Bexel bolstered its long-time relationship with the National Hockey League this season by supporting its special series of outdoor games. The company provided engineering services and equipment rentals for these unique regular-season games. Bexel’s expertise and ability to adapt to the different needs of each location – and to the wild card factor of winter weather — were a big advantage.
“No matter whether the challenge is the venue itself or the weather, we manage to overcome the conditions and get the NHL on the air with a phenomenal show. It’s what continues to bring the National Hockey League back to us season after season as their needs grow,” says John Mills, Business Development Manager at Bexel’s Engineered Solutions & Systems Group (ESS).
The first puck was dropped on NHL outdoor ice on New Year’s Day for 2014 for the Bridgestone Winter Classic®, which featured the Toronto Maple Leafs defeating the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
The 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ featured the Los Angeles Kings losing 3-0 to the Anaheim Ducks at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles on January 25, the New York Rangers defeated the New Jersey Devils 7-3 at Yankee Stadium in New York on January 26, the Rangers then beat the Islanders 2-1 on the same sheet of ice three days later; and finally the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 5-1 at Soldier Field in Chicago on March 1.
The traditional all-Canadian match up of the 2014 Tim Hortons™ NHL Heritage Classic featured the Ottawa Senators beating the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 at Vancouver’s BC Place on March 2.
Each game required that Bexel furnish RF coordination for multiple rights holders and sub-rights holders: NBC and CBC were the primary and secondary rights holders, respectively; the NHL Network and NHL Entertainment were also on board along with HBO for behind-the-scenes coverage and local news channels for in-market coverage.
“We had engineers on site to assign and manage all the frequencies used by the broadcasters for their wireless mics, cameras and local transmission within the stadiums,” Mills explains.
Bexel performed site surveys months before the games to facilitate installing and managing thousands of feet of fiber at each venue. Requirements varied from stadium to stadium. For the Bridgestone Winter Classic at The Big House (Michigan Stadium) “a lot of [fiber] infrastructure was in place,” Mills reports, “but an event of this magnitude needed even more fiber for the NBC set in a section of the stadium without broadcast support, the NHL Network’s on-field set, and press areas in various buildings on [the University of Michigan] campus.”
Fewer cable runs for broadcasters were required for the Stadium Series game at Dodgers Stadium. Bexel recently upgraded Dodgers Stadium with a significant amount of fiber that we were able to take advantage of. Some fiber was needed for the coaching staff of each team and for the entertainment portion of the event, which was more extensive in Los Angeles than elsewhere because KISS staged a pre-game concert and Five For Fighting performed during intermission.
At every venue, Bexel allocated individual cables in the JBT (Junction Box for TV) to the rights holders and supplied a Truck I/O engineer that policed their cable connections during the entire event. “If anything needed to be changed or moved it was critical that it be managed by us to ensure that the proper connections were maintained,” says Mills.
Bexel also provided a fiber booth kit for the NHL Network at several of the venues. The custom solution allowed the NHL Network on-set cameras, audio and video gear, headsets and mics to be managed over a TAC24 fiber structure back to their truck.
Bexel’s BBS1 53-foot trailer was on site in the truck compound at The Big House to serve as the landing point for all fiber run and used in the stadium. BBS1 also housed the NHL’s technical operations offices and a full Avid edit suite set up by the league for audio and video sweetening.
“BBS1 worked very well at The Big House,” Mills says. “It’s configured as a shell so it can be tailored to meet any need and fill many roles.”
Microlink RF systems, from sister company Anton Bauer, were supplied by Bexel to enable instant replays from the in-net POV cameras at all the outdoor venues in a first of its kind application. “At indoor rinks, the in-net cameras’ wireless transmitters and receivers are positioned in the rafters, but there are no rafters outdoors,” Mills points out. “So the wireless RF transmitters were housed inside padded bags at the bottom of the nets, and the receivers were mounted outside the boards where they wouldn’t interfere with the fans. Fiber lines ran back to the truck I/O and up to the officials’ booth.” A rink-side 17-inch monitor was also supplied to each location for the use of officials.
Fiber SHEDs were located at several of the venues on the NHL Network set to take audio and video signals from the cameras, convert them to fiber and run them back to the NHL Network truck via the Bexel Fiber Booth kit. “They’re small boxes, so they’re very useful and efficient on set,” says Mills.
Snow fell during the Winter Classic and during set up for the Stadium Series at Yankee Stadium. “Snow adds to the complexity of the event quite a bit,” Mills notes, “and can be a potential cause of failure for cables, SHEDs and equipment sitting out in the snow. It’s also harder for people to work in extreme cold. But with our experienced team, everything came off very successfully.”
Although the outdoor games shared similarities in equipment set up and operation, each location came with a learning curve that Bexel quickly mastered.
“The challenge is always the venue you’re going into,” says Mills. “But our adaptability is one of our strongest suits.”
About NEP Integrated Solutions
NEP Integrated Solutions (formerly Bexel ESS) provides design, integration and managed services for permanent facilities, major events and live game production. The NEP division delivers outstanding product performance and broadcast workflow. We pioneered the conversion of copper cable plant systems to optical fiber, and today specialize in design, implementation, and maintenance of broadcast cable plants. We pride ourselves on routinely developing new solutions to improve the longevity and functionality of client systems, and reduce the overall cost of ownership.
For over 30 years, NEP has been a worldwide outsourced technical production partner supporting premier content producers of live sports, entertainment, music and corporate events. Our services include remote production, specialty capture, RF and wireless video/audio, studio production, audio visual solutions, host broadcast support, post production, connectivity and transmission, premium playout and innovative software-based media management solutions. NEP’s 4,000+ employees are driven by a passion for superior service and a focus on technical innovation. Together, we have supported productions in 87 countries on all seven continents. NEP is headquartered in the United States and has operations in 24 countries. Learn more at nepgroup.com.
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