Cardinals Soar With New Fox Sports Midwest Studio at Busch Stadium
The new Ballpark Village at Busch Stadium has been all the buzz in St. Louis this young baseball season, and one of its crown jewels is the new Fox Sports Midwest Live! plaza.
The stadium addition is more than just aesthetic branding for the Fox Sports regional network. One of the attraction’s most popular features is a brand-new studio set that serves as home to pre- and post-game coverage of Cardinals baseball all season long, including road games.
The new studio’s technical abilities and its picturesque location [it overlooks the diamond from centerfield] have brought a fresh, bold feel to Cardinals coverage.
“We’re thrilled. Not relieved, we’re thrilled,” says Larry Mago, executive producer at Fox Sports Midwest. “Whenever you launch a new studio or a new operation, you get down to the last minute, and your rehearsal time is always shorter than you want, your technical flush-out time is always shorter than you want. But, fortunately for us, we had a good week of run-up, and we were able to debut with the opening game in Cincinnati on March 31. I don’t think the audience has seen anything but good things out of us no matter how stressed we get to put it on the air.”
The studio features two shooting locations — an anchor desk framed by 110 in. worth of vertical video monitors and a stand-up–reporter position with a 60-in. monitor on a swivel for vertical or horizontal display.
Fox Sports Network Regional Engineering was the driving force behind the design and integration of the studio, which includes both manned cameras (Ikegami) and robotics (Sony). The cameras and monitors are all fibered back to the network’s control room in the company’s home-office building across the city. All interconnectivity is a fiber mux, but there’s secondary connectivity to the Mobile TV Group production truck parked outside Busch Stadium to broadcast the game.
The studio has opened up a bevy of new storytelling options for the Fox Sports Midwest Cardinals crew. Through the first month of the season, Cardinals broadcasts have been a thorough depiction of the full ballpark experience. Programming decisions have focused on coordination between the studio and the booth announcers, additional RF capabilities with a roving reporter throughout the stadium, and Fox Sports Midwest Live!, which has been a popular locale, even during road games.
“For home games, it’s just a dramatic connection between the studio environment and the stadium,” says Mago. “Whenever you cut to the studio, the live stadium is right there behind it. We’ve been pretty aggressive with adding studio segments into the game broadcasts above and beyond what we did in previous years. It’s much more about making the studio a part of the game broadcast and adding a new dimension. Analysts in the booth and in the studio can play off of each other. We do that in pregame and also around the seventh inning. The totality of the broadcast is taking on a bigger feel.”
The studio itself is just one — albeit a major one — piece of the continued growth of Cardinals broadcasts on Fox Sports Midwest. Additional gear and crew have been added on-site for both the studio and the game broadcasts this season. Cardinals home games feature upwards of 15 cameras, including the ultra-high-speed X-Mo and a fiber-connected booth camera for in-game guest interviews.
“We have a lot of pride in our Cardinals broadcasts,” says Mago. “They have been great for years. We think these added features are making the shows bigger, and we feel they are as good as any team’s broadcast regionally or nationally in the country. And we’re just at the tip of the iceberg with what we’re using here.”