Bellator Enters 4K Cage for First Time With Bellator NYC: Sonnen vs. Silva PPV at MSG
The 4K production was part of a historic night for the MMA promoter that included seven hours of live coverage.
Bellator entered the 4K cage for the first time this weekend, as the Bellator NYC: Sonnen vs. Silva PPV at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night became the Viacom-owned promotion’s first event to be produced and delivered in 4K UHD. The 4K domestic PPV telecast added yet another layer to what was already the biggest evening in Bellator history with seven-plus hours of coverage, including the Sonnen-Silva three-hour PPV card, the two-hour Bellator 180 event preceding it on Spike, and two hours of Bellator prelims streaming online before that.
“We pride ourselves on the production value that we bring to every show. But the multiple layers we are doing for this show take it to a whole other level. The 4K [telecast] just adds yet another layer to that,” Spike TV SVP and Executive Producer Scott Fishman said last week. “We are pulling out all the stops and doing everything we can to make this the most spectacular production that we’ve ever done. And our [production] team is up for the challenge.”
Inside the Bellator NYC 4K Production
In order to produce the 4K show, Viacom Global Entertainment Group brought in its Atlas 4K mobile unit (A and B units) — which is designed as an entertainment truck — to support Spike TV’s regular Bellator production truck, Pegasus (A and B units). Pegasus’ control room housed the production team, while a separate technical director inside Atlas listened to the director calling cameras inside Pegasus and shadow-cut the 4K feed.
Viacom deployed 13 Sony HDC-4300 4K/HD cameras and two Sony HDC-4800 4K high-speed cameras (operating at 6x slo-mo and paired with BPU-4800 replay server) with all 4K CCUs located in Atlas. Pegasus took the 1080i feeds off of these cameras for the primary HD telecasts and had 4K zoom/cut-out capability from the 4800s. All the 4K cameras were outfitted with Fujinon 4K lenses.
In addition, POVs and a wireless RF cameras integrated into both the HD and 4K telecasts brought the total camera complement to 18.
“A big focus for us was maintaining the day-to-day workflow [for the Spike/Bellator production team]. We could have used Atlas [as the primary truck], but it would have caused serious disruptions to Pegasus day-to-day workflow,” says George Epley, SVP, Technical and Production Operations, Viacom Global Entertainment Group. “So, it was decided very early on to bring Atlas on board to provide the 4K camera coverage and 4K playback, but to use Pegasus as the [primary mobile unit]. It was a one-off show, it would likely have been a different scenario, but Bellator on Spike has an established routine and we wanted to respect that.”
Pegasus’ Calrec Apollo audio console handled the primary audio mix for both shows, while the massive Lawo mc2-66 audio console in Atlas handled Spanish audio and QC.
The normal Bellator on Spike graphics flow did not change, as all graphics were created in 1080i and used for both the HD and 4K shows.
“It may seem complex, but from my perspective, it’s really no different than just if you had a facility and ran out of resources, so you brought in another truck,” says Epley. “This is a major tentpole event for Bellator, so, from a technology and camera perspective, this was going to be a very big production whether it was done in 4K or not. The 4K has just added on another layer for us.”
Plenty of Paths: 16 Transmission Streams Over Seven Hours
The 4K domestic PPV feed (it was not available internationally) was just one of 16 transmission paths leaving MSG on Saturday and being distributed across the globe. Among them were a domestic dirty feed, a dirty-clean feed (sans sponsorship elements but with Spike graphics), and a true-clean feed for Bellator 180 on Spike. The Bellator NYC PPV was distributed as a PPV HD domestic dirty feed and HD world feed minus sponsorship elements to more than 140 countries around the world. In addition, the prelims were streamed on Bellator.com and Bellator Mobile App.
“When you look at the number of paths that we have from 6 p.m. to the time we get off the air, close to 1 a.m., it’s pretty amazing,” says Fishman.
On-Site Set Adds to Big-Event Feel at MSG
Adding to the big-event mentality at the fight, Viacom rolled out a brand new on-site set at MSG, complete with plenty of new talent. The set, which was located downstage looking out onto the cage behind it, was integrated into the Spike and PPV telecasts throughout the night and featured rotating commentators, including Mike Goldberg, Mauro Ranallo, and Brendan Schaub. Jenn Brown was also delivering live reports from backstage in the locker rooms throughout the evening
“In terms of the scope, we are looking along the lines of the World Series or NBA Finals where we have a desk [on-site] and our commentators on air at different points throughout the show,” says Fishman. “We’ve also added quite a bit on the talent side that has helped us add a lot of credibility in the MMA space.”