VER Flypack Powers College-Hoops Production For ESPN Armed Forces Classic in Japan

ESPN has broadcast from the deck of battleships, from inside hangars, and on military bases across the world. And it never gets old.

The fourth-annual Armed Forces Classic is set to tip off tonight at 7 p.m. ET from Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan.

The fourth-annual Armed Forces Classic is set to tip off tonight at 7 p.m. ET from Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan.

The Armed Forces Classic has become both a Veteran’s Day and College Basketball Tip-Off tradition at ESPN, and, for the fourth iteration of the exciting event, 45 above-the-line and below-the-line production-crew members are on hand in Okinawa, Japan, where Pittsburgh will take on No. 9 Gonzaga (7 p.m. ET, Friday, ESPN).

“[The Armed Forces Classic is] the largest honor of anything I’ve ever been involved with,” says Terri Hermann, operations manager, ESPN. “Giving something back to the men and women that are here is so amazing for us. This event, when I start reaching out to crew, [receives] one of the most immediate responses that I get from the crew. It’s an adventure every year building it up from scratch, but it’s always astounding to see the folks come in and pull it all together.”

In lieu of a traditional production truck, ESPN has erected a flypack control room designed by VER.

In lieu of a traditional production truck, ESPN has erected a flypack control room designed by VER.

This year, the challenge is a field house at Camp Foster, a space that is no stranger to the echo of the bounce of a basketball on hardwood. The facility is a long building with three end-to-end basketball courts inside. In about a week (personnel from the network’s events side arrived as early as last Saturday), ESPN has turned the space into a little piece of Americana for the service members stationed in Okinawa.

Connor Sports installed a fresh new playing surface, Musco erected lightning, and seating for nearly 3,000 spectators is in place for the game, which will tip off at 9:30 a.m. local time.

Windows in the field house cause a sunlight glare on the court, so ESPN has covered them with dark curtains.

Windows in the field house cause a sunlight glare on the court, so ESPN has covered them with dark curtains.

It was discovered during a site visit last February that sun shining through large windows near the ceiling of the facility created a strong glare that was an obstacle for both players and cameras. Since the game will be played during the day, ESPN has curtained off all those windows to eliminate the glare.

As for the production setup, ESPN will not have a production truck onsite but instead will use a VER flypack system. Crews have built a control room and set of Avid suites from scratch. The show will feature three hard and four handheld cameras, in addition to a jib. ESPN was not able to clear frequencies for RF cameras this year, so all cameras will be hardwired.

Transmission will be a unique undertaking; Hermann describes it as a “patchwork quilt” of sorts. A satellite-uplink truck has been ferried in from Japan, and ESPN’s network-traffic coordinator has coordinated the signal to be handed off via satellite and fiber through ABC studios in New York City before being passed along to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT.

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