Bexel’s Fiber Connectivity Network Management Steps Up at NBA All-Star Game

When NBA All-Star 2012 tipped off at the Amway Center, Bexel, a unit of the Vitec Group’s Services Division and a provider of broadcast services, was courtside to support TNT, NBA TV and NBA Entertainment’s coverage of the star-studded festivities.

In its 17th year working with the NBA for the All-Star game, Bexel was given the task of managing the entire broadcast signal workflow from the TV compound into the arena for the weekend’s events.

Following the success of last year’s NBA All-Star Game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles – in which both the Grammy Awards and the NBA All-Star Game were scheduled to take place less than one week apart – NBA Entertainment and Turner turned to Bexel to manage the complex setup and infrastructure at this year’s venue.

To handle the magnitude of production trucks that are associated with an event of this size, a compound was created across the street from the Amway Center in the Geico Garage. All mobile units, except for the production truck responsible for the pre- and halftime shows, were across the street, including the game truck, studio truck and international broadcasters like CCTV. “We were asked to not only manage the fiber and signal paths from the garage to the venue, but also extend into the building using the existing broadcast infrastructure,” says Justin Paulk, fiber solutions manager, Bexel. “We coordinated every signal from origination to destination ensuring they arrived at the appropriate positions on the floor, booths, sets or wherever they needed to be in the arena.”

Since the only connectivity going from the Geico Garage to the Amway Center was single mode fiber optic cable, the first phase of Bexel’s involvement was to coordinate all signal flow through the 288 available fibers. This meant that every broadcast signal, whether video, audio, or camera had to be given a specific piece of equipment and assigned specific fiber. The second phase—once the signal had crossed the street—was to move it within Amway itself which included assigning specific fiber, SMPTE, Triax, BNC, or XLR’s from the Amway truck interface panel to any of the 39 different JBT locations located on all floors within Amway. Part of the challenge was to use as much of the infrastructure that was in place and eliminate as many “home run” cables as possible.  Having only three “home run” cables helped to keep setup and strike streamlined for all vendors involved.

In addition to managing the entire fiber optic infrastructure, Bexel oversaw the six on-site editing facilities for All-Star weekend.  Housed in Bexel’s BBS1, a 53-foot mobile production truck, were four edit bays used by TNT, while Bexel’s T2, a 25-foot truck, was home to two edit bays for NBA TV and NBA.com.  All edit bays utilized Apple’s Final Cut Pro system.

Bexel also provided its staff of 12 engineering experts and a custom equipment rental package for the weekend’s events. The support gear provided included Sony HDC-3300 slow-motion cameras and EVS servers for TNT’s coverage throughout the weekend, Sony XDCAM ENG packages, RF audio packages for coaches’ mics, six-channel EVS production servers, EVS IP Director and XFile units, Chyron HyperX3 graphics systems, a Canon Canobeam transceiver system and a full range of monitors and terminal support systems.  Bexel was simultaneously charged with helping to manage and provide logistics for the gear that moved venues—from Universal City Walk, where TNT broadcast its NBA on TNT Thursday pre- and postgame shows to the Orange County Convention Center, to the Hilton Hotel—for broadcasts originating throughout Orlando during the weekend.

“This was one of the smoothest, cleanest games we have ever been involved with,” says Lee Estroff, vice president of account development, Bexel. “Even with the short amount of time we had to prepare, it was a very well organized and planned production. That’s a credit to Turner and the NBA for their preparations and Bexel’s experience with this event.”