

“In and around the theater, we also have multiple drop locations so we can move some cameras around,” Steir says. “Backstage, sometimes there are photo shoots that we will go to and shoot for bumpers.”

Additional bumpers and highlight packages of athletes expected to be picked throughout the Draft have been preproduced by ESPN’s staff. This year, those packages will be in HD, thanks to ESPN’s comprehensive library of college basketball footage.

“We’re lucky to cover over 1,000 college basketball games a year, so we have really compelling pieces of video to enhance the stories,” Steir says. “We’ve also searched near and far for unique YouTube clips that help accentuate the storylines.”

Also helping to accentuate the storylines is videoconferencing with 15 team headquarters and a Draft Cam from the draft rooms of the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Minnesota Timberwolves. The videoconferencing, provided by Glowpoint, will remain in standard definition for this year.

The format of the NBA draft sets it apart from other high-profile drafts, such as that of the NFL, and ESPN’s coverage adapts accordingly.

“In the NBA Draft, players can get selected by a team, but they’re not necessarily going to that particular team,” Steir explains. “There is a trade that’s proposed; then, it’s officially reviewed by the league. And our news and information guys are always on top of those stories. That combination of news, assets , commentary, and then the players themselves, I think, makes for a compelling watch.”

The Draft is inherently compelling every five minutes, as a new headline is produced every time a new team gets on the clock. News is constantly churning, both at the Garden and at team headquarters across the country, whether the network is ready to move on to a new story or not.

“The toughest part is being able to nimbly react to the stories that are going on,” Steir says. “You have a person in the green room, they get selected, they walk up, we show their highlight, we have commentary about it, we interview them, we potentially interview a relative — that’s all going to be condensed into a five-minute period, and that’s before breaking news and commercial breaks.”

The best way to navigate that challenge, he points out, is to prioritize: breaking news is always the top priority. “The most important thing will always be news. If you prioritize, that makes it easy for us to make a decision, but the most difficult thing is doing your job within those tight confines.”

The Draft, which tips off Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET, will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio with a live simulcast on ESPN360.com and ESPN Mobile TV. Tuesday through Friday, ESPNU will televise games featuring NBA Draft prospects.

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