CSN Philly Enhances Winter Coverage With Virtual Signage, Ultra Mo

Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia is constantly looking for ways to enhance its broadcasts, and, for the upcoming season of Flyers and Sixers coverage, the network is rolling out two features: virtual signage and an ultra-slow-motion camera.

“All of us here consider it to be our daily mandate to be as modern and futuristic as we can,” says Shawn Oleksiak, executive producer of live events for CSN Philadelphia. “Even to say modern sometimes sounds dated. It’s always about what you are doing next. As fast as technologies are evolving, you always want to be right out there. With that as our daily mantra, we’re evolving this fall.”

Signage of the Times
During Flyers home broadcasts on both CSN Philadelphia and the Comcast Network, virtual signage will be incorporated, placed on the glass behind the goals during live play. Eventually, space on the ice will be used for additional signage, as well as statistical information, during stoppages and intermissions, but the network is planning to walk before it begins to run.

“This is a cooperative venture between the NHL, its clubs, and regional rightsholders, so there’s been a lot of leg work and back and forth between teams, leagues, and networks to lay out the best plan,” Oleksiak explains. “It’s something that we’ll do on all of our home games this season.”

During the preseason, the CSN Philly team had a chance to rehearse with the virtual-signage insertion both on-air and off the air, so that there will be no hiccups once the team goes live with the new feature. The workflow of the signage insertion, which is provided by Sportvision, has little effect on Oleksiak’s game-day production team, and he insists that it will not become disruptive to the viewer.

“We would never do anything that we felt would hamper the experience for our viewers,” he says. “They’re always first and foremost. The reason we explore these technologies is to deliver them a better product. You of course want to please your advertisers as well, but you only venture down that road if you’re sure it’s something that will have a positive effect for the viewer.”

Challenge and Opportunity With Ultra Mo
Another enhancement that will surely have a positive effect on the viewer is the addition of an ultra-slow-motion camera, provided by Fletcher Chicago. CSN Philly will begin using the ultra mo on Flyers and Sixers coverage but will eventually take it outdoors for Phillies baseball coverage as well, so the frame rate at which it is used will vary depending on the lighting conditions.

“The most exciting aspect about the ultra mo is the creation of imagery,” Oleksiak says. “The pictures that you can create through this camera are really memorable. The potential is endless for capturing images like the spin of the puck or a facial expression on a no-look pass. These cameras really help us get creative with our storytelling.”

Because the frame rate on the camera is variable, Oleksiak will replace one of his game cameras with the ultra mo, which can capture the action both at normal speed and at the reduced frame rate.

“With this particular camera, you are able to use it as part of your game camera complement,” he explains. “You can put it in a position where it’s either handheld or a hard camera, and you’re not adding another camera. Our own daily operators can run it. There is some training involved, but the learning curve is small for our already world-class crew.”

One challenge, Oleksiak adds, will be breaking out of the replay routine that production teams can fall into, but that gives the team a great opportunity as well.

“That challenge is absolutely there: if you only have a certain amount of time to get something in, it forces you to be creative in the way you choose to do it,” he says. “If you show two replays instead of three but they’re better, the viewer will be happy about that. Maybe we’ll wait and show a really great slow-motion sequence at a different point of the broadcast or at halftime or even in a post-game package. Just as much as there is challenge, there is also opportunity, and I think that’s the exciting part of the process.”

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