NBA All-Star Report: Sportvision, Orad spice up Turner coverage of 2008 NBA All-Star Game

By Ken Kerschbaumer

TNT’s coverage of the NBA All-Star game this year continues to evolve as Sportvision and Orad are stepping up with virtual-based technologies to deliver information to viewers in new ways and help but costs related to set design.

The big addition this year is Sportvision’s “backboard slideout” graphic effect. Based on the same technologies used for NFL First-and-Ten lines and other Sportvision products viewers were treated to graphics that appeared to slideout of the backboard during free throw shots. “This is a seamless use of the technology within the live coverage rather than confined to replays,” says Tom Sahara, Turner Sports, senior director, IT and Remote Operations.

The system is tied into the slash camera that is on the opposite side of the court from the free throw attempt. The graphic element then slides out from behind the backboard and can include video elements like replays of the foul or simple statistical info like free throw percentage. Sahara adds that moving statistical information to the virtual backboard will reduce the reliance on lower-third graphics that pull viewers attention away from the action.

TNT also made use of virtual set technology from Orad to insert virtual graphics into the New Orleans skyline. Shaun Dail, Orad VP sales and marketing North America, and Arturo Gutierrez Brena, Orad systems analyst, were located on the roof of the Energy Center along with the Orad system (a combo of Orad Real Set and Cybersport), video monitors, an encoder, a Sony HD camera with a Canon HJ40 lens, and a Vinten tan-and-pilt camera that fed data into the graphics system.

The system was able to superimpose a TNT logo on the roof of the Superdome, unfurl virtual banners down the sides of buildings, place a virtual billboard into the skyline, and even allow a giant animated figure to appear to be dancing between the arena and the Superdome, located next door.

An important key to the ground-breaking Orad deployment was the use of GPS coordinates for 10 points of interest in the skyline. Those coordinates allowed the system to be used for the first time ever outside of a studio environment and accurately overlay graphics on various skyline landmarks. Brena adds that the camerman was able to zoom in on the graphics without degradation or skating: when the graphic appears to “skate” ever so slightly on top of the object of interest.

TNT relied on virtual set technology beginning in the 1990s when it covered NFL games. NBA telecasts have used the technology for the past four years. But this is the first year Orad has stepped to the line. “The hardware is far superior to the previous system we used,” explains Sahara. “The Orad system offers near real-time processing and can handle multiple video channels.” Dail says the system can handle up to six HD inputs because it is a box designed specifically for broacaster needs.

While the broadcast side of TNT’s All-Star game coverage didn’t change too much the Internet-side of the broadcast has. This year a new interactive quad-split matrix with different camera angles was available to users beginning on All-Star Saturday Night. “It’s more intuitive than past systems, allowing viewers to click on one of the four feeds to go full screen,” adds Sahara.