Live From X Games L.A.: Tech Vendors Pull Double Duty at L.A. Live, Irwindale, Part 2

ESPN’s technology and facility vendors faced a stiff challenge this year at X Games Los Angeles: the network opted to split the competitions between its traditional L.A. Live/Staples Center setting and Irwindale Event Center 20 miles away. But the suppliers have taken it all in stride, providing a bounty of tech tools and facilities for the X Games’ last hurrah in Southern California. Here’s a look at how Fletcher Chicago, Illumination Dynamics, and GoPro rose to the challenge. (For Part 1 of this report, click here.)

Fletcher Chicago
Fletcher Chicago is providing two Ikegami NAC Hi-Motion II ultra-slow-motion camera systems, one at L.A. Live and another at Irwindale. Depending on the event and coverage, both Hi-Motion systems can be configured as handheld or as a hard camera with long lens. At Irwindale, the system is handheld for Big Air events and used in hard-camera configuration for Gymkhana coverage, capturing the nuances of Gymkhana drifting at frame rates exceeding 1,000 fps.

Fletcher’s robotic camera at the Staples Center MotoX course

Fletcher’s robotic camera at the Staples Center MotoX course

Fletcher has also supplied an army of robotic and POV cameras at both X Games venues, including three robos (Street/Park course, Moto course inside Staples, and booth cam) and four POV cameras at L.A. Live. Irwindale has two game-action robos, a booth robo, and a robo with a wide-angle stadium lens for beauty shots. Four POV systems have been deployed throughout the Gymkhana course with an additional POV in the elevator to show the athletes as they ride up the elevator for the Big Air events.

One of three Fletcher robos deployed at the L.A. Live complex

One of three Fletcher robos deployed at the L.A. Live complex

“The challenge every year for production is that the director’s initial vision changes when they have their first walk-through after the course is built or when they get to see the first athlete rehearsals on the man-made courses,” says Ed Andrzejewski, manager, Fletcher Chicago. “That is when our robo operators become Swiss army knives: equipped with different mounting options and lens options to hopefully capture the look that production envisions.”

Illumination Dynamics
Now in its 12th year providing power for Summer X Games, Illumination Dynamics (ID) once again kept ESPN up and running in both downtown Los Angeles and Irwindale.

At LA Live, ID has provided a power drop for ESPN’s TV operations center, production trucks, and the entire X Games outdoor setup.

Irwindale presented a more challenging proposition, as the Event Center has very little existing power infrastructure. As a result, ESPN called upon ID to supply twin pack generators for the trucks, tech power, and music stage. In addition, individual generators were used for logistics, the athlete lounge, catering, X-fest, and the infield on the track for Big Air, Rally, and Gymkhana.

“Pretty much all the [power sources] were in one spot at [Irwindale Event Center], so we utilized as much of that as we could for things like office trailers and the press center and air conditioning for those areas,” says Rich Wilson, Director of Broadcast Services, Illumination Dynamics. “But we provided [generators] for basically everything else. It ended up being a very big [show] for us out there.”

ID’s parent company, ARRI, also provide lighting and crew for the host sets in the Munich X Games in June.

GoPro
Always a major force at X Games — in terms of both sponsorship and video production — GoPro has deployed an arsenal of more than 90 miniature cameras in L.A. and Irwindale. The GoPro production team mounts these cameras on everything on-site: Rally and Gymkhana cars, the skate/BMX/MotoX courses, and, of course, the skaters, BMXers, and MotoX riders themselves.

One of more than 90 GoPro cameras deployed at X Games Los Angeles, shown here at the BMX Street course

One of more than 90 GoPro cameras deployed at X Games Los Angeles, shown here at the BMX Street course

GoPro cameras are not live-capable, so the challenge for the production team is always to reduce the turnaround time needed to create GoPro segments for the ESPN telecast. Once the video is captured, a runner physically sprints the SD card back to the GoPro production trailer, where it is ingested, edited (using Adobe Premier Pro or Apple Final Cut 7), transcoded, and sent off to ESPN’s EVS Portal to be integrated into the telecast.

“We have gotten really good at the turnaround time,” says Cort Muller, global X producer, Media Group. “In Brazil, I started timing it. From plucking it off the helmet at the bottom of the Big Air ramp to the point where it was uploaded, it was 12-14 minutes. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it, and we’re only getting better.”

In addition to these various segments, GoPro is responsible for supplying ESPN with five or six course previews and two athlete features for each X Games.