Live From NBA All-Star: Turner Sports Rolls Out Massive Dual Production at MSG, Barclays Center

The NBA All-Star Game is taking over New York City this weekend with activities at both Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. There will be plenty of new bells and whistles in the broadcast of NBA All-Star Saturday from Brooklyn and of the All-Star Game Sunday night, but the two main events are only part of the massive production puzzle that is NBA All-Star Weekend.

Tom Sahara inside NEP’s SS24 A unit, the hub of Turner’s All-Star Game production

Tom Sahara inside NEP’s SS24 A unit, the hub of Turner’s All-Star Game production

Studio operations for Inside the NBA will be handled out of the Hammerstein Ballroom, near MSG. And, because there is no NBA Jam Session this year, events that would previously be held in that location are being held in the two arenas. The result? Busy operations in both Brooklyn and Manhattan to cover the NBA Rising Stars game tonight at Barclays, the Celebrity Game tonight at MSG, the East/West All-Star game practice (open to the public) at MSG tomorrow, and the D-League All-Star game as well as a game between the NYPD and FDNY at Barclays on Sunday.

“Not having the Jam Session makes it more challenging because what was already a full schedule of rehearsals is now bursting at the seams [as we rehearse around the events],” says Tom Sahara, VP of operations and technology, Turner Sports. “Because of all the activities, we had to have dedicated crews for both venues.”

The Scene at MSG
In terms of production facilities, NEP is providing most of the trucks. MSG will be home to SS24 (A, B, and C units) for the game, SS32 and ST32 for the studio show, ESU2 for transmission, and TS1 (formerly Turner Studios’ truck) for entertainment/musical-acts operations at MSG. Bexel’s BBS1 is on hand with three editing systems (Apple Final Cut and Adobe Premiere), and CP Communications has rolled out a truck of its own to handle all RF audio (with the exception of player mics).

Turner Sports’ Inside the NBA set at Hammerstein Ballroom

Turner Sports’ Inside the NBA set at Hammerstein Ballroom

Given the MSG truck compound’s limited footprint and strict parking restrictions on surrounding streets, Turner was forced to slim down its office trailers and stack them two levels high.

“Space is just very tight here, and the city does not want you to close down streets, but we have been able to get it done,” says Turner Sports Director of Technical Operations Chris Brown. “The overarching theme here has been ‘big city, small space.’

“The nice thing has been that MSG is an extremely well-fibered building since they made their renovations,” he continues. “All of their in-house panels [offer] a lot of connectivity, which has been extremely helpful this year in building the compound.”

Turner has worked to integrate its operations with NBA Entertainment, which is producing the world feed out of Mobile TV Group’s HDX30, and ESPN, producing Friday’s Celebrity Game out of Lyon 14 before turning the truck over to NBA TV for its studio operations on Saturday and Sunday.

The packed NBA All-Star compound at Madison Square Garden

The packed NBA All-Star compound at Madison Square Garden

“This is a great example of cooperation and collaboration between Turner Sports and ESPN just to make all the logistics work,” adds Sahara.

The Scene at Barclays
Barclays Center, meanwhile, is home to NEP’s NCPX (A and B) for All-Star Saturday Night, NCPXI (A and B) for the studio show, Super B for transmission, and SS22 (A and B) for NBA TV studio operations and the Rising Stars game. Unable to fit seven trucks into Barclay’s truck-compound area, Turner has laid fiber connecting the underground compound with trucks parked outside the arena.

“Probably the biggest challenge at Barclays is that you can’t park every single truck at the truck dock,” says Brown. “It’s extremely tight on the street, so you can’t park very many places, and, with Barclay’s construction going on right now, it makes building a compound extremely challenging, but we got it done.”

Fibering Between Boroughs

Turner Sports' Chris Brown on the floor at Madison Square Garden.

Turner Sports’ Chris Brown on the floor at Madison Square Garden.

Besides the challenge of getting people between the two venues, there is the challenge of exchanging content between them. Fiber-transmission-services provider Zayo Group was brought in to connect the two arenas via 12 dark-fiber paths. This pipe is serving as the backbone for shared video paths, file exchange, intercoms, and a full IPTV system connecting MSG and Barclays.

“We knew we were going to need fiber connectivity here,” says Brown. “Not necessarily a massive fiber infrastructure but a decent-size one that would allow us to share a handful of things between the two buildings.”

New Look, Feel for All-Star Saturday Night
The biggest improvement this year to the weekend’s production plans is a tight integration between the All-Star Saturday Night in-house presentation and the TV broadcast. Historically, the fans in the stands have had a separate experience, with in-house hosts and, unfortunately, plenty of dead time during commercial breaks and breaks between the events.

Inside the Hammerstein Ballroom control room, which is handling the Inside the NBA production

Inside the Hammerstein Ballroom control room, which is handling the Inside the NBA production

“This year, it will flow smoother and be more seamless, ” says Sahara, “and fans in the arena or at home will get a similar experience.”

For example, fans in the stands won’t see TNT talent just standing on the court conducting an interview; they will be able to see it on the big screens and hear it over the PA system.

“In addition, the studio show and set are integrated into the entertainment set,” says Sahara. “It’s about erasing the line.”

The two NEP trucks are tied into the venue control room that handles the big-board presentations as well as what is displayed on the other scoreboards and in-venue displays.

“We have said that this is by far the most complex event we have ever put together,” says Brown. “It’s not just the challenge of being in New York; it all boils down to the schedule. There are so many different events and rehearsals going on at each venue each day that make it extremely challenging to get everything done in a very short timeframe. But it has allowed us to find some interesting ways to get it all done.”

Jason Dachman contributed to this report.