TNT Expands Production of NBA Eastern Conference Finals

Even though the home team lost last night, Turner Sports and TNT had a slight home-court advantage when the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers tipped off in Philips Arena: the Hawks’ home is located less than three miles from TNT’s base.

“From a production standpoint, it eases the logistics of moving production teams,” says Chris Brown. “We still have the same amount of resources, and we are trying not to treat it like it is in our backyard, but there are efficiencies to be gained.”

Most notable was the ability to take the technojib used for the NBA on TNT studio show to Philips Arena, solving a space problem where crowd flow prevented the use of a larger jib.

“The technojib made more sense and definitely helped us,” says Brown, adding, “The people at Philips Arena helped make that happen.”

Turner Sports is stepping up production for the Eastern Conference Finals with two set locations in Atlanta and one in Cleveland. And game and studio coverage is expanding to 34 cameras, thanks to four additional super-slow-motion systems, an RF Steadicam from AVS, a reverse handheld at midcourt, a reverse hard camera, a high-end-zone camera, and robotic locker-room cameras.

The RF camera is a first for Turner Sports’ NBA postseason coverage, and it is being used for pre/postgame and halftime coverage as well as for game coverage. “The plan is to use it under the basket,” Brown notes. “We haven’t done it before, so we are going to see what we can get from it. But it will primarily be used with the studio show to shoot the crowd and other perspectives.”

As for the super-slow-motion units, a mix of Grass Valley LDX and Sony HDC3300 cameras are being used, with one camera behind each backboard, one handheld under each basket, and another two covering the foul line extended. The cameras will also be able to be mixed into the live coverage as needed.

“With the NBA replay center and review, we ideally want to make sure we have as many camera angles as possible so that the referees can get the calls right. Having all of those high-frame-rate cameras gives the ability to tell the story and have crystal-clear images,” says Brown. “With cameras behind the glass, the refs can see if something was or was not goaltending and even the trajectory or spin of the ball to see if someone’s hand touched it. The production team can tell a more complete story.”

The game production team, led by producer Scott Cockerill and director Renardo Lowe, are operating out of NEP Iridium in Atlanta and NEP Chromium in Cleveland. Studio operations, led by producer Jeremy Levin and director Steve Fiorello, are housed in NEP’s SS22 in Atlanta and SS18 (used for Turner’s West Coast regular-season NBA coverage) in Cleveland. Alliance Productions is providing a support truck, and Bexel is supplying equipment for an audio-submix area based on a Yamaha audio console.

The NBA playoff format calls for two games in Atlanta, two games in Cleveland, and then game 5 in Atlanta, 6 in Cleveland, and 7 in Atlanta. One wrinkle is that, because Cleveland hosts viewing parties inside its home arena during away games, the Turner team has to disassemble some of its studio operation when those viewing parties take place.

But that extra effort is more than repaid with the opportunity to once again have an NBA Eastern Conference Finals featuring the game’s biggest star: Lebron James.

“Anytime Lebron James is playing at your game,” says Brown, “it’s a plus.”

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