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Old January 19th, 2006, 01:39 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Toronto, ON, Canada
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Hockey broadcast insight

(this is a much bigger post than I was expecting it to be)

Hey everyone,

I've done freelance and volunteer work for Shaw TV - a community channel with stations across western Canada - for the past three years, with most of my experience coming from hockey. During my first year when I was 15, Shaw Saskatoon had just started broadcasting hockey games. Since then it's come a long way, though it's still far behind CBC, TSN and Sportsnet.

If there's anyone out there who has worked network NHL broadcasts, could you provide me some insight on some of the techniques used to pull off a great-looking production?

For example, one thing that I've really been wondering about is what Hockey Night in Canada uses to mic the ice. At Shaw, we use lav mics and place them about 5 feet above the boards in a crack between glass panels at 4 spots: behind each net and on each blue line (on one side). I highly doubt this is how the professionals do it.

If we had the time and mics, I think we would be better off hanging some shotgun mics from the rafter walkways above the ice from dangling XLR (not too close to the ice, of course). Make each mic wireless and I think it would be perfect.

I've tried to observe as much as possible about each camera's roles and when/how they're used. I think the typical HNIC broadcast has at least the following cameras:

Shooting the game: play-by-play, tight follow, left handheld corner, right handheld corner, 'suicide box' (between the two benches), tight follow (opposite side), left high end camera, right high end camera, triple deck cam (the one that's wayyy up there getting an extreme wide shot), and possibly others.

Non-game: at least one camera outside the teams' dressing rooms for getting interviews, at least one studio cam and occassionally a camera outside (although that's usually b-roll).

I counted 11-~14 cameras there. Anyone know how close I was?

How many VTRs do most broadcasts use? We used to have 3 at Shaw but now we have 4: one linear one to record the broadcast, one linear one for replays and now two (used to just have one) VTRs with hard drives. I imagine CBC must have at least 5 or 6, if not more, to keep track of all the different angles. We used to do our commercials from the truck but as of the game we did last night, they're done from Vancouver now. How many people does CBC have keeping track of what highlights they have and when to use them, and who puts together those (for example) first period highlight videos together?

I don't think shading is as much of an issue because the ice stays relatively the same brightness the whole game. The only cameras that would probably need shaders are the handheld cameras (for going between crowd and ice shots) and the interview cameras.

Switching is probably the area I know least about. Since we only have 6 cameras at our games, we don't need a huge switcher. Here's a picture of one similar to ours, although ours is a step up with more inputs and transition buttons:

What is the key bus used for? We never used ours until a couple days ago as we now have a 'WHL on Shaw' graphic that appears for a moment as a transition between replays and the game. However, ours is just the animated logo (a very nice-looking one, by the way - it came from Calgary) playing on a DVD hooked up to the TBC. The (human) switcher fades the key bus in, switches the program input from VTR to a live game camera (or vice versa) and fades the key out again. There is no sound to play with it.

How do the networks get their transition logo to appear and make the sound? Is it an expensive system or people with good timing?

Ideally, a producer and director should be working side-by-side to keep on track with the script and fully aware of what's coming up. Our Shaw games used to have the producer directing as well, until this season. What do producers do during HNIC games? (other than give the director the occassional insight)

Oh, another camera question: how big is the glass they're using? We've probably got some of the oldest cameras to be used regularly in inter-provincial television in Canada. We have Hitachis that were either made in the '70s or '80s. They're not as bad as I make them sound but they're not fun to work with. Surprisingly, they're actually in pretty good condition. Our lenses are weak, though; between 16x and 20x, I believe. We only have one 2x enlarger and you can't even use the last 15% of the zoom because the picture gets so dark.

The most frustrating part for me is our tripods. They're not horrible, but not suited for hockey. We use Manfrotto 520-something heads and I can't remember which legs (also Manfrotto). They're reasonably smooth but there isn't nearly enough drag for a tight shot when you're zoomed in all the way on someone 150 feet away.

Another audio bit: do the pros do any channel panning? For example, taking the mics near the goal on the left and panning them to the left. It seems a bit silly but it's certainly an option.

I think I'm all out of questions for now, haha. Hopefully there's someone with some experience and insight who can help me out. If you're wondering why I'm so desperate to know, I'm not. I just love learning about this kind of thing and any additional knowledge I can apply at Shaw is definitely a good thing.

If anyone takes the time to answer any of these questions, I would appreciate it very much! I don't care whether you've read it in a book or been there personally, I'm just dying to know.

Also, if you have any additional comments, suggestions, facts or points to ponder, I'd love to hear them!

Thanks in advance!

Mark Utley
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Old January 19th, 2006, 10:51 AM   #2
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: Delhi/Albany, NY
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Im part of the Clarkson University Tv station, and we air the Clarkson Hockey games. Im sure our setup isnt all that close to what is used for the NHL, but here is what we do. We have two high cameras up in the press box. One gets a wide shot(about half the ice), and another gets a closeup(anywhere from 10-25feet wide), we have a camera behind one of the goals near our student section and the pep band. This camera also handles any interviews by the locker rooms. We use shotgun mics hanging off the press box to get our sound. We use to have mics on the boards, but they were constantly gettong broken, so we stopped using them. We also have two announcers. This is all done with a crew of about 10 people. Hope this helps you out a bit.
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