SportsNet LA Beefs Up IP-Based Transmission, Spanish-Language Production for Sophomore Season

After a successful first season, SportsNet LA embarks on its second as the round-the-clock regional-sports home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And, although no drastic changes are planned for Year 2, SportsNet LA continues to mature and refine its production workflows — most noticeably as they relate to the network’s Spanish-language coverage — with the help of Level 3 and an enhanced IP-based transmission scheme.

Last season, SportsNet LA catered to Spanish-speaking Dodgers fans by broadcasting every home game in Spanish. This season, the network will expand Spanish-language commentary to every game it broadcasts, more than 150 during the regular season alone.

“This isn’t the old way, which has been done in many cities, where you take the primary broadcast — same graphics, same picture, same everything — slap a couple different announcers on it and call it a day,” says Larry Meyer, VP, content/executive producer, Time Warner Cable Regional Sports Networks. “We’re really doing a unique and independent production for both the Spanish and the English [audience].”

SportsNet LA, owned by the Dodgers and distributed by Time Warner Cable, will once again broadcast home games and selected away games in California and Arizona out of NEP MIRA Mobile’s M12 53-ft. HD expando. The truck will handle all production for the English-language feed and send a clean feed of the game cut to the network’s El Segundo, CA, facility, where a dedicated control room will produce the Spanish-language feed.

“If it’s a home game, the [Spanish] announcers are at Dodger Stadium; if it’s a road game, the announcers are actually going to stay home and call the game from our studio,” Meyer explains. “They can truly craft a program that is appropriate to the needs of those commentators and the audience: different graphics, different tape roll-ins, things of that nature. And that’s possible only with a workflow like this.”

Working with Level 3, SportsNet LA now has an IP-based multipath bidirectional transmission system that will better serve both the English- and the Spanish-language broadcasts. When the Dodgers are home, the network taps into the proprietary Time Warner Cable circuitry system in Dodger Stadium for a constant, direct connection to the venue. On the road, Level 3-created transmission kits give SportsNet LA multiple paths for exchanging video feeds, virtual graphics, data, and more between the remote site and El Segundo.

The enhanced transmission scheme not only allows SportsNet LA to produce an independent Spanish-language feed from the studio but also enables the English-language–production staff in the truck to rely more heavily on the at-home team. However, SportsNet LA has no immediate plans to leave more staffers at home.

“Right now, we use it to soup up what we’re able to do in the pre- and post-game shows,” says Jared Stacey, coordinating producer, remote, Time Warner Cable Sports. “The studio has access to anything that we’re doing in the truck; they’ve got a direct line from primary EVS [server]. So any package that’s been built in a game is sent immediately to the studio. In special circumstances, we can hook up [an Apple] Final Cut editor or [an Adobe] Premier editor back at our studio and have them building bumps [or] have a LiberoVision editor building analysis plays and sending those back. It hasn’t resulted, in our case, in getting rid of people; we’re using it to kind of enhance and put both shows on steroids.”

For game coverage, the camera complement will remain largely the same as last season’s — 10 Sony HDC2570s (two configured for super-slo-mo), an I-Movix ultra-slo-mo, a roving RF handheld, and two Sony P1 HD robos (one behind home plate, one in the Dodgers’ dugout) — with one addition: the network plans to station a Phantom camera outside the Dodgers’ dugout for selected series.

“We did have a very ambitious plan last season, and things got refined as the season went on, so there’s not too much that’s going to look different from last season,” explains Stacey. “We added [the Phantom camera] last year for our Giants series when the Dodgers clinched the NL West, so we’re going to take an opportunity to add that to our mix. I think that adds a lot to any broadcast.”

Because SportsNet LA offers round-the-clock content, the Phantom will be sure to find plenty of work outside of live game coverage. For original programming, including its embedded documentary series Backstage: Dodgers, the network switched from the Canon EOS 5D cameras to EOS C100 cameras and transitioned its editing from Apple Final Cut to Adobe Premier.

Midway through last season, SportsNet LA adopted a three-man booth for road games and will keep the trio — Charley Steiner (play-by-play), Orel Hershiser, and Nomar Garciaparra — intact this year. At home, however, it’s still a one-man show: Vin Scully returns for his 66th season in the Dodger Stadium broadcast booth.

“The Dodgers are truly part of the fabric of sports and sports fans in Southern California, and we are so lucky to be working with someone like Vin Scully to call the majority of the games,” says Meyer. “The process by which we use our production people, great crew, and equipment to produce those games [is] in support of the story that Vin is telling from the booth.”

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