For X Games Production, TriCaster Is as Good as Custom

At X Games 16 in Los Angeles, fans at the renowned action-sports festival had high expectations for their live-event experience. To ensure that the video boards at the street and ramp parks, LA Live, and X Fest (Radio X Stage) had the best live video available, ESPN once again turned to NewTek TriCaster to control and produce content for the boards at each venue. Supporting its fifth X Games event for the ESPN team, the TriCaster XD850 feels like a custom tool, even though it is now available to customers worldwide.

“TriCaster allows us to create a more customized experience for the fans in each venue so they are well-informed, entertained, and engaged,” says Kate Nelligan, programming producer for X Games.

TriCaster XD850 and LiveText power the live coverage of the Skate Vert Ramp competition at Summer X Games 16.

In Los Angeles, three TriCaster XD850s were used to deliver content to six LED video boards in three venues (the street and ramp parks shared a single TriCaster). A fourth was used as a master control, receiving feeds from all venues to create a live X Games Webcast.

“We took feeds from all the venues so that fans at home could have live, real-time access,” Nelligan says. “The new Tricaster XD850 allows us to drastically expand our in-venue coverage without expanding our production budget.”

The latest iteration of NewTek’s live-production system can take eight HD-SDI or SDI feeds, allowing ESPN to significantly reduce the amount of support gear required for the X Games show.

“The XD850 allows us to eliminate a lot of equipment, which not only saves us money but saves us time for setup and strike, as well as having valuable space in our control position,” Nelligan points out. “The addition of inputs allows for a cleaner, more streamlined operation.”

The production team behind X Games 16 in Los Angeles was the same one that worked Winter X Games 14 in Aspen, CO, so crew members were familiar with each other, and with the TriCaster product since a previous version was used in January. Even with just a few days to get up to speed on the improved XD850, the crew had no trouble adapting, with no formal training.

After working with TriCaster to produce two X Games, one Winter X Games, and the first Winter X Games Europe, Nelligan is most impressed with how quickly changes and improvements to the product are made.

“With each update to the TriCaster, we see features and benefits that we suggested,” she says. “It is great to give feedback and then see that taken seriously in the product-development process. In some ways, the XD850 feels like a custom X Games model, since it has almost everything our engineers and operators have asked for.”

Although the XD850 was not customized specifically for the X Games, the ESPN team was the first to use it, in a pre-release version.

“That’s been the biggest challenge for us,” says Philip Nelson, SVP of strategic development for NewTek. “The TriCaster XD850 is shipping this month, and we’re using the pre-release for ESPN. Finding four XD850s for the X Games right at the product’s launch was a challenge. They are in high demand.”

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