PA vs. CA: NBC Sports Covers Cross-Country Clash in Stanley Cup Final

With last night’s Game 4 victory over the San Jose Sharks, the Pittsburgh Penguins move one step closer to hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup. The three-time Stanley Cup champions have a chance to win on home ice this Thursday, and, once again, the NBC Sports Group will be there to surround the game with exclusive coverage.

At SAP Center in San Jose, CA, and CONSOL Energy Arena in Pittsburgh, NBC Sports has deployed 32 cameras for game coverage, including a Sony HDC-4300 6X super-slow-motion camera, a Sony HDC-3300 3X slow-motion camera, and an IMOVIX 4K camera. The three specialty cameras are stationed at center ice: the 4300 on the tight follow, the 3300 on the reverse, and the 4K up high for NBC’s signature NBCee IT 360-degree replays.

10660461_GNBC shares resources with the two Canadian rightholders onsite: Rogers, which provides English-language coverage, and TVA Sports, which caters to French-speaking fans. NBC provides the bulk of the game cameras; Rogers, the trio with an additional robotic camera on the glass; TVA, the in-net cameras. With shared iso-cam resources and additional tape machines for the Final, NBC can isolate up to five skaters on the ice at any given time.

“Our ability to showcase [the Stanley Cup Final] with the Super Bowl replays and the way we’re able to slow shots down to see the puck and see the puck entering the net, it makes a huge difference,” says NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood. “You add to all that the additional technology around the net to confirm or not confirm goals, [and it] has made it a pleasure to be able to showcase the NHL at the very best, with the two best teams in hockey right now.”

EVS is providing 10 XT3 live production servers for 60 channels, XFile 3 file transfer and archive tool both for internal archiving and archiving back to NBC in Stamford, and IPDirector for content management and highlight coordination through Piero air graphics storytelling.

NBC Sports’ road to the Stanley Cup Final shifted into high gear two weeks ago, when Pittsburgh defeated Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the Conference Finals. San Jose had secured its place in the Stanley Cup Final the day before, but NBC had to wait until after Game 7 in the East to know where the Final would start.

“Leading up to [Game 7], the goal was to position our second truck to get to San Jose and start Game 1 [if necessary],” explains James Stuart, director, operations, NBC Sports. “The truck that was in Pittsburgh we knew could get to Tampa Bay in time for Game 3; we knew Tampa Bay couldn’t start the series. Obviously, if Pittsburgh won, which they did, the truck was already there. So a lot of the planning leading up to Game 7 of the Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay series was making sure we were positioned correctly to start the [Stanley Cup Final] on time and with the proper setup time in San Jose should Tampa Bay have won the series.”

Thanks to Pittsburgh’s Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 win on Thursday May 26, NBC was able to keep NEP’s ND6 and ST28 at the CONSOL Energy Arena for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final the following Monday. NEP’s ND5 and ST32 remained at SAP Center following the Western Conference Finals to handle games in San Jose. According to NBC Sports, the production levels remain similar from the Conference Finals to the Stanley Cup Final.

“Once we reach the [Conference Finals] level — the final four, in effect — we go pretty much to where we’ll be for the [Stanley Cup] Final,” says Josh Fredenberg, producer, NHL on NBC. “We certainly add a couple cameras: we added an RF handheld, and, [for] a couple games, we’re going to have a blimp for some scenic. But, in terms of all the robotics, the Evertz DreamCatcher system [for NBCee It replays], and most of the bells and whistles, we have [them in place] once we hit the Conference Finals.”

In both locations, NBC has erected indoor and outdoor sets for pre/postgame coverage. In Pittsburgh, the outdoor set is located outside the Trib Total Media Gate on Washington Place; in San Jose, it is outside the arena at the corner of North Autumn and West Santa Clara Streets. NBC uses 13 cameras (14 with the blimp) to cover each set, for a grand total of 45 or 46 cameras at each game.

In San Jose, NBC has leveraged its relationship with its RSN partner Comcast SportsNet Bay Area to facilitate operations within SAP Arena.

NBC has approximately 150 staffers onsite for each game, with 100 making the cross-country flight to work each game. Although most of the production work is done onsite, a small crew at NBC Sports’ broadcast-operations center in Stamford, CT, is handling the editing.

“It’s a cooperative effort between production and operations,” says Ken Goss, SVP, remote operations and production planning, NBC Sports. “It’s a team that’s worked well throughout the whole season, and it just culminates at the [Stanley Cup] Final for guys that have worked so well together all year. You have the [regular] seasonal and postseason all coming down to those two final cities. And I’ve never seen production and operations work better as a team than this crew.”