With every passing day, 4K is moving closer to being an everyday reality for consumers who watch TV. MLB Network and DirecTV are two of the main players who look like they are mastering the nuances of 4K production, with the new Showcase series.
The quest for a 4K-production model for baseball started last month, with DirecTV, MLB Network, and Game Creek Video starting work on this on April 8. After that came DirecTV’s official announcement that they would carry the full lineup of 25 MLB Network Showcase games this season.
At the start, technical issues before the first game made it impossible to air to DirecTV viewers, angering many fans of Giants and Dodgers when they didn’t get the promised 4K/UHD broadcast of the Giants game at Dodgers Stadium. Then on April 29, the two companies successfully broadcast the Yankees vs Red Sox game from Fenway Park, marking the first live 4K telecast for DirecTV.
Then came another Yanks vs Sox telecast on May 6. DirecTV’s John Ward said that the issues form the first game spelled out that covering all aspects of productions and transmission would be long work. “The truth is, we’re learning exponentially every time we do this. This is all bleeding-edge technology right now, and it takes very, very strong attention to detail and testing,” he said.
Despite setbacks, DirecTV has pushed on, as has MLB Network. Susan Stone SVP, operations and engineering at MLB, says, “Every week, we discover something new, but there are less and less surprises every week.” With baseball, she says, “it’s not like you can come in the day before and set your cameras, because we’re the third [broadcaster] in [after the teams’ RSNs]. So, until batting practice starts, you really don’t have a chance to see how everything looks. We certainly have all learned a lot in four weeks, and now we feel like we’re in a groove. As technology advances, our show can be even more robust.”
MLB currently uses a single truck deployment model for 4K production, where each vehicle serves both 4K and HD shows. This cuts costs, while allowing the third broadcaster room for parking their mobile unit at ballparks.