Root Sports RSNs Embark on Second Year Through MLB Lineup

This time last year, DIRECTV’s regional sports networks in Colorado, Washington, and Pittsburgh were gearing up to relaunch under the Root Sports brand just in time for the first pitch of the Major League Baseball season. And, although the FSN-to-Root brand transition went off without a hitch in 2011, the trio’s baseball production plans still had plenty of room to grow. And grow they will for the 2012 season.

“Last year, the brand transition was the focus, getting all the FSN-branded graphics off the air and getting Root Sports established,” says Bill Roberts, VP of content, DIRECTV Sports Networks. “This year for baseball, we have had a full year to work through a lot of things and build our [graphics] package out. This is the first year that we have everything in place the way that we want it, so we are really excited about how we are going to come out of the gate in 2012.”

Insert Package Comes of Age
Topping the list of production enhancements for the 2012 MLB campaign will be the debut of the full Root Sports insert package for baseball.

On Opening Day last year, Root Sports Northwest (Seattle Mariners), Pittsburgh (Pirates), and Rocky Mountain (Colorado Rockies) debuted with a fully redesigned overall graphics package (designed by Troika and developed by Root Sports Creative Services), but they were unable to integrate a new insert package because of time constraints. Instead, the networks were forced to use a version of the old FSN package with Root Sports branding.

“When we launched last year, we had the new animations and opens but still had the old insert package,” says Roberts. “As we got to each new season, starting with college football, we rolled out the Troika-designed insert package. Now we have had a full year to build that out, which is an enormous task. We will now have all our graphics unified under that overarching Troika design.”

New Trucks, More EVS for All
Production staffs at Root Sports Pittsburgh and Rocky Mountain will enjoy new digs this season. Mobile TV Group rolled out two newly dedicated mobile-production trucks in Denver (29HDX) and Pittsburgh (30HDX). Root Northwest will join the party next year. thanks to a newly refurbished truck set to be delivered by MIRA Mobile.

All three RSNs operate in a dual-feed production model, allowing the visiting network to produce its feed out of the same mobile unit.

This offseason, Root worked with Fox Sports Net to establish a spec for a more robust EVS replay server at all venues where the two outfits produce dual-feed shows. As a result, the visiting crew will now have a six-channel and a four-channel EVS machine, and the home side will have a six-channel and two four-channel EVS servers at its disposal — a bump up from last year for both.

Camera Complements Get a Boost
Root Sports will bring back three of its signature production elements from year one: Sportvision’s PITCHf/x pitch-tracking system, RF cameras in the stands for all home games, and a super-slo-mo camera system.

“We have worked really hard to bring the viewers closer to the game and give them a taste of the in-game experience,” says Roberts. “That is why we have these [specialty cameras], especially the RF cameras. We think that is a game-changer that puts our viewers in the front-row seats.”

In addition, Northwest worked with the Mariners to add two HD robotic cameras at Safeco Field, primarily to be used as booth cameras. The network will also transition to an I-MOVIX extreme slow-motion system provided by Fletcher Sports (Pittsburgh and Rocky Mountain will continue to utilize Ultra-Mo’s provided by Mobile TV Group).

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, Root Sports will have a new dead-centerfield camera to work with at PNC Park, as well as a fixed HD camera in the bullpen, solving a sizable problem the RSN faced last season.

“At PNC, you couldn’t see the [Pirates] bullpen just using our normal camera configuration,” says Roberts. “So we worked the team to get that fixed camera out there that will allow us to take a peek into the bullpen.”

Pre- and Post-Game On-Site
Whether branded FSN or Root Sports, one aspect of these RSNs’ baseball coverage has been key in recent years: on-site pre- and post-game shows. Rocky Mountain has produced these studio shows from the ballpark for several years; Seattle began the custom two years ago. Now Pittsburgh will join the fun, establishing its own permanent on-site set.

“We are trying to do this in all of our markets,” says Roberts. “And we’ve got brand-new desks that we’ve put into all three markets this year, so we think our pre and post are going to look really sharp. That is a major focus for us.”

Music at the Bat
This year, all three RSNs will have access to a vast library of popular music for the first time to use throughout each telecast. This music can be used for bumpers, in-game highlight packages, teases, and other spots throughout game coverage.

“We think that, by bringing all our [production] tools back that we had last year and adding popular music and the new insert package, we will be able to build on what we did in the last year and bring the fans even close to the game.”

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