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This year marked the third that Turner Studios has worked on an NCAA March Madness event for its parent Turner Broadcasting System (TBS).
The Post Sports Editorial team cut its way through more than 2800 hours on NCAA projects in the weeks and months leading up to and through the tournament. Session hours ranged from a few hours up to 33 straight hours and 90 short turn-arounds. During peak times, more than 17 rooms were in production creating content for the shows. And its Audio Post Sound Designers logged 169 hours, including producing 12 teases, six opens, an updated graphics package, 30 roll-ins/bumps/stingers, 10 sets of topical promos and seven features/recaps. In total, there were some 85,000 clips used in one way or another. While on the road, editors could search and retrieve clips from Turner Studio’s Sports Central content management system in Atlanta (which received an Excellence Award from Broadcast Engineering magazine) as seamlessly as if the library was in the same room. Finished pieces were then all fed back to Turner Studios and the SportsCentral system before going on the air.
Turner’s Studio Operations, Sports Tech Ops and Engineering facilitated 67 separate studio shows (that’s more than 120 hours of live television) and 41 games (televised on Turner networks). Heyl said that things can get crazy when things don't go right, but for this month-long tournament, not a single on-air technical issue was reported.
“This was one of the best years we've ever had, in terms of technical performance,” he said.
The Scenic Services department at Turner Studios logged more than 730 man hours working on NCAA sets, including set prep, set in, graphics fabrication and installation, rehearsals, shoots, and five turnarounds from NCAA to NBA and back. The Studios Lighting Team put in more than 700 man hours lighting up the NCAA sets, including pre-lights, rehearsals, shoots and turnarounds from NCAA to NBA and back.
This effort was completed in conjunction with CBS Sports studios in New York. On-air anchors reported from both Atlanta and New York, with Turner switching between the two locations (and various games) without viewers really ever seeing a difference.
Turner’s Engineering and Sports Tech Ops and Live Audio teams managed audio signals from 10 different venues (10 audio channels per site) an average of 80 channels of audio on fiber and satellite feeds daily, including four intercom coordination lines per location and six miix-minus lines daily. The team managed more than 46 lines of intercom for all partners including CBS.
Heyl said that this year, they completely remodeled the Sports Command Center (in Atlanta), which helps facilitate all of the Turner Sports' operations teams responsible for monitoring Turner's web and new media products. This is where all of the games and related events are monitored on a large multiview display.
Turner Studios Postproduction, using graphics platforms from Orad HiTech Systems, built more than 40 new school logos with five animations per logo, 10 show logos with six animation passes for each logo. Both 3D and composite were on call throughout conference play to build last-minute school logos as they came in.
Heyl added that close collaboration among other internal divisions — including Network Operations, which handles the transmission of all the games, and the Audience and Multiplatform Technology (AMPT) group, who build and operate all Turner’s digital media platforms — was also critical to the overall success of this year’s extensive tournament coverage.
“Usually everyone talks about the ratings and how well our programming did with viewers, but most people never hear about what went on behind the scenes here in our Atlanta studios,” Heyl said. “Every year we keep raising the bar with the quality of the production and what we’re trying to bring to the viewers. The various production teams within Turner deserve a lot of credit for that.”