NBA TV counts on HD to deliver ‘courtside seat’ to home viewers

Bringing the NBA courtside experience to fans watching at home has gotten a little easier this season thanks to the 50 games NBA TV will deliver this year in high-definition.

Clean HD feeds from the league’s regional partners are sent to the NBA TV facility in Secaucus, N.J., where HD graphics, studio cut-ins and commercials are added. Photo courtesy of Steve Hellmuth and NBA TV.

From its wider screen that takes in more of the court to its crystal-clear pictures that let fans see the sweat dripping from a player’s nose, HD has a lot to offer NBA fans. “We think that the medium of HDTV is perfect for our sport because of the aspect ratio and the quality of the picture that replicates the experience of having a courtside seat,” said NBA vice president, operations and technology, Steve Hellmuth. “It gives the fan at home the opportunity to really appreciate the NBA and the spectacular athletes these guys are.”

This season, NBA TV will produce 15 games in HD and rely on clean HD feeds from Comcast, Fox Sports and other regional partners to produce NBA action in HD for a national audience. HD graphics, studio cut-ins and commercials are inserted from the league’s teleproduction center in Secaucus, N.J., and fed to distribution partners like inDemand via satellite. NBA TV also downconverts its HD feed to SD to serve the large audience still watching NTSC.

According to Hellmuth, inserting HD graphics and studio shots from its headquarters rather than producing the entire game in HD from the field not only makes sense financially but also from a talent point-of-view. “Finding people on a regional basis to operate the (Chryon) HD Duet is more difficult than drawing on talent pool that’s here,” said Hellmuth.

Sound is also an important element in delivering the true game experience to HD viewers. “When we do 5.1 Surround, the crowd is behind you,” explained Hellmuth. “Sneaker squeaks, whistles and other court sounds are in front of you and left and right, and the announcers are a little in front and behind. We are attempting to put the viewer in a courtside seat.”

Hellmuth takes the potential impact of HD on the viewer’s experience seriously. “I was privileged enough to watch Michael Jordon play -watch him play defense- and watch how intense he was firsthand. With HD, fans will be able to experience that same intensity right in their living rooms.”

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