At the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, New York City-based production company hsc.tv produced specialty portraits and player interviews that were used for broadcast elements and stories on ESPN, as well as on social media. While the ESPN U.S. Open assignment is a recurring one for hsc.tv, this year the parameters were decidedly different.
“We knew the feature storytelling at this year’s U.S. Open would be unique and challenging,” said hsc.tv partner and Sports Emmy award-winning cinematographer Bryan Brousseau. “We wanted to create a safe interview space where the players would be alone in a room and have no contact with crew.”
“Our vision was to create a no-contact interview set where we would have control of cameras and lighting without being in the same space. And we wanted to connect the interviewer remotely through a teleprompter system,” he added.
“The cameras gave us the 10bit 4K-sensor quality we wanted,” Brousseau explained. “For lighting, we dmx controlled our lights using bronControl APP with F160 LED fixtures in Para 133 and Para 88 umbrellas. For our custom TWZM practical lights, we used Leviton D4DMX-MD5 dmx dimmer packs to a hard-wired dimming board.”
hsc.tv’s Video Technician Rick Elders (winner of a Sports Emmy for ESPN technical team remote at the U.S. Open last year) amplified, “Our goal was to interview players remotely through a Zoom call but we wanted to use Panasonic’s professional cameras to give the interviews a great look. Both Panasonic cameras have LAN Ethernet capabilities that were key to controlling camera settings remotely through Panasonic’s ROP app.
“We were able to convert SDI to HDMI through a Shogun Inferno and fed that into Zoom. We then mirrored our iMac display into a teleprompter through HDMI so players could communicate directly with ESPN talent. We were able to use Belkin Ethernet to iPhone Thunderbolt adapters for a hardwired (more reliable) solution compared to Wi-Fi.”
Describing the project audio, Sound Mixer Eric Diebner said, “The first and foremost aspect of this new ‘zero-contact’ set-up was the ability for the player and remote producer to have clear and tangible audio. The main challenge to think about—the player had to hear the producer but not have that audio bleed into their mic.”
“I decided to go with the Schoeps CMIT 5U for its supercardioid polar pattern while providing low off-axis coloration for natural sound at all angles. It’s important for the mic to be placed--not moved--and sound great. The Schoeps did a great job,” Diebner continued.
“As far as the audio routing, I fed the Schoeps into a computer audio interface, which then went into the Zoom meeting. This gave the ability to anyone on the meeting to hear the tennis player loud and clear. In order to properly distance ourselves from the players, there was no way the laptop microphone would pick up the player appropriately.
“The second challenge was feeding the producers audio to the player. For this I used a high quality JBL speaker to control the volume. This allowed me to control the amount of audio bleed from the producer into the Schoeps. I also fed a little outside speaker for the players’ coaches and entourages.”
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