Live From MLB All-Star: MLB Network Embraces ‘One Baseball’ Philosophy in Cincy
Although MLB Network has deployed five mobile units and three studio sets to handle its onslaught of MLB All-Star coverage this week in Cincinnati, the network’s responsibility reaches far beyond just its own programming. In keeping with the “One Baseball” mentality adopted under new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the network is also helping support MLB Advanced Media, the world feed (a co-production of MLB International and MLB Network), and a host of other MLB-affiliated operations.
“The major difference is that all of baseball’s media entities are more consolidated, which has been great for us because it feel more like one group that’s handling the ENG, MLB.com, the world feed, for corporate, for community, and for MLB Network,” says Susan Stone, SVP, operations and engineering, MLB Network. “We make sure that there’s one crew that’s covering one event and taking care of all the needs. We have really partnered well with these groups in the past, but it’s just great to formalize it and have us all working together in the same trailers in the same areas with the same oversight.”
MLB Forces Unite
MLB Network and its MLB brethren have deployed 31 cameras in all across Great American Ball Park: 12 for studio operations (including two RF), 10 for the red carpet and parade show (four RF), nine cameras for the world feed and Futures Game, six POV cameras, and two hat cams worn by talent roaming the field. Also, 12 ENG crews are on hand collecting a wealth of content for MLB’s various platforms and shows.
“For me, the thing that’s been real nice is, with all the different entities now together, we get the opportunity to integrate more technical toys,” says Jason Hedgcock, manager, remote technical operations, MLB Network. “We can defer some of that cost across the board now since everyone can use these toys. If we want to use hat cam, we will use it for Futures, for studio, and for anything else. We can take these new devices and test out new technology, and we have the ability to have that leeway now because we can use them on multiple events.”
In terms of trucks, Game Creek Video’s Pride A&B units are supporting the studio shows and primary transmission, Game Creek’s Apollo is handling the red-carpet show, and Dome Productions’ Atlantic and Unite are in charge of the Futures and world-feed shows.
Studio Sets Galore and Hat Cam on the Field
To deliver more than 13 live hours of coverage from Great American Ball Park this week, MLB Network has erected three dedicated studio sets at the park. The trio of studios is highlighted by a brand-new on-field set that features a desk custom designed by Creative Dimensions and a unique roof structure built by Filmwerks. In addition, Filmwerks has created a motorized system that significantly cuts down on set and strike time.
“Every year after All-Star, we evaluate everything and try to find ways that we can improve,” says Tom Guidice, VP, remote operations, MLB Network. “We were looking for ways to cut down on [set and strike time], and Filmwerks came to us with this motorized system, and we loved it. It’s freed up five guys and shave three minutes off our setup and take-down.”
Filmwerks also built MLB Network’s secondary set on the concourse level and its red-carpet set outside the ballpark.
In addition to using all three sets for its MLB Tonight: All-Star Batting Practice coverage on Monday and Tuesday, analysts are using wireless hat cams to capture live HD footage of players on the field from a first hand perspective. The units feature Cobham Solo 7 transmitters and are a collaboration between Globecast and CP Communications.
“We used the hat cams a little on Monday, but I really think [Tuesday batting practice] is where they are going to shine,” says Guidice. “Basically, Sean Casey and Harold Reynolds can run around the whole field having banter with the players, and it gives us a really cool perspective. Plus, the players have come to expect our set to be on the field, and they have fun with it. It’s a very cool atmosphere, and they will even walk right up to the set sometimes to [joke around].”
Tuesday afternoon’s All-Star Red Carpet Show, which featured talent Greg Amsinger, Sean Casey, and Heidi Watney, was based out of a revamped set built on a Filmwerks Z-stage (which can be struck in under a half hour, making it easier for fans to come and go) that echoed a more traditional red-carpet feel, according to Stone.
“We’re trying to get more of a red-carpet feel as opposed to the sort of a studio show on the road feel that we had last year,” says Stone. “We try to change it up a little every year, and we’re excited about this year’s red carpet.”
Fat Fiber Pipes Connect Cincy, Secaucus
As has traditionally been the case for MLB Network’s All-Star shows, the remote operation is intimately connected with the broadcast center in Secaucus, NJ — so much so that all features and postproduction operations are located back home.
MLB boasts 500 Mbps of total network connectivity between Great American Ball Park and Secaucus: 300 Mbps for IP file transfers and other engineering networking needs, 60 Mbps for ENG Crew Feed Station, and 140 Mbps for general network and Internet access.
In terms of transmission, MLB Network’s operation in Pride has 42 frame syncs. The network is relying on both Level 3 and The Switch. Level 3 is supplying 15 total path inbound mux (12 for studio, three for red carpet) and 11 total path outbound mux (five for studio, six for world feed), and The Switch (which also provides the backbone for Ballpark Cam) is providing six inbounds and six outbounds and is carrying a Dejero video-over-IP path.
Futures Game and World Feed
MLB Network and MLB international are relying on Dome Productions’ Atlantic and Unite to produce the Futures Game on Sunday and the world feed of the game itself on Tuesday, which will be taken by 51 television broadcasters in 13 languages across more than 165 countries and territories. In addition, Japan’s NHK, South Korea’s MBC, Panama’s Medco, and ESPN International are onsite, delivering their own unilateral shoulder programming.