The Los Angeles Dodgers and their ardent fan base can focus on the
2014 season, which will also be memorable for the establishment of SportsNet
LA, the team-owned regional sports network that’s dedicated to
the boys in blue, present and past, ’round the clock.
The debut of SportsNet LA, which is valued between $8 billion and $9
billion, is just the latest point in the trend of Major League Baseball teams
establishing and owning RSNs. With the game broadcasts and the pre- and
post-game shows accentuated by a growing number of servers brimming with
content, it was only a matter of time before the storied franchise that came
‘to Tinseltown in 1958 (after its earlier days in Brooklyn) got on
Establishing the technical setup for SportsNet LA was a relatively
easy and workable, proposition, as the infrastructure for the Time Warner
Cable-operated entity was virtually piggybacked on to the existing TWC
SportsNet (carrier of the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Sparks and the Los
Angeles Galaxy, as well as various local sports), which launched in October
2012, also at TWC’s 40,000-square-foot operations center in El
IT’S ABOUT THE
Programming for SportsNet LA emanates from three sources: The first is
the actual game production by the Dodgers, which is filtered through
“Our DMA expands northeast to Las Vegas southwest to the
Hawaiian Islands,” said Larry Meyers, vice president of content for
TWC and executive producer for the RSN. “And now, all Dodgers
exhibition games and more than 140 of the 162 regular season games [with 75 in
Spanish] will air on SportsNet LA.”
The second element is the studio shows: “Leadoff Space
LA,” and the pre/post-game show, called “Access SportsNet:
Dodgers,” which airs an hour before and an hour after each game; plus
“Dodgers Squeeze Play,” an hour-long condensed version of
the prior day’s game; with the third element consisting of other new
programming and archival content, notably “Backstage
Dodgers” and “Dodgers Clubhouse.” Both shows will
be lensed with less obtrusive small cameras, like Canon 5Ds and Sony
Dodgers, Diamondbacks Lead Off
’14 Season Down Under
|The Sidney Cricket Ground was redesigned to host its
first ever professional baseball game.
While a two-game series is more the exception than the rule during the
Major League Baseball season, playing a short set on the other side of
the International Date Line is another matter.
But that’s what the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks
did on Saturday and Sunday, March 22-23, at the fabled Sydney Cricket
Ground. In the process, they became the first two teams to play in
Australia since the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants did so during a
tour 100 years ago.
While the experiment was certainly novel and [hopefully] raised the
sport’s profile on another continent, previous regular season MLB
openers were played in baseball-crazy countries like Japan and Mexico,
and didn’t necessarily present unusual conditions—like playing in a more
circular cricket stadium.
Meyers admitted that he braced for a few surprises. “I didn’t know
all of the details,” Meyer said just before press time, “but since the
Sydney Cricket Grounds is not a baseball park, there had to be a lot of
That figured in to be the case, since the venue had an expanse of foul
territory that was reminiscent of the O.co Coliseum, in Oakland, Calif.,
as well as what seems like an acre or two between the outfield fence
and the stands. Viewers also noticed, as reported by NPR’s Tom Goldman
and others, the bare spot behind second base; that was the 22-yard
cricket pitch, which the groundskeeper refused to alter for the games.
As for the broadcasts, MLB International, the host broadcaster, spent
several months in planning with entities like Australia’s Global
Television (part of Pittsburgh-based NEP Group), the primary equipment
vendor. Its host truck produced a primary feed of the game and was
accompanied by two additional large mobile units.
The host feed drew from a large number of cameras (approximately 14,
of various types) and was the source for distributors MLBI, which
partnered with ESPN to transmit the games in Australia, as well as New
Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Latin America and the Caribbean; SportsNet
LA and FSN Arizona; and Australia’s Nine Network, which simulcast the
SportsNet LA operated a separate unilateral truck in order to take a
clean world feed and craft a complete program that was branded to the
new RSN’s look, with the commentary of Dodger legend Vin Scully (yes,
the 86-year-old took that 14-hour flight). It also provided pre-game and
post-game portions of its studio/site hybrid with on-site sideline
reporter Alanna Rizzo.
The SportsNet LA truck added three cameras, plus the EVS, Chyron
Duet, GVG Kalypso switcher, etc. FSN Arizona, similarly, worked with a
separate unilateral truck, also taking the world feed and crafting its
It’s also notable, said Meyers, that “the entire production was being
natively produced in Sydney in 1080i/59.94, despite Australia being a
1080i/50 country.” MBLI used Pac-TV as the transmission provider back to
the U.S. from Australia.
A group of about 10 from SportsNet LA traveled to Sydney for the
event, which meant working with local crews and versing them on the
finer points about broadcasting baseball. They got a head start by
working with MLBI on the two Australian National Team exhibition games,
one each against the Dodgers and D-backs, in the days before both squads
took the field for real.
True, he may have had some nervous moments leading in, but Meyer felt
the broadcasts would come off well, for good reason. “My personal
experience at the Australian Open,” he said, “and that’s how I knew that
Australia provides excellent crew, gear and effort.”
At the operations center, TWC Sports has used about a quarter of its
existing facility to accommodate SportsNet LA, with the full facility including
two master control breakout rooms (with one dedicated for the Spanish
broadcasts) in the “nerve center.” It also includes five stages,
including one insert; four control rooms, including video control and replay;
11 edit rooms that feature Final Cut Pro technology; and an audio
post-production room with equipped with Avid ProTools.
A NEW VIEW
Although only five or six cameras per game were employed by SportsNet
LA during its Cactus League broadcasts, the regular season home games will
feature about a dozen Sony HDC-2500s.
Most of the cameras will be set in the typical positions that are
employed during a baseball broadcast. In Dodger Stadium, that means in the
Dodgers’ third base dugout, low third, high home, in the booth with
legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, high first and low first, with
two in centerfield (high and low) and a rover in right field, plus two or three
robocams behind home plate. Two of the robocams behind home will shoot at high
frame rates, with one Ultra Mo.
What’s new will be a camera mounted in the upper deck in
leftfield, which will provide a fresh angle down the first base line.
“One thing we did was go to Dodger Stadium to work with Jared
Stacy,” TWC’s coordinating producer for remote production,
said Meyers. “We looked around for good story-oriented spots for
camera positions. The producers call it ‘showing
Ultimately, the new setup was created to allow SportsNet LA to tell
the story of the game to Dodger fans in a way that it hasn’t been
told before. “What we really wanted to do is create a story that is
not just about the players on the field, but the Dodgers fans and their
connection to the team,” said Meyers. “That’s why
the Dodgers started the network.”
It also came in handy that SportsNet LA was founded shortly after the
Dodgers upgraded the in-house video facilities at the stadium for
“DodgerVision,” the stadium’s 26 x 46-foot 16:9
SD screen from Daktronix, which, along with the Cincinnati Reds, is the largest
SD video screen in the Major League Baseball. DodgerVision includes the video
screen, scoreboard in right field, outfield wall boards in the left and right
field fences, Loge and Field level fascia boards.
|SportsNet LA’s “nerve center”
Building SportsNet LA was basically another case of piggybacking that,
on this occasion, satisfied TWC’s infrastructural needs.
“The stadium is cabled well and the vast majority of the
infrastructure was already in place, even down to the clubhouse.
That’s unusual,” said Mark Coleman, vice president of
engineering, facilities and operations. “It already had access to
routable, patchable cable. It was a benefit to us that DSI, through Sony, did a
great job with the upgrade,” before the start of the 2013
The truck provider at Dodger Stadium is Wilsonville, Ore.-based MIRA
Mobile, which is dispatching its M-12 unit this season. The 53-foot HD Expando
houses 12 Sony HDC-2570 cameras, a GVG Kayenne switcher, five EVS servers,
Calrec Artemis audio mixer, Chyron HD Duet, and Evertz router.
Transmission from the stadium to El Segundo is another mark of
technical advancement, Coleman said. “We can bundle outbound feeds
from the stadium, but it’s a two-way environment. It’s more
than point-A-to-point-B. Now, we can send up to five signals from the truck,
then also send transmissions back from the nerve center.
“That,” he said, “is a game
The SportsNet LA news room features Dalet media asset management, with
the RSN’s 150 TB of content in a Spectra Logic library, backed up on
several Quantum servers.
IN THE GAME
The biggest technical leap for this season will be the integration of
VizLibero, a graphics analysis tool, into the broadcasts. “To call it
a super telestrator doesn’t give it full credit,” said
Coleman, noting its interpolation of multiple camera angles on the same play to
“create a 3-D, Matrix-like representation” of exciting
And exciting is just what he and Meyers want this season’s
broadcasts of Dodgers baseball to be. Meyers feels that SportsNet
LA’s presentation will give Dodger fans access to an experience that
they could never have expected.
“We’re really pleased with where we
are,” he said. “Dodger fans now have a level of interaction
that they’ve never had before.”