Tech vendors capture end of men’s March Madness

This year’s NCAA Men's Final Four Tournament on CBS, live from Ford Field in Detroit, was not only noteworthy for its dramatic end, but also for the technology that helped bring it into viewers’ homes in SD and HD.

To capture the live game action, F&F Productions, in Clearwater, FL, was on site in Detroit with its GTX-15 HD production truck — a 53ft expandable rig complete with a dozen Ikegami 79 EC HD cameras (with fiber cabling), several Sony HDW 730 handheld cameras, a variety of Fujinon HD lenses, a Grass Valley Kalypso digital production switcher, EVS replay servers and a Calrec Alpha audio console (mixing 5.1 surround sound via Dolby E processing).

Mobile production company New Century Productions, based in Allentown, PA, was also on site during the tournament weekend to cover all of the pregame activities for the CBS College Sports Network with its NCP-8, which included a dozen Ikegami 79E HD cameras, a variety of Canon HD lenses, EVS playback servers, a Grass Valley Kalypso Duo SD/HD production switcher and a Calrec Alpha audio console.

As well as sponsoring all of CBS Sports' HD telecasts of the games during this year's NCAA basketball season, Harris provided CBS with its NetVX video networking system, which was used for signal backhaul from all the NCAA venues to the CBS studio in New York, and also for satellite distribution of the network programming to CBS affiliates across the country.

The Harris NetPlus 300 HD integrated receiver/decoder was used at each leg of the path to decode signals. From there, numerous Harris DTV transmitters and NetVX encoders delivered the final programming to homes viewing CBS’ HD coverage of the event.

In addition to broadcasting all 63 games — from the first round to the championship game — on television, CBS Sports also provided live coverage of this year's event to viewers across multiple platforms. For the first time, CBS presented a free broadband service called NCAA March Madness On Demand, streaming every tournament game in what CBS called “high-definition-quality” video (about 500 lines of resolution). In addition to its network and cable television and broadband, CBS also made some of the NCAA tournament available on mobile devices.

Even before the Final Four weekend, this year's on-demand service had surpassed last year's online traffic. Up to Saturday, April 4, the on-demand service had reported 6.92 million unique visitors, up 56 percent from 2008. Users had also consumed 8.04 million hours of live streaming and audio, which was 71 percent more than the 4.69 million clips viewed a year ago.