Turner Sports Brings Technical Expertise to NBA TV

By Ken Kerschbaumer

The NBA and Turner Sports officially launched their tighter relationship this week when NBA TV began its season, broadcasting out of Turner facilities in Atlanta. The move required new HD buildouts in Atlanta, as well as new workflows because NBA digital-media management and archive facilities remain in Secaucus, NJ. “This is a tremendous facility,” says Mike Miller, NBA TV coordinating director, “and we bent over backwards to welcome NBA TV to Studio B.”

Two control rooms were upgraded to HD, and Turner’s Grass Valley Trinix routing switcher essentially doubled in size to 1,024×1,024 inputs and outputs, according to Peter Fredlund, Turner Studios director of studio technical operations.

“We began working on this after the deal was completed in January,” he says. “We had an idea of how to build the facility but had to implement the plan pretty quickly.”

The control rooms feature Grass Valley Kalypso HD production switchers and a Studer audio console capable of 5.1 surround sound. Graphics gear includes Chyron HyperX Duets with Lyric 7.0 for lower thirds and full-screen graphics. Also in use is Chyron’s XClyps, a multi-format production-clip server that features real-time clip playback in single- or dual-channel video and key. NBA TV studio content is produced in 16:9 with a 4:3 safe area. Teranex downconverters ready the SD signal for distribution.

The heart of the facility is a Harris Nexio server that has 10 inputs and outputs and can store up to two weeks of NBA games. The Nexio is tied into an Apple xSAN storage area network, and up to 14 Apple Final Cut Pro editing systems can then use xSAN to prepare packages for broadcast. An Isilon server is also on hand for storage of a full season’s slate of games.

“We have an OC48 connection to Secaucus,” says Fredlund, “and all of the games are routed to us via that connection. Up to 12 games can be brought in at once.

The set offers six distinct production areas, including a breaking-news set with robotic cameras that can allow news reports to be cost-effectively pumped out to visitors of NBA.com or even to NBA TV. Says Miller, “The technology here is tremendous.”

Turner brings the efficiencies and experience from its work with NASCAR and the PGA Tour to the NBA, says Lenny Daniels, SVP, sports production and new media, Turner Sports New Media Group. “This really grew out of a 25-year relationship between Turner and the NBA, where we’ve known each other really well and have loyalty. It was crazy getting this up and running and figuring out content plans, branding, and programming.”

A lot of programming for NBA TV will still be produced in Secaucus, including promos, public-service announcements, and internal corporate video work.

Technology from Aspera plays a key role in content delivery to Turner. “We’ve been using Aspera for years to flip files to Apple for iTunes,” says Steve Hellmuth, NBA EVP, operations and technology. “Their middleware guarantees delivery and a uniform compression formula.”

Loggers at NBA will input metadata, and Turner staffers will be able to access the live log as it is built. Games will also be immediately recorded in Atlanta to prevent delay in getting content to viewers. “The servers will be cleaned on a rolling basis,” says Hellmuth.

He adds that the biggest improvement will be a result of the additional manpower that Turner supplies. “For example, Turner has 14 people working on development of their content-management system, and that is a big step up in quality,” he says. “Viewers will also see a dramatic uptick in the quality of the video presentation.”