SVG Sit-Down: Turner Sports’ Barry on Doubling-Down at NBA All-Star Weekend
This is not the first time Turner Sports has produced an NBA All-Star Weekend spread over multiple venues (Dallas in 2010), but let’s face it, this is New York City. It’s different.
This weekend, Turner Sports is providing coverage of NBA All-Star events from Barclays Center on Saturday, Madison Square Garden on Sunday, and a whole lot more. The event offers unique storytelling opportunities, and the league is returning the favor to its broadcasters by granting more access to its events and players than ever.
With festivities in the Big Apple already under way, SVG sat down with Craig Barry, SVP, production/executive creative director, Turner Sports, to discuss how this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend promises to the biggest and flashiest yet.
This year’s All-Star is in one city, but you’re across two venues here. What are some of the challenges in setting up for all these festivities spread across two boroughs?
It’s twice the size. It’s times-two for everything, from production facilities to trucks to personnel and creative. Obviously, transportation in this city [can be a challenge]. We had some experience with this when we were in Dallas, where we had two venues as well, so it’s nothing new to us, but it’s twice the effort, twice the resources, twice the manpower.
On that note, what are some of the unique storytelling or programming opportunities that being in New York offers you, and how different is this, in that respect, to other All-Star events?
It’s a huge theme of the entire weekend: the intersection of pop culture and sports. This is the epicenter of fandom. Here, sports is taken as seriously as music and culture, even food. It’s not just the Knicks and the Nets; here, [fans] have something to say about every team, and it gives just a great opportunity to create an accessible event for the hardcore fan and casual fan alike. There’s really something for everybody, not only from a programming and content standpoint but also from an interactive-event standpoint as well.
So what are some of the production plans for this weekend? Will there be significant steps-up in technology?
I believe you are only as good as your last show — or your next show, depending on how you look at it. Whether it’s week-over-week or year-over-year or event-over-event, we’re always looking to do a bigger and better event the next time out. Obviously, New York offers a fantastic landscape with lots of opportunities. We have essentially commandeered Hammerstein Ballroom, where we built a huge stage for coverage on Thursday and Friday. We’ve also got musical acts; one night is Fall Out Boy, one night is Bon Jovi. The show is live to the crowd with integration of the musical acts.
On Saturday, we’ve partnered with the NBA to create a mirror between the broadcast and the in-arena show so that it’ll be one. It will feel much bigger. It’s a much larger production, as we won’t be covering just the sporting events inside the big event; we’ll be covering the whole event. We’ve covering the pyrotechnics, the lasers, the mappable floor, the introductions, and the musical acts. It’s all part of a much larger show.
Of course, there’s more cameras, more super slo-mos, more resources designed to bring the fan as close to the action as possible and create as much access around the city and around the weekend as possible.
On Sunday, we’ve got the history of MSG, and the NBA resonates here. We’ll utilize that in our coverage, and it couples nicely with Marv [Albert’s] calling his 20th All-Star Game. There’s a lot of great storylines, and we’re looking forward to a really great weekend.
Those slo-mo cameras are big at an event like this, especially the dunk contest. How do those help you show off some unique angles?
The interesting thing about cameras is, in the same way we try to grant more access for the fans, that comes to getting more access for ourselves. So, yes, we’ll have more cameras and integrate a Steadicam this year. There are super-slo-mos behind the glass, above the glass; virtually every low handheld camera is a super-slo-mo. On top of that, we have cameras in locker rooms, hallways. Honestly, I don’t even know how many more cameras we can fit in the building. I’d like to think that every little nook and cranny is covered.
The NBA is very innovative on the audio side and mikes a lot of its players to get you, the broadcaster, the access you need. Will there be plans to take advantage of that on both Saturday and Sunday?
Yes. We’ll have those mics and, hopefully, additional mics. What players will wear mics hasn’t been agreed upon yet, but we’ve had that access in years past, and this year shouldn’t be any different. In addition to the traditional broadcast coverage, NBA TV, NBA.com, Bleacher Report, mobile, social, we have content being created through multiple platforms and channels. With the access we get through the NBA, it just gives us the opportunities to try new and different ways to create and distribute content.
Will you be leaning on the NBA’s player-tracking technology at all this weekend? Turner has been pretty involved with the NBA on that.
Of course, we’ve had a lot of conversations about that. I’m sure we’ll be using that, but, as far as what data we decide to go with, we’re still figuring that part out. I’m also not so sure that it’s really relevant in an exhibition like this.