As the Director of Broadcasting I am often asked the question of how does a telecast get on the air? So consider this Hockey Broadcasting 101.
We work very closely with our television partner Comcast Sports Net California during the NHL season. First bit of work is to rent a state-of-the-art mobile production truck. These trucks are TV control rooms on wheels. Priced well over $2 million, these trucks work almost every day between our games and those of the A’s, Giants, Warriors, NCAA events and NFL.
For a 7:30 PM Sharks game, things get started around noon. The truck is parked and powered just outside HP Pavilion. Around 1:30 PM the freelance crew of approximately 20 arrives on site. The Bay Area sports production crews are among the very best in the country.
Next work is to unpack the truck and run camera, video and audio lines. Every building in the NHL has pre-installed cables in order to connect the truck to camera positions and announce positions. For a typical home game we sport five hard cameras in the bowl as well as a handheld, four robotic and two fixed/locked cameras.
Camera 1 is a ‘tight follow’ camera at center ice. Camera 1's job is to stay as tight as possible with the puck. This is a primary replay angle.
Camera 2 is our ‘game’ or primary game coverage camera. Camera 2's job is to cover the game action loose enough to include the puck and a number of players around it. This is the look that you see on-air 90% of the time.
Camera 3 is a high slash, or corner position. This camera shoots even wider than Camera 2. We call this the ‘telestrator look’ camera. This provides color commentator Drew Remenda with a wide angle for use with the Fingetworks telestrator as he draws circles, arrows and lines to teach the game. Also if all else fails, this angle shows ‘everything’. This camera is seldom taken live during action.
Camera 4 is a robotic camera positioned behind the left goal. The camera operator -- via joystick -- is zooming, tilting and panning all from a table located beneath the stands. This provides a great look with replays and live shots, especially during a powerplay.
Camera 5 is a handheld on the right side of the ice. This camera feed is shared among CSN California, visiting tv and the in-house video board show.
Camera 6 is our ‘Iso’ camera. Positioned at center ice, this camera follows pre-determined players frames from head to toe. A bit of a dice roll, this often gives us looks of play away from the puck or an individual’s contribution to the play. Used properly this can really add a lot to our game presentation.
Camera 7 is the ‘reverse angle’ camera. Positioned at center ice, but on the opposite side Cameras 1, 2 and 3. This allows replays that give an entire different perspective. Camera 7 also shoots the penalty box as player enters and exits.
Camera 8 is another robotic. This one is stationed between the two player benches. This gives the CSN show some more ‘color’ as you can see close-ups of players and coaches. This also can be an angle for some of Brodie Brazil’s pre and postgame interviews.
We have small robotic cameras inside both goals. You can’t get closer to the play than this.
We take in both of the overhead cameras to help the replay officials determine if the puck crossed the goal line.
We also have a remote controlled HD camera inside the Sharks dressing room. We like to use this camera during the pregame show and in between periods.
Inside the truck there is a ‘video control’ position. This person has feeds of all of the cameras and he or she can adjust color, brightness and contrast on the fly. We want all the cameras to match.
While not on-line during whistles all the cameras look to get shots for use while the announcers tell game or personal stories about the players. Ideally if the announcers are talking about something we want to support that with live pictures, replays, graphics or pre-produced clips.
The entire crew is on a headset system which allows the director and producer to lead the crew in hopes of an excellent broadcast. There are several different channels which allows for stats people or engineering to communicate separately from the rest of the crew.
In the booth Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda do wear headset style microphones. They each have a ‘cough switch’ that shut off their microphone as long as the button is down. They also have a ‘talk back’ switch that allows them to speak to the crew in the truck if they have questions or ideas. At the same time the truck can communicate to the announcers without any of that to go on the air.
A huge part of the CSN California show includes audio. As mentioned each announcer has microphones, sometimes headset, sometimes hand mics and sometimes via wireless mics. We also install mics all around the rink in order to get those great sounds of sticks and pucks and skates on ice.
We usually have six angles that can be recorded for replays. This takes four people inside the truck watching this feeds and being one step ahead.
We also have three stats/graphics people. This includes the score information that is always at the top of the picture. Also we use a character generator call the ‘Duet’. Our graphics producer spends many hours crunching the numbers and loading in information about every player on both teams.
Our technical director sits at a switcher in the front of the truck. His or her job is to push the buttons when the director calls for them. The TD has all of the cameras, replay and graphic devices and makes transitions between all of these sources.
Lastly the producer and directors work to lead the crew to another successful broadcast. The Producer is one who comes up with story ideas and what will be stressed in the broadcast. The Director works to make everything and everyone work together.
So next time your watch a Sharks game take a moment to think about all those in the behind the scenes that make it happen.