Live From the Stanley Cup Final: NBC Sports Group ‘Supersizes’ Coverage in Nashville
155 techs, eight high-speed cameras, a 4K camera are telling the Predators’ and Penguins’ stories
NBC Sports Group has deployed its largest contingent yet for Stanley Cup coverage: 155 technicians are translating one of the more compelling narratives in recent NHL history into gripping must-see TV at home.
The Nashville Predators’ Cinderella theme contrasts nicely with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ crafty-veteran narrative. “Nashville has only one player who’s ever been in a Stanley Cup final before: [Predators captain Mike] Fisher; it’s still all new to them. And the crowd has become a story,” observes Matt Marvin, coordinating producer, NBC Sports. “We did our promos for Games 2 and 3 with the crowd going crazy, Carrie Underwood singing the national anthem. This is a big part of the Nashville story, for sure.
“Then, the story of Pittsburgh is one of resilience: they’ve overcome injuries and a goalie change,” he continues. “In the first two games, they were back on their heels in the beginning, but they found the gaps. In the first game, they scored three goals in four minutes and change; in the second game, they scored three [goals] in three minutes and change. If you let your guard down, they will turn on you. These are great stories to tell.”
CLICK HERE for SVG’s full on-site photo gallery at the Stanley Cup Final in Nashville.
The Tool Kit
In addition to a large staff, NBCSN is telling those stories with its largest complement of tools ever. This year, a total of eight super-slow-motion cameras have been deployed: five Sony HDC-4300’s and three Grass Valley LDK high-speed robotic cams, up from two last year. NBCSN is providing all but one, which is shared with Canadian rightsholder Rogers TV.
“[Director] Charlie [Dammeyer, director, NBC Sports,] had a vision for that this year,” says Marvin. “And a lot of the best shots are showing up on those.”
NBC has also deployed a Sony HDC-4800 4K camera in an innovative configuration. “Traditionally, we’d have the 4K camera high and wide, but, this year, we wanted to bring the 4K down closer to the rink and shoot the game a little differently, from an angle closer to the ice,” Dammeyer explains. “The camera is in a low slash position, and the operator shoots the game fairly tight. This allows us to maintain the 4K clarity when we zoom in on points of emphasis during replay sequences.” Viewers see these shots as part of NBCee IT, which allows the broadcast team to zoom in on a shot and pan around a frame.
For specialty cameras, NBC is also using TVA’s robotic netcams, as well as robotic “ankle cams,” positioned on the left and right dasher boards.
“We’re putting all the [resources available] into the basket in order to get the best show out there,” says Dammeyer.
(While everyone was taken aback by a Predators fan’s tossing a certain variety of Southern delicacy onto the ice during Game 2 in Pittsburgh last Monday, there will not be a dedicated “catfish cam” in Nashville, says Dammeyer.)
The Nashville games are produced from NEP’s ND6 and ST28 B unit in Nashville; ND5 and ST32 are onsite in Pittsburgh, where the action returns after the Predators’ 5-1 win on Saturday night. The production is fairly conventional: all prerecorded segments are being shot on off days, then transferred to and edited at NBC’s Stamford, CT, facility.
Conventional but “supersized,” according to James Stuart, director, NHL and college hockey remote ops, NBC Sports Group, who notes a total of 33 cameras, including a jib in the outdoor plaza set, two studio build-up cameras for the outdoor studio set, and an RF handheld cam for the indoor studio, plus a blimp for Games 1, 5, and 7. Combined feeds from Rogers, TVA, and NHL total 14.
Some roving RF cameras are being deployed to capture some of the flavor of Nashville. The Bridgestone Arena’s location at the beginning of the city’s raucous five-block strip of honky-tonks, whose open front windows and doors turn lower Broadway into a musical mashup most nights, allows the broadcaster to capture the city’s soundtrack even as it uses the two-story bar at Fifth Avenue and Broadway to look back over the arena’s jam-packed plaza.
“Once the pregame is done. I have access to those cameras, as well as the outdoor RF cameras,” says Dammeyer. “If I can elevate them shooting back at the arena from the bars, that’s a big part of it. That’s what’s unique about Nashville: we don’t have anything like that at any other hockey arena. And that will definitely make its way into the broadcast. There’ll be quite a scene out there, and we’ll want to document it.”
Nashville rolled out its big music guns ahead of Game 3. Alan Jackson, Rodney Atkins, Kip Moore, Brett Young, Granger Smith, and other country-music hitmakers were scheduled to do shows near the Bridgestone’s plaza. Stuart says the arena’s operations team was good about alerting the broadcasters to celebrities in the house; shots of Keith Urban and wife Nicole Kidman dancing in the stands punctuated at least one of the Preds’ goals Saturday night. But the real stars and stories are still on the ice.
“I tell the guys that it’s important that every action has a reaction,” Dammeyer emphasizes. “Every shot of someone raising a glove in celebration is great, but the guy with his face in the glove is also great. We want to capture … the dejection shots. It’s really nothing we’re doing different philosophically from the regular season. You have a basic strategy … and you fill in from here. At the end of the day, a game is going to break out, and how you react to what’s happening on the ice is the essence of sports.”