Umpire Camera Shines in ESPN’s Robust Production of College World Series

Omaha, NE, in June is a special place to be, and ESPN is back for its 36th year covering the College World Series and the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship. This event has traditionally been a testbed for broadcast technology and production innovation. This year’s show features the introduction of UmpCam, the integration of specialty wind graphics, and much more.

2015 marks the 36th straight year of the College World Series on ESPN.

2015 marks the 36th straight year of the College World Series on ESPN.

“We’ve really turned this event into a bit of a lab experiment,” laughs Kevin Hendel, operations manager, College World Series, ESPN. “We’ve watched this increase by at least five cameras this year, and the production-enhancement group just keeps coming up with new stuff.”

This year’s experimentation brings a College World Series first: the implementation of UmpCam. The production team affixed an HD camera to the mask of the home-plate umpire to offer a field-level view of the game from the official’s perspective. The RF camera system – provided by 3G Wireless – allows the crew to use the feed both live and for replays. It’s also the first time that ESPN has deployed a camera on the umpire since Sunday Night Baseball tried it with an SD acquisition device in May 2002.

For the first time in the College World Series, ESPN has affixed a camera onto the mask of the home plate umpire.

For the first time in the College World Series, ESPN has affixed a camera onto the mask of the home plate umpire.

UmpCam is just one of 25 cameras that ESPN has deployed throughout TD Ameritrade Park. Sixteen of them are manned, seven are hard, and two are handhelds (one roving throughout the park for scenic, the other in a demo area in the announce booth). With the announcers is also the new in-booth DollyCam, a camera rigged on a small dolly for smooth presentation of on-air talent’s live demonstrations.

The crew also came in with plans to experiment with a wind meter on on-screen graphics. The data-visualization feature demonstrates how wind speed and direction could potentially play a role in how far a ball travels.

Numerous other unique features are to be found on this production. For the fifth straight year, ESPN is using K-Zone technology — though not on every pitch as is being done this year on the network’s Major League Baseball coverage. ESPN is also using 40 channels of replay and more than 100 microphones strategically placed throughout the ballpark. In the editing suites, staffers work on Avid Symphony, with EVS operators also editing, using Apple Final Cut Pro X. The SEC Network team onsite uses Final Cut Pro 7.

ESPN is bringing new juice to the College World Series on the digital side, too. For every game, the ESPN3 Surround platform offers an alternative to the traditional viewing experience through different camera angles and audio.

The crew in Omaha totals approximately 200, nearly half being production personnel and technicians.

ESPN’s production of the College World Series is being run from NEP’s NCPVIII (A and B units) with support from the Super B and ST41 units. ESPN is using fiber out as its primary transmission, with satellite backup.