For Domestic Broadcast, CTV Makes Hockey Look Canadian

In Canada, hockey is sometimes closer to a religion than a sport, so it comes as no surprise that Canadian broadcaster CTV was not content to simply air the world feed produced by Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS). Instead, for the 33 hockey games played over the course of the Vancouver Olympic Games, the Canadian domestic feed will reflect the Canadian interests, as CTV supplements the world feed cameras with four of its own. But without the ability to communicate with the camera operators for the host broadcast, provided by Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS), cutting a smooth show is easier said than done.

In the National Interest

“A Canadian hockey audience is used to a certain style of coverage,” explains Richard Wells, director for the CTV domestic broadcast. “The host is covering the game and everything that happens – shots, saves, hits – whereas we can take that, as well as tell our own stories, without just blindly following along. If we want to do a feature on Sidney Crosby, that might not be the story that the host has in mind, so we complement the host’s coverage by adding our own.”

CTV also adds its own look to the broadcast, using branded teases and billboards from the Chyron Duet and Harris Inscriber machines in the Dome Productions high definition truck utilized for the production. CTV has three of its own EVS servers in the Dome truck, with 12 inputs and 12 outputs, so that the broadcaster can create its own replays.

Four Extra Looks

For its four additional cameras, CTV utilizes a booth camera, a tight isolated shot, a left slash position, and a handheld.

“Our handheld goes into the mixed zone and does all of our interviews for us,” Wells explains. “We have very good access here, frankly. I thought we’d be sort of tunneled into our spots, but with our handheld we’re able to get to quite a few places, so that changes the look. We can go up into the bowl and see the fans, we can do a sweep around and go wide — it’s nice.”

CTV takes the audio directly from the host feed and drops in its own commentators, as well as the additional sound that is part of the CTV graphics effects packages. In addition to the English-language broadcast, CTV is producing a separate French-language production, using a second Dome Productions HD mobile unit.

Home, Sweet Home

The setup in Canada Hockey Place is fairly standard for Wells and his CTV crew.

“We do a lot of hockey games out of this arena,” Wells says. “There is not anything here that we haven’t all seen before, and this is my normal crew.”

But while the crew is normal the production is not as the eight most important camera positions are controlled by OBS for the world feed. As such, Wells has no communication with those eight camera operators so he must trust that the cameramen will not pan out of a shot earlier than he expects. Luckily, Wells knows and has worked with many of the freelancers working for OBS.

“I know almost everyone there, and you know the patterns, so you follow their patterns,” Wells explains. “You understand what they’re doing. If their camera one takes a tight shot of your player as you score, you back yours out of it so you’re not match-cutting all the time.”

A Seamless Goal

After a replay sequence, for example, Wells rejoins the host feed blind in the midst of the play-by-play, so he hast to trust that the camera operators will follow the pattern he expects.

“If they’re following the puck drop, I trust that they’re not going to sweep out of that early,” Wells explains. “To make it look nice is the goal. It’s easy to just chop in and chop out, but to make it all seamless is the challenging part. It’s kind of fun and different for me.”

Each day, Wells’ team learns a little bit more and finds new places to put his cameras and new tricks that the host broadcaster would not necessarily do for its coverage.

“It’s fun to try to be seamless,” Wells says.

Adrenaline Overtakes Fatigue

Wells’ team will produce 33 games over the course of the 17 days of competition. While fatigue is likely to set in at some point, there is no relief crew for the domestic broadcast.

“You know the gig coming in or you don’t come,” Wells says. “The third show on any day is a little tiring, but if the game’s good, the adrenaline kicks in. You always have pride in performance.”