MLB on TBS Has New Home in NEP SS18, Adds New Cameras and MLBAM Statcast to the Mix

Turner Sports returns to the ballpark this0 weekend, when Sunday MLB on TBS opens its season with baseball’s signature rivalry at Fenway Park. The New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox matchup kicks off Turner Sports’ second season under its current MLB rights deal, which calls for TBS to carry games on the final 13 Sundays of the regular season, as well as one Wild Card Game and the ALCS in the postseason.

Although the on-screen product will look very familiar to viewers, Turner Sports will have several changes behind the scenes, including a different mobile unit to call home, the addition of the new Sony HDC-4300 super-slo-mo camera, and the addition of MLB Advanced Media’s Statcast platform.

“The idea with a lot of these tools is to augment [the coverage] to not only tell the story but also educate and inform the viewer,” says Chris Brown, director of technical operations, Turner Sports.

“That is especially as you move into the postseason, when you get viewers that are not necessarily diehards. They aren’t watching games day after day, week after week, and aren’t intimately familiar with baseball.”

A New Home in the Compound
For the first time in recent memory, MLB on TBS will not operate out of a Turner Studios truck; longtime home TS-1 is part of the NEP fleet (working for CSN Chicago). Instead, SS18 will be at the core of this year’s MLB on TBS productions, along with the ST18 B unit.

Although Turner has used SS18 as one of its primary NBA trucks and for the MLB League Division Series in years past, this will mark its first time on regular-season MLB productions. The unit will also serve as the home of Turner’s onsite studio-show production during the ALCS.

“One of the things we did this year with NEP is, we actually took a full day over the summer to bring the A and B unit and NEP’s engineering and ops teams down to Atlanta to do a full walkthrough with our production team and tech manager,” says Brown. “We highlighted many of the things in the truck that we wanted them to alter, and NEP has been extremely receptive to anything that our guys have brought up — even if it was as simple as changing a couple chairs out to make it comfortable to sit in for longer periods of time.”

Inside the truck, the front bench will also look different. Matthew Lip will slide in for longtime MLB on TBS director Lonnie Dale alongside returning producer Scott Cockerill.

Sony HDC-4300, Marshall Mini POVs Add New Perspective
Turner Sports has worked with Bexel to add the much ballyhooed Sony HDC-4300 super-slo-mo camera system to its standard 10-camera complement (including two robotic units) for MLB shows. Unveiled at NAB 2015 in April, the HDC-4300 is the first camera to use three ⅔-in. 4K imagers and has optional licensing for 4K capture or up to 8X slo-mo (480 HD fps) recording. Turner will deploy the camera at 6X slo-mo, but Brown says that ante could potentially be upped to 8X as the season progresses.

“As we come out of the box, we are keeping current with where we ended last year with 6X and then go from there,” he says. “Baseball is a sport that moves slowly — compared to basketball, for example — but the time it takes the viewer away from the action on the field is very small. So getting those 8X replays in will be a little tricky. The idea is to play around, and, as the season goes on, we can see how we are going to incorporate 8X down the road.”

Turner has also switched up its camera situation in the booth, having added mini Marshall POV cameras with a trio of different lenses that will be deployed depending on whether the camera is closer to or farther from the announcers in the booth.

Going Deeper With Statcast
Turner Sports will also make sure of MLBAM’s Statcast platform, which debuted last year at three ballparks before expanding to all 30 parks this season and making its way into linear telecasts. The platform uses both optical tracking to monitor player movement (through support from ChyronHego) and radar tracking for information on the ball (from TrackMan). A series of HD cameras — spaced 15 meters apart — are installed in the stadium to capture stereoscopic video, and a 3D Doppler radar system pulls in about 2,000 samples per second of the entire playing field. All this data is then married together to create deeper stats and analytics, which can be incorporated into the MLB on TBS telecast.

“With StatCast and elements like that, we can mine for data and statistics that haven’t been discovered yet,” says Brown, confirming that Statcast will be available for Sunday’s Yankees-Red Sox telecast. “It’s just another one of the many tools that we are using to augment our coverage and tell the story.”