Bexel Returns as Fiber MVP at NBA All-Star Weekend
As the gem of the NBA’s calendar each year, All-Star Weekend draws broadcasters and production entities from all over the world — far more than can fit in the average arena’s production compound. As a result, in recent years, a makeshift compound has been set up nearby to facilitate the army of production trucks on hand for the festivities, creating the need for a complex fiber network between the venue and nearby compound.
Last weekend at the Amway Center in Orlando, this compound was located across the street from the arena at the Geico Garage and housed half a dozen mobile-production units. Bexel was responsible for establishing an extensive fiber network between the arena and the truck compound — no small task considering the sheer number of technology vendors on hand to work the event.
“What was unique about this show — and this is similar to last year’s All-Star Game [at the Staples Center in Los Angeles] — is that there were so many vendors on-site working together,” says Justin Paulk, fiber solutions manager, Bexel Broadcast. “You bring all these different vendors and truck companies together, and everyone has to play very well together if you’re going to end up getting a good product on the air.”
The Fiber Network
The Amway Center and Geico Garage truck compound were connected via 288 fiber strands, all laid down by Bexel. TBS HD-1, which handled the on-stage entertainment acts throughout the weekend (pregame concerts, player introductions, halftime, etc.), was the only mobile unit actually parked at the Amway Center loading dock. All other trucks were rooted at the Geico Garage, including NEP SS24 (TNT game coverage), NCP XI (TNT studio show), Lyon 11 (NBA TV), F&F Productions’ GTX-15 (world feed) and GTX-11 (Chinese broadcaster), and NEP’s ESU distribution truck.
Bexel also coordinated the fiber penetration into the Amway Center via a series of junction boxes, meaning Bexel had to ensure connectivity wherever a camera position (nearly 50 in total), monitor, audio device, etc. was located in the facility.
“You have so many entities there, and all these different pieces have to be put together to make a nice picture in the end,” says Paulk. “[That involves] not only moving signals from the trucks but also coordinating to move them up to the in-house control room and throughout the facility.”
With so many broadcasters and vendors working within a single venue, this cooperation was integral to a successful production.
“We had the TNT studio set in section 108 and NBA TV was in 117,” says Paulk. “Normally, we would have to home-run that cable 1,500 ft. around the building, but we were able to coordinate with [other vendors] so that there were really only two cables that had to be run over long distances. So, when we went into strike, that made things a lot easier.”
Much More Than Just Fiber
In addition to supplying the fiber connectivity, Bexel once again served as primary rental-equipment provider for NBA All-Star Weekend. In the arsenal of production equipment provided: Sony HDC-3300 slow-motion cameras and EVS servers for TNT’s coverage throughout the weekend, Sony XDCAM ENG packages, RF audio packages for coaches’ mics, six-channel EVS production servers, EVS IP Director and XFile units, Chyron HyperX3 graphics systems, a Canon Canobeam transceiver system, and a full range of monitors and terminal support systems.
Bexel also managed all on-site editing facilities for both TNT and NBA TV via two edit trucks. BBS1, Bexel’s 53-ft. fully expandable edit facility, housed four Apple Final Cut Pro edit bays for TNT, and NBA TV used T2, a 25-ft. trailer featuring two Final Cut Pro edit bays.
Overall, Bexel had a staff of 12 engineering and operations personnel on-site during the entire week in Orlando to support and service Turner Sports and the NBA.
“I looked at this as a challenge because this is not something that we normally do on this scale,” says Paulk. “You have to put all these pieces of a puzzle together to get the big picture, and I can tell you that it was some of the most stressful days that I’ve ever worked, but it was so gratifying because there were no real glitches and the level of efficiency that we achieved was simply amazing.”