The NBA has set up a “bubble” isolation zone at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida to enable professional basketball to resume in the US, while keeping players safe. Although spectators were not permitted in the stands at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex where the games were held, fans have been able to watch televised basketball once again.
“This was a totally new experience for the NBA as well as the teams involved,” says Charles Dabezies for Fuse Technical Group. “Our largest challenge was understanding how to adapt 22 different teams' shows for this new environment. Adapting a traditional basketball game to this layout was new for everyone.”
Over 9,000 minutes of basketball
From July to October, the bubble has been host to the final games of the 2019–20 NBA regular season and the 2020 playoffs. Four production teams ran 33 scrimmage games and 88 regular season games across three courts, amounting to over 9,000 minutes of basketball broadcast to millions of viewers worldwide - making this one of the longest-running live TV productions powered by disguise.
“We have a long history of deploying disguise on large-scale projects, so we knew we were picking the right tools for the job.”
Charles Dabezies, Fuse Technical Group
Bringing the excitement of a packed arena
Three basketball courts were created in the sports complex and giant wraparound LED video screens topped by graphics displays were installed to fill the void left by the lack of fans. A database of music, audio cues and graphics ordinarily used by the teams in their arenas were adapted to customise the courts for the designated “home team”. A bank of in-game reactions was also developed to support big plays and help support the natural momentum of the game. All of these were in addition to the 400ish virtual fans that were displayed during normal gameplay.
During the one-week quarantine transition into the bubble, the production team made use of disguise’s pre-visualisation to review content and cue up sessions with the screens producers via Zoom. “Pre-vis was an indispensable part of this process. It helped the teams to understand the layout of the screens and some of the impact without being onsite,” says Jackson Gallagher, Programmer at Fuse.
14,000+ media files
The team decided to use disguise’s Sockpuppet workflow to enable them to respond quickly to gameplay and the evolving nature of the overall game experience. Games were played on three courts simultaneously where any of the 22 teams could be the home team, so Fuse kept its six full-size grandMA3 consoles in network together to continually update programming and move it to different courts based on which teams were playing where, each day.
“We needed some software tweaks along the way to optimise our workflow and were very appreciative to be working with disguise, which had the resources to get us updates within a day,” says Charles. “This was certainly an edge case: None of us had done a show with 14,000+ media files, and it pushed the disguise workflow to the limits. disguise was able to reinvent some aspects of the UI to help us handle this massive amount of data. With disguise being so flexible, there was never a choke point to the league or team’s creativity,” Charles concludes.
Charles Dabezies - Programmer
Jeremy Lechterman - Programmer
Jackson Gallagher - Programmer
Michael "Hank" Hankowsky - Programmer
Joshua Fleitell - Engineer
Kerstin Hovland - Content Manager
Chris Peterson - VP of Entertainment, Fuse Technical Group