When the World Baseball Classic begins play this weekend, MLB International once again will be at the center of the production for 39 games across seven venues around the globe. But there are some changes this year: MLB Network is now a full-blown entity, and Encompass in Stamford, CT, is playing host for master control. With Asian venues playing a major part, Encompass may very well be busy around the clock during the early days of the tournament.
“Encompass is set up perfectly to become our temporary master control due to their extensive connectivity around the globe,” says Russell Gabay, VP/executive producer, MLB International. “Our on-going partnership with them during the regular season allowed us to build out a hefty backbone for a transmission and portal system, allowing delivery of regular-season games all year. That, plus the easy access to the MLB Network through fiber, keeps this event in familiar hands. Their technical team has really given us great support on this buildout.”
Along with hosting master-control operations for the tournament, Encompass will help with ensuring that different versions of the coverage — clean vs. dirty, music or no music, bug or no bug, 16:9 or 4:3, and 1080i or 720p — make it to the right broadcaster. The host format will be 720p/59.94.
The World Baseball Classic begins play in four cities: Fukuoka, Japan; Taichung, Taiwan; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Phoenix. The second round takes place at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo and Marlins Park in Miami; the championship round will be played in San Francisco at AT&T Park.
Productions for the early-round games will comprise eight cameras, including an RF camera; the games in Miami and San Francisco will see an increased technical presence with robotic and other cameras brought in for MLB Network’s side-by-side coverage. Regular and 3,000-frames-per-second Inertia Unlimited X-Mo systems will be used in Phoenix, Miami, and San Francisco.
“The RF camera is the single most important camera because it really conveys the color, pageantry, and passion, and that is what we’re looking for,” says Gabay. “Once we join up for the side-by-side productions with MLB Network, we will share robotics, ultra-high-speed cameras, and more.”
Remote-service providers include FTV in Taiwan, NHK in Japan, and NEP Corplex Rhythm and Blues in San Juan. NEP SS16 will be at Talking Stick in Phoenix, and Corplex Chromium and Iridium will be at Chase Field, also in Phoenix, and then at AT&T Park. Marlins Park will be covered by Corplex Iridium and Nickel.
“The challenge from a mobile-production–unit perspective is, there are no set days. So the turnaround is very quick,” says Gabay. “The crews will fly on the team charters, and we will actually have two set crews. All told, we will be employing almost 400 technicians.”
Also new will be Metlife airships floating over four venues: Tokyo, Phoenix, Miami, and San Francisco. “For us to get an airship under our control is really great,” says Gabay.
Integration with MLB Network introduces a new level of moving parts. For example, the look of the graphics created on the Chyron systems will provide continuity so that an MLB Network broadcast will look exactly like a regular MLB Network production.
And, once again, virtual advertising will play an important role. Sportvision systems in Stamford will insert ads for MLB Network, ESPN Deportes, broadcasters in Venezuela, and broadcasters in Asia.
As the tournament progresses, each EVS server operator working the final games will have an opportunity to see every team at least once.
“Eventually,” adds Gabay, “we will have our standard MLB International postseason crew.”
Here’s a quick look at the MLB International personnel lineup at each opening-round venue:
MLB International: Executive Producer: Russell Gabay; Senior Production Manager: Judy Acone; Production Manager: Daryl Martins
Fukuoka: Producer: Russ Kenn, Director: Go Egama, Technical Manager: Takashi Tajima; Production Manager: Hiroyui Nishizawa
Taichung: Producer: Mike Sparks; Tech Manager: Fred Clow
San Juan: Producer: Peter Toma; Director: Jonathan Evans; Production Manager: Renee George; Tech Managers: Gabe Nucci and Ed Ryan
Talking Stick: Producer: Eric Billigmeier; Director: Troy Clara; Tech Managers: Mike Krivens and Craig Marlowe