College Football Kickoff: BTN Relies on Super-Slo-Mo, At-Home Production for Football Coverage
14 games will be produced this season using at-home model
With as many as five — even six — Big Ten teams cracking most preseason college-football polls, the conference is coming into the new season with a load of on-the-field hype. Its hometown network is ready for the thrill ride.
BTN, which opens its season tonight with Minnesota’s home opener against New Mexico State (7 p.m. ET), is prepped for one of its busiest football seasons in the network’s history. With a freshly polished graphics package and scorebug from its partners at Fox Sports and a commitment to high-end camera work, BTN will again treat fans to some of the sharpest game productions in the business.
“The quality of our cameras on all of our shows has never been better,” says Mark Hulsey, SVP, production/executive producer, BTN. “We’ve made the financial commitment to secure the best camera and lens complements. We can always improve, and we are always pushing the envelope in regards to super-slo-mo. I don’t think we can have enough super-slo-mo cameras.”
BTN’s commitment to super-slo-mo is so high that the network has made it a priority to ensure that those cameras are available even on shows that may be done using at-home production. Its three newest vans dedicated to at-home production feature Grass Valley LDX 82 cameras with either a 107X or an 80X lens for tight close-ups that prove effective regardless of venue size.
“That has been a real game-changer in our coverage,” says Hulsey, who has been with BTN since 2009. “I can say without question that there was not one replay last year of a play in review where we did not have the definitive look because of super-slo-mo. It’s something we continue to push.”
As for the at-home initiative, BTN will continue its expansion with the official rollout of its sixth at-home–production van in December. Couple that with a fourth control room dedicated to at-home production (which the network is currently putting the finishing touches on) in its Chicago facility, and at-home is becoming even more essential to BTN operations.
Even football is in the conversation. The network is scheduled to produce 14 football games this season, using the at-home model.
“That’s something that we want to continue to grow,” Hulsey explains. “Expect that number —with our fourth control room and sixth van — to grow again in this production year.”
September 15 is circled on calendars in the BTN offices. On that day, the network will produce nine football games, a new high for football broadcasts in a single day for the network. Mobile TV Group remains as BTN’s primary truck vendor, but, on days like these, the network has to get creative in bringing in additional resources.
According to Hulsey, BTN will make a concerted effort to show even more pregame festivities this year, including bands and traditional entrances. To do so, the production will more often than not forego the standard welcome shot with on-air talent in the announce booth and instead show more in-stadium action at the open of each broadcast.
“The ultimate goal every game is to make the fans feel like they are inside the stadium,” he says. “Hopefully, we are doing our best to provide them that.”