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Inside ‘Countdown’s’ NBA Finals Opening Sequences, Voiced By Big Sean

Before watching Lakers-Heat Game 1 and NBA Countdown on ABC tonight, learn how a 12-hour Zoom shoot between Montreal and Connecticut helped produce stirring images

ESPN and multimedia studio Moment Factory have created innovative video content as part of NBA Countdown’s opening sequence for the 2020 NBA Finals and Conference Finals broadcasts. The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat play Game 1 of The NBA Finals tonight (9 ET, ABC, preceded by NBA Countdown at 8:30, ABC, ESPN).

With Panasonic’s all-new tracking system, Moment Factory’s creative team developed an interactive basketball court where the ball became a projection surface. The court interacted with the players’ movements. Using real-time content to incorporate multipurpose decor elements, the experience provided an augmented vision of basketball.

Jeremy Anderson, a content producer who initiated the partnership between ESPN and Moment Factory, elaborates on the collaboration and creative process for the open, which is voiced by Grammy-nominated rapper Big Sean over his song “Wolves.”

What was the inspiration around this new NBA Countdown tease?
We collaborated with [Countdown senior coordinating producer] Amina Hussein. She always encourages us to push the look and make sure we build the drama. This year has been hard in different ways, but we wanted to celebrate the Finals and hype and love of basketball. So we went with a bold and iconic feel that would keep viewers engaged.

What technology was used for the new effects featured in the tease?
We’re working with a company in Montreal [the Moment Factory] that is using a one-of-a-kind Panasonic projector to do real-time tracking projection (mostly on the ball). Imagine seeing a projector mapping on a building (like Disney’s castle), but the building starts moving, and the projector can keep up, even with a bouncing basketball.

How has the creative and collaborative process been like with Moment Factory?
It’s actually been fantastic. Time was short, and this was our first time to collaborate with them on a project. Even so, everything went extremely smoothly, and we are pleased with the final outcome. Moment Factory worked tirelessly on the concept and testing. This led to a perfect shoot day. It should be noted the actual shoot was a 12-hour Zoom call, so Lucas Nickerson [ESPN Creative Director] and I could co-direct/produce the shoot from Connecticut.

How long does it typically take to put together each tease prior to each game? Who’s involved in this process from ESPN?
Editors Rabia AlGhani and Adam Schaub worked tirelessly to turn around the opens in about 72 hours. As soon as each game finishes, we chat back and forth about music and how to use the specialty footage. They also put a lot of work into a creative toolkit to use throughout the show, which really makes it stand out.

ESPN will exclusively produce the NBA Finals on ABC for the 18th consecutive season, starting with Game 1 (tonight, 9 ET). Three-time NBA Champion LeBron James makes a historic 10th NBA Finals appearance as his Los Angeles Lakers square off with the Miami Heat and Jimmy Butler. For more programming information across ESPN platforms, visit ESPN PressRoom. All games will emanate from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

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