Come Rain or Shine, NBC Sports Sets Sights on Justify at Preakness Stakes

The Bat Cam aerial camera system returns to cover the backstretch at Pimlico

Rain continues to pummel the East Coast this week and shows no signs of letting up before the 143rd Preakness Stakes on Saturday. But, following a soggy Kentucky Derby — the wettest on record, in fact — NBC Sports Group is prepared for the elements once again with a full production complement and crew that will stand up to whatever Mother Nature brings.

“We had great preparation by the tech team and the production team, just a great team effort,” says NBC Sports Group SVP, Remote Operations and Production Planning, Ken Goss, reflecting on the 144th Kentucky Derby. “Obviously, weather played a part, but I think everybody did a great job for the whole weekend. And, as you know, from the Kentucky Derby, you build up momentum leading into the Preakness, which hopefully leads into a Triple Crown Belmont.”

All eyes will be on Kentucky Derby winner Justify when Preakness Stakes coverage begins on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET. On NBCSN, coverage will begin even earlier, starting Friday at 3 p.m. and continuing Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Over the two days, NBC Sports will cover 10 races live.

After its successful debut at Churchill Downs earlier this month, NBC Sports will return the Bat Cam aerial camera system over the backstretch at Pimlico. The two-point cable-cam system can travel up to 80 mph along the backstretch, running 15-18 ft. above the ground.

“We weren’t originally planning to use it this weekend,” says Craig Bernstein, senior director, remote technical operations and engineering, NBC sports Group, “but. because of the success of the Derby, [the production team] wanted to use it again. Hopefully, if Justify wins and becomes a Triple Crown possibility, we’ll see it at the Belmont Stakes.”

NBC Sports will deploy 37 cameras around Pimlico. That number includes seven Sony HDC-4300 cameras, four operating in 6X super-slow motion. The complement is rounded out by a variety of Sony hard cameras, handhelds, and roving RF handhelds, all outfitted with Canon lenses. Throughout the Triple Crown, NBC Sports is operating out of NEP’s ND1, the Peacock’s Sunday Night Football unit.

Although all editing was done onsite for the Kentucky Derby, NBC Sports will keep its editors at its facility in Stamford, CT, for the Preakness Stakes, relying on a 1-Gb circuit from CenturyLink (formerly Level 3) to move footage back and forth. In total, more than 100 production, operations, and technical crew will be onsite at Pimlico.

Rob Hyland returns as coordinating producer and will serve as lead producer for the Preakness Stakes. Pierre Moossa will direct. NBCSN’s coverage will be produced by Billy Matthews and directed by Kaare Numme. Sam Flood serves as executive producer for both NBC Sports and NBCSN.

“The goal [at the Preakness Stakes] is watching Justify; hopefully, you get a horse that has the opportunity to go for the Triple Crown,” says Goss. “But [besides that], we had a very successful Derby, and we want to build on that momentum. We want a clean, successful race weekend at the Preakness [despite] the weather issues. We just want to continue to be as successful as we have been for the past couple years.”

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