Turner Sports Brings Playoff-Caliber Productions to New NBA Season
Basketball is back, and it already has a playoff feel at Turner Sports.
Turner Sports officially launches its 30th consecutive year of NBA coverage tonight (7 p.m. ET) with Kia NBA Tip-Off ’13, the opening week of the 2013-14 NBA regular season. It all starts with three consecutive nights of doubleheader coverage across TNT and NBA TV.
“Philosophically, the shift has really been, instead of tiering the games and saying this game will have more cameras and mics than this other game, we want to standardize and create a consistent production across all games and have that be at a playoff level,” says Craig Barry, EVP of production/executive creative director, Turner Sports.
Slowing Down the Game
A typical NBA on TNT production can run anywhere between 10 and 15 cameras, depending on the venue. The camera complement will include three down-low hard cameras, the standard high-tight game camera, two low-slash cameras in the corners, a high–end-zone unit, and two robos.
There will be a great emphasis on adding super-slow-motion cameras to each broadcast this year, going as far as to add the popular Vision Research Phantom camera as much across the board as possible.
“Multiple super-slo-mos is the way we think it should be,” says Albert “Scooter” Vertino, VP/executive producer of content, Turner Sports. “If you’re going to have a marquee game — which we consider all of our games to be — then you should blow it out more. As a former producer, I’m jealous it’s something that happened after I stopped producing. I always looked forward to having them during Conference Finals and All-Star Games. Now to break it out during regular-season games as well was awesome.”
Turner intermittently used Vision Research’s Phantom Camera, which is capable of shooting from 5 frames per second to more than 10,750 fps, on its NBA Playoffs coverage a year ago. However, after a very successful run with the camera during TBS’s recently completed coverage of the MLB Postseason, the Turner team is looking to use it more often.
Robotic cameras will also be positioned on the backboards, but it will be at the discretion of the producer/director team working the game as to whether they are stationed behind or above the glass.
A major storyline entering the 2013-14 NBA season is the league-wide implementation of the STATS SportVU tracking system.
The six-camera software system will provide detailed player and team statistics, including speed/distance, shooting information, passing details, touch breakdowns (drive, elbow, post, etc.), and new defensive statistics being developed by the league. As direct partners with the NBA (Turner owns and operates NBA TV), Turner’s will be the first major broadcaster team to have access to the new data, which could offer a new method of storytelling.
Still, there’s a bit of a wait-and-see on what the system will ultimately provide.
“I’m not certain that there’s a consistent go-to stat or trend right away,” says Vertino. “It probably depends on who’s playing and their style. But we’ll use it. We’re in constant contact with our friends [at the NBA TV studio] in Secaucus[, NJ,] about all this statistically based data, and that’s a huge element for productions on NBA TV. I think the goal is for us to dive right in with both feet, though. This is something new and effective, and there’s so many teams sliding towards the analytical approach, that it makes sense for us to embrace.”
Adds Barry, “Data is tricky, because you want to make sure that you don’t alienate the casual fan. We don’t want to come in and hit it so hard that you make all of the hardcores happy but you’re not growing the audience. We have to utilize them and present them in a way that it enhances storylines so that everyone can understand.”
The new season kicks off with a bang for Turner, with the production group taking over Flatiron Square in the heart of Manhattan.
The studio team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal will be behind the desk as TNT televises a live pregame show from midtown, in front of the historic Flatiron Building. The special NBA on TNT Opening Night 2013 Presented by AutoTrader.com telecast is part of a New York City attraction sponsored by 2K to celebrate the start of the NBA season.
Following the show, which will include live coverage of the Miami Heat’s championship-ring ceremony, TNT’s opening-night doubleheader will feature the defending champion Heat hosting the Chicago Bulls at 8 p.m. After the Bulls-Heat matchup, TNT will feature a battle of Los Angeles, with the Clippers meeting the Lakers at 10:30 p.m. Marv Albert will call the Bulls-Heat telecast with analysts Steve Kerr and reporter David Aldridge, with Kevin Harlan providing play-by-play for Clippers-Lakers with analyst Reggie Miller and reporter Craig Sager.
For NBA coverage throughout the season, the production teams are run out of a rotation of Turner’s own HD trucks, TS1 and TS2. The schedule is also supplemented by NEP Broadcasting.