Turner Sports Accelerates Setup for Hockey-Basketball Turnover

Turning a hockey arena into a basketball venue in three hours or less is never an easy task, but adding in the requirements of a 14-camera television broadcast could mean disaster. This Monday, for the second year running, TNT will attempt to clear that hurdle: the second game of its NBA tripleheader, Dallas Mavericks at Boston Celtics, tips off just hours after a Boston Bruins hockey game is scheduled to conclude. Luckily for Turner Sports, its Monday-night production truck is already in Boston, after supporting a Thursday-night broadcast, so the team has a head start on the accelerated load-in process.

“Fortunately for us, it’s one of our Turner trucks that we use every week, so truck-wise, we know that it’s set and ready to go,” says Tom Sahara, senior director of IT and remote operations for Turner Sports. “It really comes down to working with the Celtics and the venue on the scheduling of getting our trucks parked. That’s what drives the whole thing: when can we get the hockey trucks out and get our trucks in.”

NESN is covering the 1 p.m. Bruins game, and, because different vendors are involved, little equipment can be exchanged between the two broadcasters. As soon as the hockey game ends, NESN will pull its truck out, and Turner will drive its truck in. In Boston, the trucks park in an open area, but the crew will be prepared for the cold weather.

“Last year, we had a similar situation with cold weather,” Sahara says. “We have to take a little extra precaution so that people and equipment are protected from the cold.”

Even though Turner generally sets up in an arena the day before a game — not three hours before the tip — the broadcaster is certainly not cutting back on Monday’s production.

“For us, it’s really just another game, but we’re more aggressive with the scheduling,” Sahara says. “We try not to have any uncertainties. With the compressed schedule, we just don’t have time.”

Nothing floor-related can be set up during the hockey game, but the backboard cameras and announce table can be set backstage. Turner’s team will set the cameras on the basketball stanchions and put the monitors and microphones on the announce table during the hockey game and then simply wheel it onto the floor once the ice is covered over with hardwood.

“Then, it becomes a connection situation for us,” says Turner Sports director Lonnie Dale. “The cable drops are out there already for the handheld cameras and the audio, so, once they put the floor on top of the ice and reposition the seats, it just becomes a matter of connections. That process takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.”

Turner’s remote-production truck will retain the settings put in place for Thursday night’s broadcast, so the talent can use the truck as a preproduction studio to look at tape and graphical elements.

“It’s similar to our set-shoot-strike events,” Sahara says, “where we have to set up that day and clear out that night.”

The fun part for the team will be if the unexpected happens — as was the case a year ago, when the hockey game went into overtime and then a shootout. “Instead of the hockey game getting over around 4:15, it was about 5:15 by the time it ended, and the floor didn’t get replaced until 6:20, so we were really scrambling,” Dale recalls. “We had a good 40 minutes to get everything set on the floor and ready to go.”

Still, Turner will not bring in additional hands to help on Monday night. The Turner Sports crew is seasoned enough to handle the challenge of overtime or having to home-run a cable or any other wrench thrown into the accelerated work plan.

“It would be a different story if it was a crew that we didn’t work with or a local crew that didn’t have a lot of experience with us, but we try to get as many people on this crew that do our events on a regular basis as possible,” Sahara says. “That’s really the key to succeeding in this kind of situation, having people know what needs to be done and what the priorities are so you can concentrate on what’s important.”

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