Turner Sports Rolls Out Red Carpet at San Francisco’s Pier 43 for NBA Opener

Turner Sports tips off its NBA coverage tonight from a very different kind of hardwood. The NBA on TNT studio show will emanate live from Pier 43 in San Francisco — just across the bay from the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors home opener later in the evening. The TNT studio show and accompanying live X Ambassadors concert at Pier 43 kick off the NBA on TNT Opening Night doubleheader, which features the Cavaliers at the Chicago Bulls at 8 p.m. ET followed by the Warriors hosting the New Orleans Pelicans at 10:30 p.m.

The NBA on TNT studio set and fan activation area at San Francisco's Pier 43

The NBA on TNT studio set and fan activation area at San Francisco’s Pier 43

“We have an incredible backdrop that includes Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, the [Pier 43 Ferry Arch], and Fisherman’s Wharf,” says Chris Brown, director of technical operations, Turner Sports. “And because we are on the West Coast instead of the East Coast, it allows us to maximize our studio team throughout the entire evening so we are able to go live from Pier 43 for our pregame, both halftime shows, and our postgame. We get to do the entire night.”

NEP’s NCPVIII (A and B units) mobile unit will serve as Turner Sports’ home for both the studio show and the X Ambassadors concert productions. The truck compound, which is located a block and half from Pier 43 and connected to the set and concert stage exclusively via fiber, spans nearly a full city block and comprises the two mobile units, an office trailer, generator, and uplink.

“[Opening night] has definitely grown more complex, and, this year, we have the complexity of the concert on top of that,” says Brown. “From a sales and sponsorship standpoint, you need a unique location that attracts and appeals to fans. However, that creative spot is not always conducive to live television. So it is always a challenge but one that we are able to find solutions for.”

During the day, Pier 43 has been transformed into a daylong onsite activation area open to the public, featuring a 40-ft. LED basketball court (powered by the new Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch) open for activities and clinics, the X Ambassadors performance stage, a viewing area, a Samsung Experience exhibit, and more. Beginning at 4 p.m. PT, Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal will be on hand to broadcast live from Pier 43 throughout the entire evening, including pregame, halftime, and the postgame Inside the NBA.

The onsite set is equipped with four cameras, including a 42-ft. jib for audience shots and a mini jib and two studio cameras to cover the set itself.

In addition to the studio show, Turner Sports will carry a portion of the X Ambassadors  performance live during the pregame festivities. Brown and company have dedicated four additional HD cameras and a roving RF handheld to the music-entertainment portion of the telecast, which will be cut out of NCPVIII and audio mixed out of the Le Mobile remote recording studio on hand at Pier 43. For NCAA Final Four pregame concerts, Turner has relied on outside vendors to produce these segments but, in San Francisco, has brought that in-house .

“In the past, we have leaned on other companies to cut the live video for the concert, but here we are actually cutting the video in conjunction with our studio-show production,” Brown explains. “That should make the entire process seamless. There is a music mix that is coming out of our B unit, and we also have control over some of the LED screens on the set and stage. You couple that with having one integrated production all through NCPVIII.”

Turner worked with Level 3 Communications to secure fiber-optic transmission services for its primary feed to Turner’s broadcast center in Atlanta. In addition, it has enlisted a Calhoun Satellite Communications dual-antenna uplink truck to serve both its redundant transmission path and to backhaul live game feeds from the two game locations in Oakland and Chicago.

“In addition to the guys on-air, the studio show is also all about the highlights of the night, so we have to be able to edit highlights of the games and bring them to air as soon as possible,” says Brown. “We started that at All-Star with the Thursday-night game before the break, when we usually had the studio set up in the All-Star host city. We learned a lot with that and opted to do it here as well.”