Kevin Little (left) does a sound check with technicians on the court as part of his preparations.
The CBS Sports presentation of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Semi-Final and Championship games from the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis offers a glimpse into the promise and the peril of HD sports teleproduction.
While fans at home watching HDTV sets enjoyed the crisp 1080i pictures and game sound that brought them closer than ever to the game and viewers with NTSC sets saw the excellent production values they’ve come to take for granted, CBS Sports engineers, technicians and production personnel labored in the less-than-ideal world of producing a telecast based on compromise.
That compromise is the direct result of the transition the industry is making between analog and digital, NTSC and high definition. It surfaced in various ways and made a fairly large, but typical network sports production “difficult and complicated,” in the words of CBS Senior Vice President of Operations and Engineering Ken Aagaard.
For this year’s production of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, an HD camera that is small enough to mount behind the backboard Plexiglas was available.
A few of the difficulties and complications included:
None of these challenges created insurmountable obstacles. In fact, this year’s HD production was easier in some ways than those that preceded it because critical pieces of HD gear, such as a small HD camera that could be mounted behind the backboard Plexiglas, actually now exist. However, new HD equipment can only do so much to relieve the growing pains.
Until the transition is complete, CBS Sports and every other network producing sports for television will face difficulties and complications in a production environment where the most important thing, namely a live game, can’t be fixed in post.