Mainstream SNB and ‘Kay-Rod’ shows will be produced from Bristol PCRs this year
In its first year of a new MLB rights expansion, ESPN is bringing an all-new strategy that focuses on Sunday night baseball. With 25 exclusive Sunday night baseball games (as well as five additional exclusive windows throughout the year plus the new MLB Wild Card series), ESPN is pulling all production stops. This includes a host of new and improved production technologies and, of course, Kay-Rod’s highly publicized alternate broadcast featuring Alex Rodriguez and Michael Kay in the booth for eight SNB Games.
Although ESPN serves as the exclusive seat for tonight’s Braves-Reds MLB opening night broadcast, the network’s days of showcasing weekday baseball on linear television are now in the background (although many MLB games are still broadcast on ESPN+). With that in mind, ESPN plans to use new content offerings such as Kay-Rod simulcast and new technologies such as K-Zone 3D+ pitch tracking and “ESPN Multiview” synchronized camera view so that Sunday Night Baseball feels more epic than ever for viewers. .
“We’re really excited to be back this year with a strong baseball coverage plan and a chance to grow the product with unique new ideas and lots of new technology,” said ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Phil Orlins. for the MLB. “We’re looking at how to leverage everything we can get out of Sunday, which is not just the technology, but also how we can add from a programming perspective. And the Kay-Rod [alternate broadcast] is a great example.
Stay tuned to SVG tomorrow for our full article on ESPN’s production plans for Kay-Rod’s shows this year.
K-Zone 3D+: Height tracking for the modern era
Since its debut in 2015, K-Zone 3D has become a staple of ESPN’s MLB coverage and now those graphic replays can be flipped in seconds. This year, ESPN takes it up a notch with K-Zone 3D+, which compares every court in the game to the major league average for spin, vertical drop, horizontal drop and other key Statcast metrics.
“This is the biggest evolutionary change to our K-Zone in a long time and we’ve wanted to do this for quite a while,” Orlins says. “We think it adds a whole new layer to our [broadcasts].”
Based on MLB Statcast tracking data, K-Zone 3D+ was developed by the Media Technology team at DMED (Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution) and was led by Christiaan Cokas, Brian Rooney, Jeffrey Bradshaw, Griffin Rhodes. Because the system is fully automated, Orlins says K-Zone 3D+ segments can run for about five seconds and can be inserted almost immediately into the broadcast for any given pitch.
“The complexity of what we’re showing here and yet the limited amount of clutter that’s actually on screen is absolutely amazing. [information] and ensuring that every visual component on screen enhances viewer understanding.
In the short term, Orlins believes K-Zone 3d+ will provide a valuable new tool for ESPN analysts on the stand, especially newcomer and pitch guru David Cone.
‘ESPN Multiview’: fast-rotating multi-angle watches close games
In addition to K-Zone 3D+, ESPN is launching a new feature called ESPN Multiview which offers up to four cameras synced to the screen at the same time in split view. This will allow a multi-angle review of close games in seconds. To achieve this, ESPN brings all camera feeds into its Evertz DreamCatcher replay system, syncs them, and then displays them in two-, three-, or four-panel on-screen layouts that can be reversed in as fast as 10 seconds.
“It’s actually a pretty simple concept, but I think it’s going to have a huge impact,” says Orlins. “We messed around with it for a long time and finally we gave it to the DreamCatcher room and they came up with a plan for it. It offers an entirely new experience for something as simple as a tight play at first base or a game-changing play like a play at home plate. For a huge game like in last year’s AL Wild Card game where Bogarts threw Judge home, this would have been a very powerful tool to be able to get after the game so quickly. We’ve done this stuff before sure, but always a round or so later; now we can do it in seconds.
Next-gen graphics: virtual defensive shift animations, pitch sequences, and win probability graphs
ESPN will also be more aggressive in deploying real-time virtual animation graphics to illustrate defensive changes on the pitch. Using MLB Statcast data, ESPN can translate the positioning of infielders and base runners into graphic overlays that will be used even more frequently than before on its MLB broadcasts.
“We’re going to use these animation graphics more aggressively than anyone has ever done,” says Orlins. “We won’t necessarily leave it up when the ball is in play, but I would expect it to be used for every batter in the game – both during pitches and between pitches – to see where they are playing. defensively.”
Other key analytical elements of ESPN’s broadcast this year will include returning pitch streaks for most hitters, as well as win probability graph charts that show the momentum of the game and the importance of big shots. games on the possible outcome of the game.
Game feeling for SNB: No more Super-Slo-Mo, drone takeoffs and BBTN returns on location
ESPN SNB the camera complement will consist of 10 hardware cameras for gaming (six Sony HD-4300s and four HDC-2500s) with two additional hardware cameras added for all Kay-Rod games, four handhelds including RF IP systems and TVU, and two interlocks. ESPN will deploy up to six super-slo-mo on any game, plus a home bot and all in-house bots and POVs already on site.
“Flexibility is key and that will change to some degree from game to game,” says Paul Horrell, Head of Remote Operations, ESPN. “We are also working on a drone to [a third of the] games this season. We used a few games last season and it really gives the game coverage a great look and perspective.
Additionally, ESPN will have buried in-game field effect mics this year depending on the game, as well as the new MLB umpire replay stream, ump RF mic and, if possible, player mics for interviews. two-way with the announcers in the cabin.
ESPN also brings BAseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown on the road for a dozen on-site pre-game shows leading up to Sunday night baseball. Karl Ravech and a host of analysts and journalists will contribute to the show, which will be hosted from the existing announcement booth at the ballpark.
Bristol at the heart of operations: SNB Uses a mix of REMI, REMI PRO, REMCO models
The main broadcast and eight Kay-Rod presentations will be produced from a pair of new REMI control rooms on ESPN’s campus in Bristol, CT, using a mix of REMI (remote integration) and REMCO (remote controlled). . NEP’s NCP11 (units A and B) will be on site in the compound for all SNB productions with Unit C and Illumination Dynamics generators.
All SNB production will be based on ESPN’s “REMI PRO” model with on-site announcers, most of the production team back in Bristol and isolated paths returning to the control room for game production.
On games that do not include Kay-Rod Alternate Broadcast, three EVS replay operators will be in the truck operating a trio of 12-channel EVS XT VIA machines for SSMO and the other four will be in Bristol. As for the eight Kay-Rod shows, there will be only one EVS operator in the truck and six in Bristol, with two of those operators controlling two of the VIA machines in the truck using the REMCO model d ESPN.
“When we have Kay-Rod in place, it’s really a REMI/REMCO hybrid model,” says Horrell. “We’ve all become quite comfortable with models and hybrids. Integrations get a little tricky, but it’s all down to detail and coordination with Bristol and I think we’ve improved a lot over the last two years as well.
ESPN’s operations team is also working with the Traffic Department on a new transmission scheme in an effort to streamline the set-shoot-strike aspect of its MLB productions this year. ESPN plans to use an IP master control solution that runs all 30 source-isolated paths through the same encoding and transport to Bristol. This all goes through the same encoding gear, which is installed on NCP11 and leaves the truck on a cat-5 cable going to the IO panel.
“The idea is to keep everything within the same time frame that it arrives in Bristol, so any latency felt would be consistent across all paths and should make setup easier to some degree,” says Horrell. “We can creatively use some of the J2K uncompressed fiber paths we used last season if we need to go beyond 30 paths, but everything will work mostly on the IPMC solution.”
New faces behind the scenes: Front Bench, operations teams welcome newcomers
when long SNB director-producer team Doug Holmes and Jeff Dufine transitioned to ESPN’s new NHL package near the end of the 2021 MLB season, Andy Jacobson took over as producer and he will be back on the bench before this year with director Ben Johnson (with Jeff Evers also directing some games).
Kay-Rod’s shows will be produced by ESPN’s Little League Senior Producer Joe McCoy (who handled ESPN’s one-time KidsCast last year), while veteran studio executive Jim Ryan will be at director’s head. Both producer-director teams will be in Bristol’s control rooms throughout the season.
ESPN also has a new range of operations for SNB this year, with Brock Wetherbee and Jon Winders also sliding to the NHL. Veteran Ops producers Chip Sego and Mike Miner now play key roles on SNBwhile Stephanie Santora remained as operations coordinator and Kevin Cleary remains in the mix as the go-to specialist.
“The home opener is always an exciting time and this year for sure,” Horrell said of tonight’s game in Atlanta. “[We have] two set days to set up gear for the season at the Braves, fax preseason like we always do to get everything ready and avoid the gremlins, but it’s going to be a great and highly anticipated opening day.