CTG Syncs NBA All-Star In-Venue, Broadcast Experience in New Orleans

Upgrades at Smoothie King Center and Mercedes-Benz Superdome streamline video production

The NBA All-Star Game returned to New Orleans last month, its third visit to the Big Easy in the past decade. Although the venue itself has remained the same — all three editions were contested in the Smoothie King Center, home of the Pelicans — the video facilities within that venue have changed dramatically.

Prior to the 2015-16 season, major upgrades at both Smoothie King Center and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome were unveiled by the Pelicans, the Saints, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED), and SMG: a new Panasonic HD center-hung video display and ribbon boards in the Smoothie King Center and a renovated video-control room within the Superdome serving both buildings.

Smoothie King Center’s production team worked with the NBA’s in-venue team on the in-game shows.

LSED contracted systems integrator CTG to upgrade the WJHW-designed video-control room. The room now houses a Grass Valley Kayenne switcher, Evertz EQX router, and three DreamCatcher replay servers, Yamaha audio console, two ChyronHego Lyric graphics systems, and a variety of new and legacy gear from Panasonic, Click Effects, and Daktronics for video playout. The Pelicans and Saints also have five Grass Valley LDX 80 cameras and two LDX 86 high-frame-rate cameras at their disposal, all with Fujinon lenses.

Although the Pelicans and Saints have their own game-presentation teams that are responsible for creating in-game shows (the Superdome received two new LED video displays prior to the 2016 NFL season), the NBA All-Star Game was a little different. Josh Richardson, executive director of live programming and broadcasting for both the Pelicans and the Saints, worked alongside NBA Entertainment throughout All-Star Weekend to execute the league’s in-venue production.

“The league has a game-presentation committee that works on the different show elements for Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night,” he explains. “In addition, we work with NBAE on different elements that they want to execute: promotion, community, social responsibility, sponsored elements, as well as game entertainment. The goal for us is to basically put on the best show possible for all three nights and just try to take care of all the different elements that the NBA requests, as well as add the local flair.”

CTG, which has worked with SMG to support the facility since its upgrade, was also on hand throughout NBA All-Star Weekend, helping streamline the in-venue show and television broadcast. To capture the talent on the court for the television broadcast, CTG replaced the camera within the center-hung display with one from Turner Sports, feeding that camera to Turner’s fleet of NEP mobile units via the venue’s fiber infrastructure. However, because of the necessary frame syncing, CTG found that the video of the talent on the court playing out on the videoboard was not lining up with the audio coming out of the in-venue PA system.

To solve the problem, CTG opted to lock the video-control room to the truck compound and send the truck program feed directly to the videoboard, thus reducing latency.

“We got together with NEP and the NBA,” says Steve McCormick, EVP/principal, CTG, “and we all decided that what we should do is just genlock everybody together, drop all our frame syncs out of line, and then take the Turner Sports program feed [directly] into our production switcher. It dropped the latency because it eliminated frame sync on their side and our side, and all of their cameras now came to us without latency or at least [very little latency]. … We made that all go away by getting rid of that, and then suddenly we were in an acceptable amount of latency to where you could look at the board and not [think that everything] is out of sync. So that became the solution that made the magic happen.”

New Orleans’ third NBA All-Star Game since 2008 was certainly a charm, not only for the NBA and Turner Sports but for the behind-scenes teams ensuring that fans in the Smoothie King Center had the best fan experience possible.

“This was our smoothest one yet,” says Richardson. “The league was very happy, as well as the corporate partners and the city of New Orleans. So I think, overall, it went over really well.”

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