STATELINE, Nev.—The NHL and NBC have produced at least one outdoor hockey game every season since 2008. The games have taken place in football stadiums and baseball stadiums, from Boston to Los Angeles. A shortened season because of the pandemic was not going to stop the NHL and NBC from hosting what has become one of its signature offerings. But there were some adjustments.
Rather than taking place in an outdoor stadium, the NHL and NBC are producing a pair of outdoor games on Feb. 20 (Colorado Avalanche vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights) and Feb. 21 (Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers) from the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort on Lake Tahoe.
Charlie Dammeyer, who has been NBC’s full-time hockey director for the past five years and has directed nine outdoor games in that span, spoke with TV Tech about what makes these broadcasts unique both for him and his production team and for the viewers at home compared to past years.
“The similarities start with that all of them have been outdoors, and that’s pretty much where the similarities stop,” he said.
While previous venues for NHL outdoor games had, in most cases, never hosted a hockey game before, they had established broadcast infrastructures that the NBC team could utilize or adapt to meet their needs. There was no such setup available in Lake Tahoe.
“Every single camera position, every single cable run had to be thought out and planned out,” Dammeyer said.
NBC will have about 40 pieces of equipment capturing footage for the broadcast, including 20 manned cameras, robotic cameras, a jib, RF cameras and, for the first time at one of these outdoor NHL games, two drone cameras.
The drones are a particular point of excitement for Dammeyer. One of the drones will be a heavy lift drone with a Sony HDC-P50 camera attached to it to capture cinematic-like footage of the ice, the lake and more. The other drone will be an FPV that can go as fast as 60 mph and will be used to capture the “wow shots,” as Dammeyer puts it.
Other recent sporting events, including the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500, have been using more 4K and 8K footage. NBC will also use Sony HDC-4800 4K cameras but they will not be used in 4K, but rather for high-speed capacity to help capture 16x super-mo for instant replay and shots of nature. Dammeyer said that because camera positions are already so close to the ice, he does not believe that 4K would provide much of a benefit for game action.
Besides the look of the game, the sound is another element that will be unique. NHL games have been going on this season without fans (or at most a reduced capacity) and the Lake Tahoe games will be the same. But rather than pump in artificial crowd noise, Dammeyer says that the broadcast will have natural sound.
HOME AND AWAY TEAMS
NBC’s on-site crew for these outdoor games will be larger than any other deployed during the current NHL season, but the production is still taking the lessons that have been learned during the pandemic by having both the on-site team and other parts of the production work remotely.
“COVID has taught us that we can move things back to Stamford, [Conn.]; people can do their jobs from home,” said Dammeyer. “We’ve really embraced that and that’s kind of the new model of how we’re doing games.”
The on-site team includes producer, director, camera operators, tape operators, audio technicians and a handful of other production people, all of who are following CDC guidelines for social distancing and mask-wearing. To help with the social distancing, NBC has brought the NEP ND1 mobile production truck, a bigger mobile unit than would normally be used, as well as additional office trailers; the extra “firepower,” as Dammeyer puts it, from the ND1 is an added bonus.
Larger truck and all, Dammeyer says that the games at Lake Tahoe will have the smallest footprint that NBC has had on-site for any outdoor game.
When Dammeyer heard that they would be doing this year’s outdoor games from Lake Tahoe, he was excited about the opportunity to create a unique broadcast, but he is also aware of the responsibility he and his team have to capture both the Lake Tahoe environment and the games for all those viewing at home.
“The only way that people are going to consume this is by what we put on television,” he said. “That’s weighing heavy on everybody’s minds.”
The NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe games will take place on Feb. 20 and Feb. 21, both at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
Nick Cotsonika of NHL.com shared what a view of the main game camera angle via Twitter:
I scammed my way to the top of the main TV tower. (Hey, I’m working on a story!) This is will be the perspective of the main game camera. #NHLOutdoors pic.twitter.com/AlJiRK7072February 18, 2021
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