By: Brandon Costa
This year’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lighting showcases two of the fastest teams in a league that seemingly gets more up-tempo with each season. NBC Sports Group, which is carrying the Stanley Cup Final for the tenth consecutive year, is again fully prepared to capture all the action, deploying a slew of production enhancements, including 4K.
The Final is being covered by upwards of 40 camera feeds (NBC is also taking sources from Rogers and NHL Network), with specialty systems including the I-Movix X10 UHD. That camera is hooked up to an Evertz DreamCatcher, enabling the high-resolution zoom feature that NBC brands on-screen as NBCEEIT.
“We are going to play a lot with the 4K,” says Sam Flood, executive producer, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “We found a really good rhythm with that to showcase and to take different points in a specific play from one angle, so that’s all part of the plan. We’ll have more super-mo to play with.
“But again,” he continues, “hockey is a sport that needs to be shown wide and shown so you know where the puck might go next. We are going to stick with what’s gotten us here, which is smart coverage of hockey, and not get in the way of the game. [We’ll] let the game tell the story and let our pretty fabulous talent tell the game with their voices.”
In addition, NBC is deploying the Grass Valley LDX XtremeSpeed (LDX XS) 6X super-slow-motion camera (supplied by Fletcher Sports) as well as the Sony HDC3300 HD super-slo-mo. These units are instrumental in giving viewers a clearer view of the rapid, up-and-down action.
“We saw the way that they were handling the [NFL],” says Ken Goss, senior VP, remote operations and production planning, NBC Sports. “The technology enhanced the product, and that’s why we wanted to bring that to the Stanley Cup this year.”
NEP Broadcasting units dominate the production compounds at each arena. In Tampa, the A unit is ND5 with SS32 supporting as the B unit. In Chicago, ND6 is filling the top role with SS28 as support. ND5 and ND6 are essentially identical, creating a seamless workflow for the crew throughout the series.
“It works out so well with hockey, with the A side and the B side, that these trucks are clones and [Director of Remote Operations, NHL and College Hockey, NBC Sports] James [Stuart] and his team can go from one place to another and everything is almost identical,” says Richard Assenzio, senior director, remote operations and production planning, NBC Sports Group. “The router is the same, the audio setup is the same, the switcher, everything. It makes setup and moving back and forth much easier.”
For replay, nine six-channel EVS XT2 units are used, in addition to a four-channel SpotBox. On the graphics end, the trucks feature ChyronHego’s Duet HyperX3, in addition to SMT software for the on-screen ticker and score bug.
“For us, everything culminates with the Stanley Cup Finals,” says Goss. “These crews are groomed and ready, and our facilities are ready. We hope this is going to be a great series.”
The Stanley Cup Final on NBC Sports is produced by Josh Freedenberg and directored by Jeff Simon. For on-site studio coverage, Mark Bellotti produces with Kelly Atkinson directing.