Augmented audio, fancy sets, the JitaCam: NHL games will look different on TV

Augmented audio, fancy sets, the JitaCam: NHL games will look different on TV

Normally the splashy visuals, out-of-the-box camera angles and next-level razzle-dazzle are saved for hockey’s showcase events.

Not so in the COVID-19 pandemic era.

Sportsnet enters fresh territory for the resumption of NHL broadcasts this week as the network transitions to a more unusual televised product befitting these memorable times.

Get ready for “augmented audio.” Swaths of empty seats have been transformed into a set described as a cross between an outdoor game and “American Ninja Warrior.” And the ”JitaCam,” with its 360-degree rotating arm, will provide different camera angles as it hangs from the scoreboards at Rogers Place and Scotiabank Arena.

“The way that we’re doing television and the way that the games are being presented in-arena is different than it’s ever been done,” said Rob Corte, vice-president of Sportsnet and NHL Production. “So there’s potential for some great things and there’s some potential for some things that might not work out so well, but that’s OK.

“This is a unique situation and we’re all going to try and make the best of it. And we’re all going to experiment and look to find some really innovative, positive things that we can add to the broadcasts.”

After a break of over four months since play was halted last March, the NHL is set to resume with 24 teams in the mix starting Saturday. Exhibition play begins Tuesday in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto.

EA Sports is helping with artificial crowd noise and the NHL is overseeing the “world feed” of game action with 32 cameras, Corte said. Sportsnet executes the feed in Edmonton and NBC, the U.S. rightsholder, will handle the Toronto end.

The fan-free arenas have essentially been transformed into large studio sets around the ice surface.

“It’s full with specific lighting, special lighting, staging monitors that can be programmed with various images or footage,” Corte said. “And it’s very, very dynamic. So that’s going to be very prominent. That will start on Tuesday night with the exhibition games. But the use of the stage is going to evolve as time goes on.

“So they’re going to do a few things starting on Tuesday, but it’s really going to ramp up when the qualifying round starts on Saturday.”

A consistent audio bed of crowd noise will be used for exhibition play and Corte said more elements will be added as games continue, including team-specific chants and goal celebration sounds.

“EA Sports has done a really nice job creating these audio samples and we’re pleased with where we sit right now,” he said Monday. “Of course, we have to put it into play in an actual game, but all signs are very positive and our plans right now are to include it.”

On the production end, Corte said Sportsnet will have a unilateral camera in the arena that the studio director controls. If the on-air crew wants to tell a story about a player during a break in the action, Sportsnet can use that camera to get a shot of the athlete before eventually returning to the world feed.

The workflow pattern will be different for the network crews because they have less control of things like camera cuts and replay selections, Corte said.

“In some regards when the game is on, it’s a little hands off the wheel,” he said. “The world feed will provide us the pictures, much like an Olympics, and then we’ll tell our stories at the appropriate moment.”

Sportsnet’s play-by-play teams will call the action from inside the arenas and reporters will conduct player interviews via video linkup.

The general plan for the television broadcast is to see what works in the early going and tinker as necessary.

“There’s a lot of things in the hopper and a lot of things we can try and do,” Corte said. “But until we actually go to air and start the show, we don’t know. We have some ideas. But nothing is concrete.

“And it’s like in television, until the red light goes on and the show begins, we’re not really sure how it’s going to end up, which is exciting. I don’t say that as a negative. It’s exciting. There’s so many possibilities here.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2020.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

robbery
Rimbey RCMP investigating shooting

Police responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

The influenza vaccine will be available at no cost starting Monday in Alberta. “The more that we can avoid influenza-related tests, emergency visits and hospitalizations, the stronger our system will be to support those with COVID-19 and all other health needs," says Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Hinshaw urges Albertans to get flu shot as COVID cases jump by 332

Alberta’s central zone now has 132 active COVID-19 cases

The Bellows family on vacation last year in Mexico. L-R: Angel, Ryan, Darrel, Grace and Michael. (Photo submitted)
Rimbey community rallying behind family after cancer diagnosis

Michael Bellows, 12, a ‘strong, resilient kid’ says father

Across the province, there are 2,738 active cases of COVID-19, with 18,417 recovered cases. There have been 288 deaths from the virus in Alberta since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Alberta reports 244 additional COVID-19 cases Thursday

2,738 active cases of COVID-19 in the province

(File Photo)
Batten down the hatches, a dump of snow expected Friday afternoon

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement as upwards of 10 cm of snow is expected

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

(The Canadian Perss)
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is still hopeful about the Keystone pipeline if there’s a change in government in the U.S. next month, saying Alberta has been engaging with American officials from both sides of the aisle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Carolyn Kaster
Alberta premier says he’s still hopeful about Keystone, even if Biden elected

The Alberta government has agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion as equity in the project

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam takes part during a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. As parts of Canada face a new round of COVID-19-related restrictions, Canada’s chief public health officer is urging Canadians to continue making a “collective effort” to tackle the pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Chief public health officer calls for continued ‘collective effort’ against COVID-19

Canada continues to climb toward the 200,000 mark for COVID-19 cases

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
Officer with Prince Albert Police tests positive for COVID-19, force says

Police co-operating with the provincial health authority’s efforts to trace the officer’s contacts

Smoke haze from forest fires burning in Alberta and British Columbia hangs over Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. Visitors to Banff National Park in Alberta will soon have to reserve a spot for a shuttle bus to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Study shows grey wolves in Banff National Park don’t live much longer than those elsewhere in Alberta

Black Press file photo
Fire destroys lobster pound in Nova Scotia, police say man in hospital with injuries

RCMP say a man is in hospital with life threatening injuries

Most Read