Network uses remote-controlled HD cameras for sports coverage

The New England Sports Network (NESN), a Boston-based regional sports network, has deployed Hitachi DK-H32 HD remote box cameras in TD Banknorth Garden and controls them from 18 miles via a bi-directional fiber-optic circuit supplied by Telecast Fiber Systems. The innovative setup is used for the production of pre-game, intermission and post-game shows for Boston Bruins hockey games and pre-game shows for Boston Red Sox baseball games.

NESN controls two Hitachi DK-H32 HDTV remote box cameras from its HD television network operations facility in Watertown, MA. For Bruins games, live HD video, SD video, audio, and data are transmitted across the 18 miles separating TD Banknorth Garden and NESN’s HD television network operations facility via a Telecast Viper II fiber-optic system. A technical director in Watertown switches the Hitachi cameras.

The Watertown control room has full control over every aspect of camera and lens operation, including iris, black levels, focus, pan, tilt, zoom, and color painting and color correction‚ with the ability to control both Hitachi cameras simultaneously. The Telecast Viper II system enables NESN to transmit uncompressed 1080i HD signals in both directions across the 18 miles between TD Banknorth Garden and Watertown. Audio, intercom, data, and Ethernet signals are also part of the signal bundle.

The cameras are mounted on Eagle PT-101 robotic pan-and-tilt heads that hang from The Garden’s lighting grid, providing many different viewing angles from above the ice. The cameras, pan/tilt systems, and Fujinon HAs18x7.6 HD lenses can all be controlled remotely over the Telecast network. NESN also maintains a studio on the fifth floor of TD Banknorth Garden, which plays a key role in producing and broadcasting the live, end-to-end event coverage.

Prior to installing the Hitachi DK-H32 remote box cameras, which went into service for the Bruins season opener on October 18, 2007, NESN produced its interstitial programming using traditional HD studio cameras that required a cameraperson for operation.

Dave Desrochers, vice president of engineering for NESN, said the benefits have been significant. Equipment setup time has been cut in half, and it’s easier to tear down, pack and move camera equipment to other locations. As a result, the network uses fewer people to produce its interstitial programming. He also said the quality captured by the Hitachi HD cameras is indistinguishable from the Sony HD cameras used during the broadcast of the games.

In March, Desrochers will bring the two Hitachi DK-H32 cameras to Florida to cover Boston Red Sox spring training. Once baseball season gets under way, the Hitachi cameras will be relocated to Fenway Park to provide an announce booth talent shot during Red Sox home games and crowd shots during pre-game shows.

NESN also has a portable stage that is driven over and parked on Yawkey Way, the street adjacent to Fenway Park. While the actual HDTV pre-game cameras on the Yawkey Way stage are manned, the Hitachi cameras will be controlled remotely from Watertown for pre-game shows.

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