NEP’s ND1 To Make Pimlico Debut as NBC Puts Preakness Spotlight on American Pharaoh
As American Pharaoh looks to create a dynasty of his own by becoming the second consecutive horse to win the first two gems of the Triple Crown, NBC Sports Group has rolled a production complement fit for a king at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore for the 140th running of the Preakness Stakes.
The Peacock has deployed NEP’s massive ND1 team of mobile units and more than 35 cameras to produce 6.5 hours of coverage from Pimlico, beginning with Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on NBCSN and continuing on Saturday with pre/post-race coverage on NBCSN and the main event on NBC.
First Deployment of ‘The Beast’ for Triple Crown
This weekend marks the first time NBC Sports Group will use NEP’s ND1 (A, B, C, and D units), which debuted on Sunday Night Football in 2014, for the three Triple Crown races.
“It makes everything a whole lot easier because of the infrastructure of ‘the beast’,” says NEP Senior Technical Manager John Roché. “It helps all the way around, from the Interconnects to fiber continuity and consistency, and the massive router helps a lot. We really don’t have to have a whole bunch of support to go along with it. Basically, the unit parks, and we open the up the doors and go to work.”
Rob Hyland and Drew Esocoff return at the front bench inside ND1’s A unit for NBC’s Preakness telecast; producer Billy Matthews and director Charlie Dammeyer will handle the NBCSN coverage.
Plenty of Cameras, Commentators at Pimlico
NBC has deployed 36 cameras in total, including 21 Sony HDC2500s (11 hard and 10 wired handhelds), five wireless RF handhelds (Sony HDC1500s), an RF Steadicam (Sony P1), two Sony HDC3300 3X-slo-mos, a Grass Valley LDX 86 Universe 6X-slo-mo, and a fixed-wing aerial unit. Four robos have been positioned on the starting gate and in the steward’s room, and a POV will be attached to on-track reporter Donna Brothers’s helmet for the post-race interview. In addition, an I-Movix 4K camera integrated with an Evertz DreamCatcher replay system will offer crop and zoom of 4K video for up-close HD replays at the action.
“In terms of cameras, the Preakness is essentially exactly the same as it was last year,” says Roché. “We have some very interesting things we have brought back again this year.”
Among the cameras returning are two iso cameras exclusive to NBC Sports Live Extra’s Preakness Stakes coverage, one of which will be locked on American Pharaoh.
NBC Sports Group will once again deploy an army of on-air talent throughout Pimlico, including host Bob Costas, commentator Tom Hammond; analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey; analysts/handicappers Bob Neumeier and Eddie Olczyk; NBCSN host/NBC reporter Laffit Pincay III; reporters Brothers, Kenny Rice, and Jay Privman; and race caller Larry Collmus. Josh Elliott (host for Black-Eyed Susan coverage) and Carolyn Manno will provide a mix of features and interviews at Pimlico Race Course.
NBC Overcomes Rain With Plenty of Glass
Saturday’s forecast calls for rain, which has made for some difficult Triple Crown productions in previous years, given the massive cable runs across muddy terrain at the tracks. However, thanks largely to NBC’s and NEP’s reliance on fiber rather than copper nearly across the board, Roché says a wet and muddy Saturday shouldn’t present an issue.
“Since there is no cabling infrastructure here, we are using almost entirely fiber,” he says. “So it’s not like the old days with triax, where water would get in the lines and you had all kinds of problems. With utilization of fiber this year, things get much easier to contend with.”
A Third Triple Crown Run in Four Years?
Should American Pharaoh finish atop the field at Pimlico, he will head to the Belmont Stakes looking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Should that scenario play out, NBC Sports Group and NEP will be ready to pull out the big guns in Elmont, NY.
“For [two out of the last three years], we have gone into Belmont as a Triple Crown race, so all the templates are built, and we know the cameras that will be added,” says Roché. “We are ready to go into Triple Crown mode or scale-down mode.”