NBC Sports Group Turns Lens On Triple Crown Hopeful Orb at Preakness Stakes

Churchill Downs, the historic home of the Kentucky Derby, stands a whopping 150-acres. The cozy confines of Pimlico Racetrack, site of this weekend’s second jewel of the Triple Crown the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes (Saturday, NBC), is no where near the size and scope. And NBC Sports coordinating producer Rob Hyland is perfectly fine with that.

Kentucky Derby-winning Orb will be the centerpiece of NBC's coverage of the 138th Preakness Stakes.

Kentucky Derby-winning Orb will be the centerpiece of NBC’s coverage of the 138th Preakness Stakes.

“The Preakness for us is a little bit, from a technical standpoint, less challenging than the Kentucky Derby in that the Stakes barn where all the Preakness horses are is literally about a pitching wedge or less away from our production trucks,” says Rob Hyland, coordinating producer, NBC Sports. “Unlike the 150-plus acres at Churchill Downs, it’s a little bit easier to navigate around the grounds of Pimlico.”

Camera Count Scaled Down
The smaller footprint at Pimlico means a lot less cabling and fewer cameras needed to cover the action; 35 in all as compared to the 48 cameras needed at Churchill Downs.

“That’s no slight to the Preakness,” says Hyland, a veteran of NBC horse racing coverage since 2001. ”It’s simply a much easier venue to showcase and shoot from a camera standpoint so we don’t really need as many cameras.”

The camera arsenal includes a pair of super high-speed cameras and four wireless RF cameras.

The truck compound is also consolidated some with NEP’s ND3 (A, B, C, and D units) back again as the compound for both NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network coverage. Not making the trip from the Derby is SS24 (A, B, and C) which was used in Louisville for NBC Sports Network’s pre-race coverage of the Derby.

Inside the truck, two sets of producer/director teams will split the coverage on NBC Sports Network and NBC. The coverage on NBC Sports Network is produced by Billy Matthews and directed by Patrick McManus. The two hours leading up to and including the race itself will be produced by Hyland and directed by Sunday Night Football and NBC Sports’ Triple Crown director, Drew Esocoff.

All Eyes on Orb
After a stunning victory earlier this month, the Triple Crown onus is now on Orb. Naturally, the Derby-winning horse is always the star of the Preakness broadcast.

In addition to a slew of pre-produced pieces on Orb and its jockey Joel Rosario, many production elements will be pointed at the horse. A robotic camera will be stationed on the starting gate and a POV LPS camera with no pan or tilt will be set up on the 1 post position to capture the loading of Orb.

Sports Media (SMT) and Sportvision will again work closesly with Hyland and race analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey to use various graphics tracking technology to tell the story of the race. Both companies’ services can supply live horse tracking, top speeds, and distance traveled.

Digital Extras
NBC Sports’ new online streaming platform, NBC Sports Live Extra, will be fully utilized for the Preakness on Saturday. The majority of Preakness on-air coverage will be streamed to desktops, tablets, and mobile devices via the TV Everywhere authentication process. Extras include an online-only stream of the iso camera on Orb.

Live Extra will also offer exclusive analysis by NBC Sports commentators and a video simulation of the race to predict its outcome based on track conditions and past horse performances.

“The People’s Party” Gets Social
NBC Sports Group’s social media strategy offers a opportunities for viewers to interact with the broadcast on Saturday. In fact, a dedicated social media producer will be on site monitoring social media traffic and posting behind-the-scenes video, photos, and breaking news from Pimlico.

NBC is encouraging viewers to use the hashtag #PREAKNESS and will post reminders on screen throughout the broadcast, in addition to live tweets from celebrities, horse racing experts, and even fans. Viewers can follow @NBCSN and @NBCSports.

On Facebook, fans at home can pick the winner with the “Choose the Winning Horse” poll. Vote totals will be shown on air during the pre-race coverage.