MLB All-Star 2019 Wrap-Up: Vendors Unite in the Compound, on the Set for Fox, ESPN, MLBN
Recapping Game Creek, NEP, Filmwerks, Arctek, CES, Program Productions, and Harb efforts in Cleveland
Here’s a look at the roles played by key vendors — Game Creek Video, NEP, Filmwerks, ARCTEK, CAT Entertainment Services, Program Productions, and Harb Productions — inside the MLB All-Star 2019 truck compound and on studio sets at Progressive Field in Cleveland for Fox Sports, ESPN, and MLB Network.
Game Creek Video Trucks Drive Fox, MLBN Productions
Game Creek Video’s trio of Encore mobile units housed Fox Sports’ MLB All-Star Game production for the second consecutive year.
The control rooms for the game production and the onsite studio shows were located in Encore’s B unit (to serve the studio shows, a Grass Valley Karrera switcher panel took 2 M/E from the primary 9 M/E GV Kayenne K-Frame switcher). Encore, which features an Evertz IP router and state-of-the-art infrastructure, offered plenty of firepower for Fox’s massive All-Star Game production, which featured 39 cameras (including 15 high-speed systems) and 15 EVS servers (including 10 EVS XT4K systems).
“As far as Encore goes, even with all these cameras — many [of which] are super-slo-mos — we still have the availability to put in about 18 more cameras and 10 more EVS [servers],” says —— “This truck gives you almost unlimited flexibility. It’s a really great home for Fox to showcase the All-Star Game, but it also helps us to find out what we need to do during postseason. This helps us define what we are going to do moving forward with Fox, and Encore gives them a lot of options.”
MLB Network once again used all Game Creek Video trucks (overseen by Game Creek Video Engineering Manager George Bailie) for its All-Star production with one notable change: the Pride mobile unit (A and B) replaced Riverhawk as the home of its onsite studio shows. Maverick and Edit 3 handled the world-feed production for the third straight year, and Webby was deployed on the Red Carpet Show production.
NEP’s EN1 Quintet Returns for ESPN HR Derby Coverage
NEP’s EN1 fleet of trucks (A, B, C, D, and an E equipment hauler) was home to ESPN’s Home Run Derby production for the sixth year in a row. Three separate control rooms served ESPN’s cavalcade of productions in Cleveland: one for the Derby and the Celebrity Softball Game (taped on Sunday and aired on Friday night), one for onsite editions of Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter, and one dedicated to ESPN Deportes’ coverage of the Derby and the All-Star Game.
The truck already had two control rooms, which are used during the NFL season for ESPN’s Monday Night Football game production and studio show, and a third control room was built in the graphics area of the A unit (graphics was moved to the D unit).
“With the Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame [switcher] with 9 M/E available to it, we can easily accommodate three control rooms. Not a lot of trucks can say that,” says NEP EN1 Engineer-in-Charge Bruce Hogenboom. “The infrastructure is already in place, so it’s not very difficult just to plug the additional control panels and things like that in for this show. We’re also sharing all sorts of cameras back and forth, which is what EN1 does really well by design.”
Filmwerks Rolls Out Sets for Fox, MLB Network
Filmwerks provided all sets for both Fox Sports and MLB Network. Fox also worked with Filmwerks to create an on-field rover set (dubbed “the Frover” for Fox rover) along the first-base line that can be struck and carted off the field in less than minutes in advance of first pitch.
“The Frover takes the concept of the [mobile] set we did for MLB Networks to the next level,” says Filmwerks Project Manager Bill Talaska. “It’s got the double-acting cylinders, so the roof comes down very low. It’s all hydraulic steering so it can bring itself out here to the field and back. And it folds up to a nice tight little package. What’s new [compared with the MLB Network set] is, this one actually has a load-supporting roof that we can put lights on.”
In addition, Fox is using SportsTime Ohio’s set in centerfield, which is based on the Filmwerks-designed set that Fox used at the 2016 World Series featuring the Indians. Filmwerks added an awning and rebranded it with Fox Sports wrapping and flooring for the All-Star Game.
MLB Network brought back its primary rover set on the field, which can be struck and carted off the field in less than six minutes, as well as a secondary set near the right-field foul pole — both supplied by Filmwerks.
Filmwerks also worked with the league to create a DJ booth high above left field for the in-ballpark experience.
Program Productions Provides Boots on the Ground for MLB Network
As the largest provider of broadcast-production labor services in the country, Program Productions is a regular at major events like the MLB All-Star Game and this year was no different. The crewing company had more than hired 93 freelancers to work on seven crews for MLB Network, including the network’s on-site studio shows, Red Carpet Show, MLB Digital shows, MLB All-Star Futures Game, MLB world feed, and MLB Home Run Derby VR Finals, as well as Japanese broadcaster NHK’s coverage.
ESPN Adds Redundancy With Arctek Satellite Uplink
In addition to its primary fiber and backup IP transmission paths, ESPN enlisted ARCTEK Satellite Productions’ Green Ku satellite truck to provide a satellite uplink for its telecasts of the Home Run Derby and ESPN Deportes’ coverage of the All-Star Game. A backup IP transmission link and a satellite uplink were provided by Arctek.
“We specifically added a satellite truck this year as a backup because we felt that was the most reliable in order to ensure redundancy for a big event like this,” says ESPN Remote Operations Manager Paul Horrell. “The thinking behind that is, we’ve used IP backup with great success in the past and we use it on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday Night Baseball throughout the year. But, for an event this size, we felt we should go with a backup that is completely reliable, so we went with a satellite uplink.”
ARCTEK owner Brian Stanley adds, “We were called in because of the reliability of the satellite transmission backhaul method. There is a ton of connectivity at all pro sports venues, but, when you want the ultimate reliability, you call in a satellite truck and operator to manage your feed.”
CAT Entertainment Services Stays Cool in the Compound
After last year’s underground truck compound in Washington, DC, proved to be among the hottest in recent memory, CAT Entertainment Services (CES) was tasked with finding a solution to ensure that the underground compound (with Fox in the Progressive Field truck dock and MLB Network in the connected Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse truck dock) would stay cool.
“Last year’s [truck compound] was packed very closely together, and there wasn’t much room in between the trucks,” says CAT Entertainment Services Account Executive Bobby DeLuna. “This time, we were lucky enough to have it spread out between the Cavaliers side and the Indians side, but we still needed to keep it cool. [Traditional] air-conditioning units create heat load, so the more A/C units we added in DC last year, it just caused more problems.”
To resolve this dilemma, CES brought in chilled-water cooling units with air handlers downstairs in order to create a giant vortex of cool air.
“It has been pretty successful in terms of keeping the compound cool this year,” says DeLuna. “This is the first year that we’re doing chilled water, and we learned a lot, so I think that we can enhance it next year and make it even better.”
In terms of power, CES lit up ESPN’s aboveground compound across the street, providing 500 kW of redundant power, as well as 300 kW for ancillary gear, air conditioning, and catering. CES also provided redundant power through five UPS systems for environmentals for MLB Network and Fox Sports trucks in the underground compound.
Harb Productions Serves ESPN’s Statcast Edition
Harb Productions’ Sophie truck was on hand to produce ESPN’s “Statcast Edition” of the Home Run Derby. Harb, which recently acquired by Live Media Group, was enlisted due to the growth of the Statcast Edition production and the newly-launched Baseball Tonight episode that aired before the Derby. ESPN leveraged its GREMI (graphics–remote-integration] model for the Statcast Edition feed, locating two EVS replay operators and a Vizrt graphics operator at its headquarters in Bristol, CT.
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