SVG Sports Graphics Forum Delivers Creative, Tech Insights to Packed House at HBO Theater

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 150 graphics-production pros turned out for SVG’s inaugural Sports Graphics Forum at HBO’s Michael Fuchs Theater on Wednesday for an afternoon of sessions covering both the technological and creative sides of business. Highlighted by a look at MLB Advanced Media’s new player/field-tracking and data-visualization system, the afternoon addressed the latest developments in technologies ranging from traditional broadcast graphics to virtual graphics and augmented reality to virtual studios.

Big Studios' Jocelyne Meinert (left along with CBS Sports' Pete Radovich) preached the importance of client-vendor transparency

Big Studios’ Jocelyne Meinert (left along with CBS Sports’ Pete Radovich) preached the importance of client-vendor transparency.

Although much of the afternoon focused on tech, one session emphasized the creative end of the equation, and a quintet of the industry’s top creative and art directors provided an intimate look at the development of their recent high-profile graphics package and show-open designs. Much of the discussion focused on the importance of transparency and cooperation between the sports network and the outside graphic-design house in developing a new graphics package.

“I’m a real fan of transparency between broadcasters and production companies … whether it’s finances, creative, or technological,” said Big Studios owner/Creative Director Jocelyne Meinert, who has helped develop packages for major franchises and events like ESPN’s Monday Night Football, MLB on Fox, March Madness on CBS/Turner, and TNT’s NBA All-Star Weekend, to name a few.

“File-sharing has become a huge part of our workflow now,” she continued. “From the moment we start working on creative to the moment the final element is delivered, it is much more of a gradual flow. It’s not broken up the way it used to be, and we find that works very well. It’s a great way to constantly connect with clients to understand what’s going on in their head.”

CBS Sports Lends Epic Scale to Thursday Night Football Opening
It’s not often that a new NFL-rights package becomes available. So, when CBS Sports won the rights to the league’s Thursday Night Football package for a single season (in conjunction with NFL Network), Creative Director Pete Radovich Jr. knew he had to make a good impression.

CBS Sports Creative Director Pet Radovich detailed the development of CBS's Thursday Night Football show open

CBS Sports’ Pete Radovich detailed development of the Thursday Night Football show open.

“The challenge was that we were on a one-year deal, so, basically, we were on a first date and we wanted a second date with the NFL. We need to impress them and do a good job so we could get a second date.”

In an effort to cementing that second date, which CBS eventually did last month, Radovich and his team knew they had to put together a show open that was going to “wow people.” Radovich did not want a musical opening, since NBC’s Sunday Night Football open has already successfully deployed that tactic. Instead, CBS Sports put together a very different kind of epic show open featuring actor Don Cheadle and a cornucopia of virtual trickery.

Radovich and his team had one day to shoot with Cheadle inside an airplane hanger in Santa Monica, CA. In addition, CBS had to maintain the flexibility to change the open down the road based on player injuries, weekly matchups, and so on. With that in mind, instead of shooting massive scenes with fireworks, large video monitors, and other grandiose elements, CBS opted to shoot a wide variety of Cheadle segments and add in those elements virtually in post.

“What we wanted to do was pretty ambitious, and it would have been difficult, considering the limited time we had with Don Cheadle and the flexibility we required from week to week,” says Radovich. “So we decided to cheat and do it virtually. Not overtly virtually, but more like Life of Pi and Titanic in that it’s virtual but you can’t be sure if it’s virtual or not. We added a lot of stuff — giant monitor walls, massive curtain drops — in post that we like to think looks pretty real.”

Rebrand Unifies All Fight Franchises as ‘HBO Boxing’
HBO Sports’ boxing coverage recently underwent a major rebranding with the goal of unifying HBO’s various boxing franchises (including World Championship Boxing, Boxing After Dark, PPV fights) under a single marquee, HBO Boxing. HBO worked with Los Angeles-based Troika Design to design a package focused on HBO’s overall key values, such as authenticity, and a cinematic theme.

SNY's Rich Amsinger (left) and HBO Sports' Bill McCullough

SNY’s Rich Amsinger (left) and HBO Sports’ Bill McCullough

“When we embarked on this rebrand, we had multiple franchises that were not aligned under anything besides HBO Sports,” said HBO Creative Director Bill McCullough. “There were different logos on different show opens, and they just didn’t look like they came from the same world. We felt, if HBO Boxing became the overarching brand, then that became a nice vertical for everything else to fall under. We wanted to unify the vision across all platforms.”

All HBO Boxing shows now have a standard graphics toolkit for all its properties, rather than creating a package for every single show. In addition, a new show open featuring the HBO Boxing truck traveling cross-country to cover a fight is now standard across all franchises.

While all franchises use the HBO Boxing logo, each property is differentiated by slightly different color schemes and photography techniques. For example, the high-profile WCB has grand sweeping camera shots and an epic show open, while Boxing After Dark has a rawer, grittier look with more handheld camera angles.

Turner Makes Graphics Splash at NBA All-Star Weekend
Each year, NBA All-Star Weekend presents Turner Sports with the opportunity to create a unique, fun look for its hard-court coverage, and this year’s New York City-based incarnation served as the epitome of just that. Turner began work on the package last fall, but the effort did not really heat up until January, creating a short timeline for production. Working with Big Studios, Turner Sports developed a dynamic graphics package focused on the city’s subway system and incorporating metropolitan scenics.

Turner Sports' Jordan Shorthouse (pictured right with CBS Sports' Pete Radovich) detailed his NBA All-Star graphics work

Turner Sports’ Jordan Shorthouse (pictured right with CBS Sports’ Pete Radovich) detailed his NBA All-Star graphics work

“When [Big Studios] pitched NBA on TNT, there were two concepts. We loved both of them but rolled out with one concept and kept the other in our back pocket for All-Star, so we had a head start,” said Turner Sports Creative Director Jordan Shorthouse. “It is the same look [as NBA on TNT], but we introduced a new vehicle with subways and subway stations. We went out to New York, shot subway interiors and exteriors, and introduced that into the package. It turned out really fantastic.”

A New-Look Mets Package for SNY
New York Mets fans are in store for a brand-new graphics package come Opening Day. SNY has wholly revamped its overall graphics look and show. Art Director Rich Amsinger and his team worked with New York-based graphic-design house Favorite Color to develop the graphics assets and then used Maxon Cinema4D and Adobe After Effects, among other programs, to develop a new opening that would set the tone for SNY’s new graphics look by focusing on the Citi Field ballpark experience. In addition, Amsinger worked with VP of Engineering Alex Blanding and his team to establish a new render farm and hardware/software complement to create the package.

“The open sets the tone for an entire package,” said Amsinger. “First, I wanted to tell the entire Mets story in one [piece]: the Mets Fan, the baseball team, the sights and sounds. We want to remind people of what it’s like to go to Citi Field for a baseball game. The second thing I wanted to do was connect with the fans by introducing imagery, sound, and video all at once. And it had to be cool because, when it comes down to it, that’s what’s key.”

SVG’s Sports Graphics Summit was made possible by Title Sponsor ChyronHego; Exhibit Sponsors FX Design Group, Harmonic, Ross Video, and Vizrt; and Event Sponsors LongoMatch, Orad, SOS Global Express, and VER.