NEW YORK—Whether it was Dick Clark—or now Ryan Seacrest—on ABC, Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN, or whoever you preferred, watching the ball drop in Times Square to close out a calendar year is a popular tradition not only in the U.S., but around the world. But no matter how you watch the annual spectacle, there’s a good chance in the last 20-plus years that some of it has come from Countdown Entertainment and Times Square Alliance’s yearly production.
Countdown Entertainment and Times Square Alliance partner every year to provide coverage of New Year’s Eve in Times Square and make the footage available for broadcasters and webcasters through a pool-feed. With as many as 21 cameras set up to cover all of Times Square, broadcasters often utilize the setup from Countdown Entertainment to help with their own coverage of the night’s events.
“Everyone participates,” said Jeff Straus, president of Countdown Entertainment and an executive producer for the yearly production. “What’s great about the pull-feed is that all major networks will take portions of the pull-feed, whatever works for their programming, but also networks from around the world take portions of it.”
GETTING FROM HERE TO THERE
The broadcasters access the content from Countdown Entertainment from a switch that Straus says that both international and domestic broadcasters are familiar with. In addition, starting at 10 p.m., Countdown makes a satellite feed available for broadcasters using a dish. To use the footage for a webcast, users just need to grab an embed code from livestream.com/2017 to then be able to create their own commercial-free offering.
“When you look at New Year’s Eve, it’s the one moment of the year where you have more than 175 million Americans all doing the same thing at the exact same time in unison as we count down those final seconds of the year with hope and optimism,” Straus explained. “But what’s amazing is they’re not watching one channel, they’re watching a multitude of channels who are all showing that magic moment.” All with help from Countdown Entertainment.
So what does it take to pull off this yearly feat? It all starts with a pair of production trucks—the Titan-60-foot Triple Expando mobile production unit and Maverick-40-foot Single Expando mobile production unit from All Mobile Video. The Titan handles the world feed, screen feed and network unilateral feeds. The Maverick works with the webcast feed.
Inside the Titan truck equipment comes from all over, including:
- Sony MVS 8000X 3G switcher 5 ME
- Studer Vista and Studer Stage Box for audio
- Sony 2000/2500 cameras
- Up to four six-channel EVS record and playback devices, as well 24 other recording devices
- RTS Adam Intercom Matrix with 128x128 ports and eight RTS Tiff 4000s
The Maverick employs:
- Sony MVS 6350 Switcher
- Calrec Omega with 48 dual layer faders
- Sony HDC 1500 camera
- Two four-channel EVS XT Nano systems, 12 recording devices
- Grass Valley K2 Solo
- RTS Adam 88 Port intercom system
In addition, a fiber solution is deployed between 42nd Street and Central Park on 7th and Broadway.
FUTURE GROWTH TO INCLUDE VR?
It’s a massive production, but Straus and Countdown Entertainment are keeping an eye toward how to grow it in the future as well. Though not ready to deploy this year, Straus and his team have been looking into 360-video and virtual reality technology to incorporate into the production.
“I think 360 and VR have some very exciting opportunities, especially for an event like Times Square New Year’s Eve, where people who cannot be in the square can be part of the revelers and be on the street and feel virtually that awesome feeling to be part of that crowd.”
Straus and his team have been offering its services to broadcasters since the mid-1990s—the webcast since 2010—and there have been challenges from increased security to inclement weather, but the show goes on. “We have a deadline,” Straus said. “We know that ball’s got to come down Dec. 31, 11:59 p.m.” And once again, Countdown Entertainment will be sure to bring it to the world come what may.