For ESPN, It’s Just College Hoops — in a Hangar at Ramstein

The Armed Forces Classic basketball game, between Michigan State and the University of Connecticut on ESPN tonight, will once again call a unique venue home: two hangers at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany have been outfitted with stands, lights, camera platforms, and more.

Although the court is in a hangar on Ramstein Air Base in Germany, production for the Armed Forces Classic is very close to that for a regular ESPN college basketball game.

The biggest difference for ESPN staffers who worked on last year’s Carrier Classic, which was played in San Diego on the deck of an aircraft carrier, is that there is a lot less water to deal with.

“That is one difference that makes it a lot simpler,” says Terri Hermann, operations manager, Armed Forces Classic, ESPN. “We don’t have cranes lifting things onto the deck, and we can just open the hanger door and drive things in. It cut down on our setup time, and we also don’t need a location in case of rain.”

Being in a hanger also means that the production is very close to that for a regular ESPN college hoops game. The 13-camera shoot will make use of cameras above the rim, and the below-the-line production team of 54 is calling NEP Visions HD4 and Voyager home for the 720p/59.94-fps product.

“By working at 59.94 frames per second, all of our elements from the States transfer directly,” says Hermann, adding, “Not having conversion is a huge benefit and cost saving for us.”

ESPN arrived on Tuesday and set up the stands, then the lighting (courtesy of Musco), and then the court. And, because all production and setup decisions are made by ESPN, there is no need to deal with school athletic directors and others in order to build a camera platform.

“I cannot say enough about how helpful and giving the military has been,” says Hermann. “They are so excited to have us here, and the support has been phenomenal.”

And the additional technical expertise doesn’t hurt. A fiber cable connecting the game production with an ESPN SportsCenter set located in a different hanger was accidently damaged.

“The Air Force volunteered to send out a fiber-splicing crew to fix that problem,” says Hermann.

She also praises the Visions team: “They’ve been hugely supportive, and they come up with solutions to problems before we even know we have them. We’ve been blessed to have them as a partner.”