Michael Grotticelli /
11.14.2008 09:03 AM
Game Creek Video accepted World Series challenge

Now that the Philadelphia Phillies have been crowned MLB champions, mobile production company Game Creek Video has had a chance to look back at the rain-soaked event with pride.

The Hudson, NH-based company was on-site for all three games with its Yankee Clipper truck, an HD production studio on wheels. The production went fine even though the Game 3 had to be cancelled midway through (it was resumed two days later).

According to Pat Sullivan, president at Game Creek Video, the production went exactly as planned, despite some fogged up Canon lenses on the Sony HDC-1500 cameras in use.

Sullivan said the Sony HD cameras have been known to operate well in inclement weather. He recalled a NFL game in Green Bay last year in which the temperature was 7 degrees below zero. The camera and lenses performed fine, but the pan-and-tilt systems were functioning a lot slower than normal.

“The cameras do very well in bad weather, especially cold weather; that’s one of the reasons we chose them,” Sullivan said. “In bad weather, things like focusing and condensation on the lens become critical. At the World Series, although it was rainy and cold, this was not an issue. Those Sony cameras and the Canon lenses performed really well. And at times, it was a downpour.”

At Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia, the company’s Yankee Clipper production unit as well as its Yankee Clipper B and FX D were used for the domestic feed of the World Series. The trucks carry 15 Sony HDC 1500 HD cameras (with Canon HD lenses) and two Sony HDC 3300 cameras. FOX also used 11 EVS HD replay systems, two Chyron HyperX2 graphics systems and two Apple Final Cut Pro edit systems. The Yankee Clipper also features a Pesa 128 x 128 HD and 256 x 256 SD routing system, an NVISION 512 x 512 audio router, Grass Valley Kalypso video production switcher and a Calrec Alpha audio console.

Another new technical element this year was placing wireless mics on players, umpires and inside the bases on the field. This was set up by CP Communications, of Elmsford, NY. Michael Davies, director of field operations for FOX Sports, said they used five Quantum audio transmitters (preferred by the players and are waterproof and fairly rugged).

In Philadelphia during Game 2, Shane Victorino was selected to wear the mic, and he could be heard between innings adding perspective to the game. Game Creek’s Sullivan pointed out that this type of application might become problematic if the FCC allows unlicensed consumer devices to operate with a stadium. It’s possible that a small wireless TV receiver could have knocked out the signal between Victorino’s mic and the receiver at the base stations located within the stadium.

FOX Sports’ Davies agreed. “These applications are absolutely subject to the white space debate, along with other wireless effects mics and the wireless intercoms we use in these situations,” he said. The audio elements were not carried live, but they could have been affected by interference.

For Game Creek Video, however, the biggest technical challenge might have been the uncertainty of where its trucks would be going for the World Series. Game Creek had planned to go to Boston if the Red Sox had gotten into the series. They would not have done Philadelphia.

“We haven’t had that many seven-game series in the past few years (since 2004), so it was a little unsettling. But we made the trip and it all worked out fine,” Sullivan said, noting that it took only two days to set up in Philadelphia.

That’s because Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park is among the most technically sophisticated stadiums in the country, complete with fiber-optic infrastructure and prewired camera positions that make it easy for mobile production companies like Game Creek to set up for an HD telecast.

“The Citizens Bank Park was built to host a World Series event, and it showed,” Sullivan said. “More and more parks are getting like that, but you still have places like Fenway Park, in Boston, that was built in 1912, and it’s a challenge to work there. Even though there’s a significant amount of fiber that has been installed (by Sony’s System Integration Group), you still have to add a lot for a game like the World Series.”

Another big challenge for Game Creek was the increased operational costs, including the price of fuel to move the equipment and people around. “The biggest challenges we face are usually external to our customer relationships and technical issues,” he said. “We have a great relationship with customers, so technically things get done in an efficient way and everyone’s happy at the end of the day.”

The tightening of the credit market is another concern, but thus far it has not affected Game Creek’s ability to bring new trucks to market. Game Creek just finished its Liberty HD production truck, which hit the road in August for ABC Sports and ESPN. It includes a 1080p/60-capable system that’s ready for the bandwidth-intensive HD format when clients ask for it.

The Liberty’s cameras and switcher can handle 1080p, the router can handle 1080p and the truck’s wiring is 3Gb/s ready, but the demand from producers — and subsequently their content providers — is not there yet.

“When we talk about 3Gb/s signals, it’s kind of like the discussions we were having about HD in the early 2000s,” Game Creek’s Sullivan said. “ESPN has shown interest, as have other sports leagues, but until there’s a critical mass in terms of 1080p sets in the consumer market, there really is not need for it. Cable operations would have to change out there equipment, which is costly. We won’t see true 1080p to the home for many years.”

Game Creek worked 20 baseball games for FOX Sports in 2008 as well as NASCAR and NFL games for FOX on an ongoing basis.

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