CTV OB, ESPN collaborate for college basketball broadcast landmark

On November 8, ESPN, with the assistance of CTV OB, delivered regular season college basketball to Asia for the first time in more than 30 years when a US Army base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, hosted a game between Georgetown University and the University of Oregon. The event marked the third consecutive year that ESPN and the DOD had worked together to carry hoops to military outposts.

Greg Livermore, unit manager, CTV Outside Broadcasts, was on-site, overseeing a flypack that put 13 Sony HDC-1500 cameras, five EVS XT3 replay servers and a Yamaha MCL7 audio desk at the centre of the production. The production area was housed within the super-gym at USAG Camp Humphreys in a ballroom measuring 20 x 20 meters.

“Working within the base has been very easy,” says Livermore. “The perceived challenges and problems were going to be shipments, access and power. Korea, for example, is 220 volts, while the base is 110 volts and most of the kit is 230 volts. But all of the issues have been handled seamlessly at the camp.”

Terri Hermann, ESPN operations manager, notes that production planning began almost a year ago, to ensure that the company was able to source the necessary TV equipment. “The decision was made to utilise the flypack system rather than try to fit the show into a smaller mobile unit, which might be available in the country,” she explains. “This, of course, means that all equipment needed to be shipped in, and we have been working with the base to make sure we meet all security procedures.”

Most of the equipment was sourced from Singapore, according to Livermore, with supplemental gear and the Avid editing system coming from the UK.

“The person in charge of logistics on base for us was Mike Bombonati. He’s been very helpful in terms of organising Korea customs and aiding in the shipments and customs clearances. Even late-arriving or extra equipment has shipped seamlessly and been accepted on base very quickly,” adds Livermore. “The potential there for delays and problems was huge.”

In terms of the working environment and set-up as far as ESPN’s coverage is concerned, it was business as usual, according to Livermore. The gallery was set up to closely resemble what the crew is used to. ESPN technical managers Keith Kice and Jack Sheehan advised CTV in the set-up and tech requirements for the coverage.

With no direct satellite connectivity, remote traffic coordinator Brian Sanders pieced together a complex hand-off of signals from satellite to fibre. Meanwhile, crew from the UK, Singapore and the US gave the event a unique feel.

“What is not unique,” remarks Hermann, “is the overwhelming welcome and support that the bases have offered to the ESPN crew and our vendors. They cannot have been more generous hosts with their time, with their knowledge and with their support.”

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