Turner Sports, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., is an industry leader in televised and online sports programming. It airs championship-level sporting events on TBS, TNT and truTV, and manages some of the most popular sports sites on the Internet. The Turner Sports television lineup includes the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, NASCAR, and professional golf.
Turner Sports approached Orad (purchased by Avid in 2015) with the difficult task of placing graphic virtual enhancements throughout the city of New Orleans in conjunction with the NBA All-Star Week broadcasts. They required multiple images within a scene, object placement within a 180-degree-plus radius around the city of New Orleans, and on objects several miles from the production site.
Preparing for a challenging production
In the past, Turner’s system provided them with poor tracking and were frustrated with the limitations that VIZ virtual objects carried. They were hampered by long calibration processes, limited number of objects, and perceived graphic ingest difficulties. VIZ was unable to provide multiple graphics within a scene, required lengthy re-calibration in order to change objects and object locations, and had limited range of camera movements.
In order to meet these challenges, Turner Sports implemented a complete virtual enhancement solution built around Avid's RealSet, using 3DPlay as the controller. 3Designer is used for the ingest software and provides accurate tracking, a fast and simple calibration process, and powerful 3D graphic capabilities. Avid’s unique virtual enhancement solution met all of Turner Sports’ requirements and took just a few hours to set-up. The production took place outdoors and was used to promote advertisers, sponsors, and TNT programming.
The production took place 450 feet above New Orleans on a rooftop (6 feet from a 450-foot drop with no safety railing) in high winds. The cameraman was attached to a harness, and the staff was just inside a Plexiglass enclosure. Turner placed numerous graphics throughout the city, including: virtual advertising, virtual billboards, a pair of virtual helicopters carrying a promotional banner, a virtual riverboat pulling a TNT (channel brand) banner, and the channel logo laid on top of the Louisiana Superdome. Due to the distances involved, Turner Sports utilized a GPS point locator, laser range finder for vertical measurements, and Google Earth mapping. Calibration was performed in a matter of hours, and the accuracy was almost 100%. Graphics were displayed from tape after being shot at the location.
Moving forward with a new workflow
Turner Sports was very happy with the Maya-to-3Designer process. They will no longer use primitives created in VIZ Artist or simple textured objects. Instead, they will utilize 3Designer as the final compositor of all elements. The production team was able to easily work with clips and advanced 3D shading, and were very comfortable with the workflow. Tracking set was extremely easy to use and, after initial calibration, only one person was required to operate the system. In the past, three crew members were required to perform ongoing calibrations and operations.
“Avid's advanced technology and capable customer support allowed us to create interactive graphics that we could not realize with other platforms," said Tom Sahara, Sr., director of IT and Remote Operations for Turner Sports.