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NBC, EPC Team Up for Alpine Championships

VAIL, COLO.—Athletes from more than 70 nations will descend on the Rocky Mountains for a two-week span to compete in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships starting Feb. 2—a setup that is pushing the U.S. broadcaster NBC to give new thought to the difficulties of broadcasting in tight spaces.

Giant slalom racer Ted Ligety takes a run down the Beaver Creek-Vail courses in preparation for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Championships.

A broadcast entourage of approximately 1,500 is expected at the event, which will be produced for international viewers by Eurovision Production Coordination (EPC), a subsidiary of the EBU, and will be picked up by NBC Sports for broadcast across NBC, NBCSN and Universal Sports Network, which provides coverage of domestic and international Olympic sports events beyond the Olympic Games. NBC Sports will use its experience as an Olympic broadcaster in setting up the production facilities, cameras and fiber buildouts at this 14-day event.

“Producing a large event on the side of a mountain, at altitude, has all sorts of challenges, with weather being the biggest one,” said Chip Adams, vice president of Venue Engineering for NBC Sports Group. “With the cold and the thinner oxygen, the crews need to wear the right clothing, pace themselves, and drink a lot of water to stay healthy.”


Another big challenge is squeezing in all the facilities required for the event and the broadcast—and doing so a third of the way up the mountain, Adams said. The network will be working within a three-story, temporary IBC for the broadcasters where NBC and EPC will work together to get the course ready for cameras and microphones required to capture the competition. “Vail Valley Foundation and EPC have been working on the plans for over a year and it’s all coming together,” Adams said. “Trucks and equipment are arriving, so let’s do a show!”

This year, the competition will include five men’s and five women’s individual races, along with a much-anticipated national team race that puts racers in a side-by-side slalom down the racecourse. The team event will be run at Vail; the other 10 competitions are scheduled for Beaver Creek, Colo.

But space is a premium. Because of limited spaces at all of the finish areas, NBC Sports will use a fly-pack setup for its technical facilities, but will pack it with gear that resembles a fully outfitted production truck, Adams said.

The engineering setup will include Grass Valley gear including hybrid routers, multiviewers and terminal equipment; Sony MVX-7000 switchers; Sony XDCAM PDW-1600 record decks; EVS XT-3 servers, XFile storage platform and IPDirector production management application. Editing will be handled by Avid editing systems. Graphics will be handled by ChyronHego, with intercom technologies provided via an RTS Adam-M matrix intercom.

As host broadcaster, Eurovision is responsible for all coverage cameras on the courses themselves, and have rigged the mountain and finish area with fiber cables. NBC Sports will be complementing the EPC coverage with five cameras on-site for the network’s studio show as well as for interviews at finish line, a camera at the starting line and a camera at the finish area. The network will use a mix of portable Sony HDC-1500 cameras and Sony PDW-F800 XDCAM ENG cameras.


The Vail and Beaver Creek courses previously hosted the FIS completion in in both 1989 and 1999, and this year will set up races at Redtail Stadium in Beaver Creek, the primary competition venue for the race, which includes stadium seating for 7,500 and a race course with a nearly 2,500-foot drop for fast-finish races like the downhill alpine ski race. The second location is Golden Peak at Vail, where a 1,570-foot-long race course and stadium—whose views will allow spectators to see the entire course from the finish line—will host the dual giant slalom and Opening Ceremonies.

Of particular importance to the competition is the national team event, said FIS Vice President Bill Marolt. This year the event will feature a parallel giant slalom format, with four-person teams from the world's top ski racing nations. “The Team Event has proven to be very popular [because it showcases racers] in a head-to-head format,” he said.

Another big event is the super-G, a competition that’s a mix of downhill and giant slalom, but with more frequent turns. Held the first day of competition, the Ladies Super-G will be held on Raptor Racecourse at Red Tail Stadium.

The event will be captured via social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, which plan to coordinate with the broadcast.

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.