TNT Rolls Out FreeD for Spectacular Views of NBA Dunk Contest

When you see LeBron’s high wire act during warm-ups, there is certainly reason to lament the absence (again) of The King in the Sprite Slam Dunk contest at State Farm NBA All-Star Saturday Night on Feb. 15 in New Orleans.

But the six contestants for this year’s slam fest -- Indiana’s Paul George, Washington’s John Wall, Portland’s Damon Lillard, Golden State’s Harrison Barnes, Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore and defending champion, Toronto’s Terrence Ross -- are looking to break out their own level of spectacular at the newly christened Smoothie King Center.

And when they do, TNT is ready to provide unique vistas of their best slams. The “drama network” will enhance its presentation of the Sprite Slam Dunk tonight with the use of freeD -- free dimensional video technology -- from Replay Technologies that employs 22, 5K ultra-high definition cameras hard-installed around the Smoothie King Center court to deliver 360-degrees of the jams. Replay’s technology has been used by the YES Network for New York Yankees home baseball games and for Dallas Cowboys football contests, but this will mark the first time it’s put in play for live basketball action, which will extend to key replays during the All-Star Game.

The images, captured from the intertwined cameras, are stitched together to furnish the all-encompassing views, which should come within 30 to 45 seconds after the real-time, rim rattling.

“FreeD will allows us to zoom in, zoom out and frame the best 360-degree views,” said Craig Barry, senior vice president of production and executive creative director, Turner Sports, who is helming TNT’s coverage from the Crescent City. “It’s going to showcase the athleticism and ferocity, providing creative perspectives of how the players execute the big dunks.” 

The technology will also be in action on Sunday Feb. 16, with the All-Star Game, “the residual beneficiary,” said Barry, who noted there isn’t any set game plan as to how many freeD viewers will witness.

Barry does believe the jams will play well beyond the TV screen. “There are social and digital aspects as well. This is short-form content that can be shared by fans on FaceBook, Twitter and,” he said. “We think this is going to enhance the excitement socially and digitally.”

He’s also jazzed about TNT’s Emmy-winning Inside The NBA studio team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith being integrated into State Farm All-Star Saturday Night coverage, as the quartet will serve as both the in-arena and on-air broadcast hosts for fans in the venue and at home.

“These guys are very popular,” he said. “They will add great insights and entertainment value for viewers at home and in the arena on Saturday night.”

As part of its goal to provide fans/viewers with as much access as possible, TNT will also go into the East and West locker rooms, mic more players than ever before during the All-Star Game, and embed analysts Grant Hill and Chris Webber on the teams’ benches. Their efforts will be supported by the first use of a “steadycam” operator on the court, who will capture bench conversations, along with player exchanges during game moments such as free throw attempts. Moreover, injured Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant will serve as a guest analyst.

“This is how the TV sports business is evolving. It’s in response to fans demanding that they can get as close to the action as possible, “ said Barry. “Hopefully, the viewers will enjoy the unprecedented access.”