A playoff run for any team’s in-arena video-production team, but, when the players are providing thrills and highlights the way Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki is, it makes a long playoff run extra special. Take scintillating video, couple it with an intense music track, and in-arena magic is guaranteed.
“Music drives every product,” says , Dallas Mavericks Creative Director Cash Sirois, noting that the arena’s surround-sound system and the work by Dallas Audio Post help make in-arena video fill the space.
Tom Ward, director of production for the Dallas Mavericks, says the NBA playoffs are a new season with new elements. “The team intro opening video is new for every game. For example, the opener for the first game of the Western Conference Finals was highlights from the series against the Los Angeles Lakers.”
The move to the national stage also means more elements because longer breaks in the action for TV spots mean more time to entertain fans in the stands.
“That space [in the action] means we can create more for the fans, and it is cool to have that canvas,” says Ward. “It’s the ability to do what we want, and it’s a privilege to have that time. We can have scripts that have a beginning, middle, and end in a one-minute piece and then turn around a piece that can be funny or inspirational.”
The team works with a mix of Sony XDCAM EX3 cameras and JVC GY-HD250 cameras for acquisition, although, come playoff time, opportunities to grab a member of the team for a four-hour shoot are impossible. A GoPro POV camera is also used on the plaza area to capture footage that is edited in-house by Jason Seely, using Apple Final Cut Pro systems or on Avid at a postproduction facility owned by a former Mavericks staffer and used for overflow projects.
“The team circles the wagon, and the coaches close down access, and they stay inside a bubble,” says Cash. “We don’t want to get in the way of that so we just adjust our ideas and get evergreen material during the season.”
And even vintage footage from the 2006 appearance in the NBA Finals can serve a purpose in getting the crowd pumped, even though the Mavericks ultimately lost the series.
“A great highlight is a great highlight, win or lose,” adds Cash.
It’s also worth noting that not all of the video work is for the public.
“We have videos that we create for the team that never see the light of day [to the public],” says Ward. “They create energy for the team.”
Also creating energy in the arena are animated segments that are comic-book panels come to life. Green Grass Studios handles 3D animations, and one of the animated projects, called “Tyson Chandler WarCry,” even has a making-of video on YouTube. “WarCry” places Chandler in the role of a gladiator giving an inspirational speech à la those seen in the film 300.
“We made an animated video called ‘Dirkorigins,’ and we wanted a similar cartoon look for ‘WarCry,’” says. “’Dirkorigins’ had a huge reaction as it is a look we know works, and we had a script that works. It’s a goosebump moment.”
While the in-house team focuses on the fans during the latter stages of the playoff run, Dave Evans, broadcast consultant for the Dallas Mavericks, is making sure the national broadcast-production teams are settled in and have their needs met. Those efforts are fairly pedestrian compared with the final weeks of the season, when the challenge is lining up production trucks for possible opponents in the first round of the playoffs.
“That process begins about three weeks before the playoffs, and we contact vendors in the cities where there is a possible playoff matchup,” says Evans. “We were working with four organizations until the last night of the season.”
A matchup with the Portland Trailblazers had Mira Mobile on board, providing two trucks, Mira 4 and Mira 8.
“We try to match the equipment in the HD truck we use during the regular season,” says Evans. “But it can be tough as baseball season is starting up and both the NHL and NBA are in the playoffs. But it has gotten much better in the last four or five years to get an HD truck.”
Now Appearing on YouTube
A great advance in recent years for all NBA fanchises, and the league in general, has been an open relationship with YouTube and social media, allowing in-arena videos that were typically seen only by fans with tickets to be seen by the public at large.
“We have really ramped up the social media, and we have a Facebook page so that, when I post a video, it automatically gets to the Mavericks YouTube page,” says Ward. “We also have an app on smartphones, so all of the new material is always in the hands of fans. The hardcore fans love it.”
In a world of diminishing attention spans, the quick videos that the Mavericks production crew pump out are designed to engage viewers in a matter of seconds, hold their attention, and then, ultimately, get fans on their feet and making noise.
“We are trying to tell a story, but how over-the-top can you get in 70 seconds?” Sirois asks. “That concern is thrown out the window, and there is almost not enough time to go overboard [with effects and cuts].”