League Technology Summit: truck tales and more

Networks, leagues and the truck companies all debated in separate sessions in the afternoon, but the trucks kept parking in the middle of most conversations.

First off though, Jerry Steinberg, Fox Sports, SVP, Field Operations, talked not so much as being on the cusp of another transition, but being on the cusp of an endless series of them. 1080p, IP, remote production, 4k…it’s all coming down the pipe.

“Maybe we have the same trucks as five years ago but the equipment is different,” chimed in CBS’ Ken Aagaard. “And with longer term contracts we have to think about the longer term and the implications for the trucks and those of you that put the equipment into the trucks. There will be changes in the future and we have to address how we’ll make them happen.”

Future-proofing trucks? It’s a nice idea, but not one that’s liable to happen too soon according to the following panel. “Moving stuff in and out of the trucks is not a good thing at all,” commented Game Creek President, Pat Sullivan. “We build them to have enough facilities to serve the best needs of our customers,” he said, detailing that the truck of the future probably needs more personalisation of the work spaces to serve different needs.

With 4k such a theme running through the LTS’ discussions this year, has anyone the money or the inclination to build a 4k-capable truck? The answer was a one word ‘no’, though Vince Pace qualified it somewhat by pointing out that the digital cinema world is used to things changing every 18 months and that “we’re going to see that impacting on the sports world.” He didn’t say he was building one, but then he didn’t say that he wouldn’t.

Fuel prices were a consideration, with Mike Werteen from NEP Broadcasting stating they’d managed to increase fuel efficiency by two miles per gallon. How does that translate into Euros per litre? Enough to be interesting to a lot to companies…

3D also reared its inevitable head again. “Yes it has a future,” said Kevin Stolworthy, ESPN, SVP of Technology not unexpectedly in the networks session, highlighting the success of the company’s 5D, 2D/3D production model, one reiterated by Pace later on. But investment is going to be required to drive it all the same . “You can’t just turn up with six cameras any more to compete against productions with 30 2D cameras,” said Pace.

What was interesting is the groundswell of opinion building in the US that 4k will solve many of the 3D issues over here (though whether the same ones exist at the high-end of European production is uncertain). Certainly, a full HD signal per eye will see an increase in quality, though in a US industry that is still not 100% sure of the business case for 1080p yet, there could be some way to go.

And the federations need to be convinced too. Three out of four – NFL, MLB and PGA – said that 3D wasn’t for them yet, while Steve Hellmuth from the NBA said it looked great uncompressed standing three feet away from a 32-in screen in a mobile production unit, but the main problems remained with delivery into the home and the cinema.

He also pointed to a serious growth in online. “The growing thing that we’re doing is broadband. We’re delivering close to 3Mbits in Australia, Germany and parts of France, and good broadband delivers great revenue to the NBA.”

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