Root Sports Southwest Throws Out First Pitch on Houston Astros Coverage

This season marks the Houston Astros’ first on Root Sports Southwest, after a complex on-the-fly transition following DirecTV Sports Networks’ takeover of CSN Houston last fall. While the transition continues, Root Sports Southwest is ready to put the focus on the field for its Astros coverage this season.

“The transition has gone very smoothly in Houston,” says Bill Roberts, VP, content, DirecTV Sports Networks. “Our technology team lead by Steve Berscheid [director, technology, DirecTV Sports Networks] worked from the start very closely with our Houston Executive Producer Murphy Brown and Chief Engineer Chris Frazier to map out the technology changes needed with the studio infrastructure.”

The Transition Continues in Houston
This transition covered the business-environment infrastructure (phones, computers, office network, etc.). The team worked to standardize many of its operations to match its other Root Sports regionals, including a virtualized environment to support its digital-asset–management strategy, a transition to Adobe Creative Cloud for postproduction, and the adoption of the Octopus newsroom system.

“We had our chief integrator, Tom Scholle, basically living in Houston for about two months, working with Chris and his engineering team locally to make all the transitions, most of which were completed over the NBA All-Star break.”

The next major project will be to move Root Sports Southwest from 1080i to 720p, a task Roberts estimates will be completed by the MLB All-Star break in July.

Game Creek Gemini Back in the Fold, 6X Cameras Join the Party
Root Sports Southwest will continue to use Game Creek Video’s Gemini mobile unit for its Astros remotes (the truck originally used by CSN Houston).

As it has with other Root Sports RSNs, DirecTV Sports Networks has added a Cobham RF camera system to all Southwest home productions, along with two Grass Valley LDX XS 6X slo-mo cameras (with Grass Valley K2 Dyno replay systems) super-slo-mo cameras.

“We were one of the first to use the Grass Valley system last year in our Rocky Mountain region and were really impressed with it,” says Roberts. “This year, we will introduce the same complement of Grass Valley super-mo gear on our Mobile TV Group truck in Pittsburgh as well.”

Bringing the Root Sports Attitude to Houston
Root Sports’ graphics package for Astros coverage will continue its staple concept of highlighting franchise legends and great sports moments in each market through strong iconography and historical references. The multimarket theme also includes Root Sports’ award-winning “Be Here” campaign developed under the guidance of Creative Director Tom Anthony. With that in mind, Root Sports shot lots of footage in and around Houston last summer in an effort to launch with these signature Root Sports elements.

“We wanted these campaigns to feel very ‘first person,’ capturing the in-stadium experience of a fan,” says Roberts. “We wanted each package to feel unique and genuine to the fan watching in Pittsburgh, Denver, and Seattle. With our launch in Houston, we’ve continued that theme.”

Pitch F/X, Scorebug, Ticker Get Facelift
Additionally, in all markets, Root Sports has upgraded its Pitch F/X pitch-tracking–graphics capabilities with access to historical data via ScouTrax.  The upgrade will be of particular significance for Southwest, which has had access to the pitch-speed data only since last year.

Root Sports has also launched a newly redesigned scorebug for its MLB coverage in all markets. Provided by TV Graphics, the new bug moves away from the horizontal long and narrow version to a stacked design in the upper-left corner of the screen. According to Roberts, Root Sports’ remote-production teams spend a fair amount of time on the backside of dual productions when on the road, and the stacked scorebug will aid the teams in framing on shared camera feeds.

“TV Graphics worked with the design from our Creative Services team and, in a very short time, delivered what we feel is a greatly improved graphic both in its information layout and readability,” says Roberts. “Along with a better use of space, the new bug will also feature omnipresent pitcher/pitch-count information.”

Root Sports has worked with TV Graphics to design, develop, and launch a new ticker that will be used throughout the MLB season in all four markets.

More Pre/Postgame at the Ballpark
Root Sports will continue to operate the bulk of its Astros studio shows from its downtown Houston studio, but it has also made a stronger commitment to producing its pre/postgame shows from Minute Maid Park on a regular basis this season.

“We feel like being at the ballpark is the most effective way to capture the excitement of the game experience,” says Roberts. “We’ve worked hard in our other markets to establish a strong desk presence in our home venues and will continue to refine that effort throughout the year.”