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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 manage some of the most popular sports sites on the Internet. The Turner Sports television lineup includes the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NCAA Division Men’s Basketball Championship, NASCAR, and professional golf.
Turner Sports approached Orad (purchased by Avid in 2015) with the difficult task of placing graphics 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
Previously, Turner systems provided poor tracking. Frustration due to VIZ virtual objects hampered production with lengthy calibration processes, significant object-quantity limitations, and graphics ingest difficulty. VIZ was unable to provide multiple graphics within a scene, systems required lengthy re-calibration for changed objects and object locations, and toted a limited range of camera movement.
In order to meet these challenges, Turner Sports implemented a complete virtual enhancement solution built around Avid's RealSet (now Maestro | AR), using 3DPlay (now Maestro | TX)as the controller. 3Designer (now Maestro | Designer) is used for the ingest software and provides accurate tracking, a fast and simple calibration process, and powerful 3D graphics 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.
Production took place on a rooftop 450 feet above New Orleans, 6 feet from a 450 ft. drop, with no safety railing. In high winds a cameraman worked diligently, attached by a harness, with the rest of the staff housed within a Plexiglass enclosure.
Now newly upgraded, Turner placed numerous graphics throughout the city, including virtual billboards, a pair of virtual helicopters advertising their promotional banner, a virtual riverboat pulling a TNT Channel-branded banner, and the company logo displayed atop 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 with nearly 100% accuracy. 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 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 necessary to operate the system. In the past, three crew members were required to perform ongoing operation and calibrations.
“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.