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2021 NCAA Tournament Broadcasts Will Have Different Look But Same Goal: 'Get Fan As Close As Possible' To Court

(CBS Local)- The NCAA Tournament will have a different feel to it this year as a limited number of fans will be allowed to attend games at the various sites around Indiana. However, the smaller number of fans and the health and safety protocols around the tournament has driven the CBS and Turner Sports production crews to bring some new technology to bear in the broadcast.

"I think this go around we are definitely leaning into technology. We are going to use robotics at all of our venues. With our, our mid core camera which used to be manned by a person standing there shooting. It's going to be a robotic called a pan bar camera," said Harold Bryant, Executive Producer and Executive Vice President of Production for CBS Sports.

Without as many fans in the arena, there's an opportunity for the crews to change some of the normal camera positions, bringing fans closer to the court from those angles than they would normally be. All of this is done with the fan at home in mind, trying to bring the experience to life as much as possible.

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"What we're trying to do is create as much access to the public as possible access to the game to court. Get the fan as close as possible so with all the social distancing we wanted to make sure that you know that priority stayed intact," said Craig Barry, Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer for Turner Sports. "That's really where the technology comes in. You mentioned camera positions we are looking at alternate camera positions now that there are no fans, we can move a few cameras that are, we can use to be our high slash cameras are going to move them a little lower, and they'll be on a mid level or lower level slash cameras. Reverse positions that used to be, you know, a lot by seats or we can put a camera there now. Even our on cameras for our, our announcers, we're going to use a different setup there and use robotic cameras. And so, you know, we're just using the animation to help make a better broadcast."

The rail cam and sky cam are back for this year's tournament and, to help boost the in-house attendance from fans, there will be some virtual audio mixed in to the broadcast. Adding to that is a new graphics package which was supposed to debut for last year's tournament but will now make its debut appearance this year.

"We're really excited for it. It's anchored by this new thing called the 'hype wall' which essentially looks like a social cloud," said Barry. "The design is very progressive and relevant but still has a lot of the traditional aspects of a broadcast. When I was shown the mocks, I was blown away by the possibilities of it."

The modern look "feels like college" according to Bryant and brings energy to the broadcast.

For fans that want to watch on multiple screens, the NCAA March Madness Live app has been updated this year with a new design for the tournament. The new design features a new Game Center that has a fresh look and integration into connected and mobile devices. In addition to the new design for the app, this year marks the debut of "The Catch Up" which will give fans a recap of key moments from live games. While "The Catch Up" debuts, the fan favorite, "Fast Break" is back for another year.

All games for the NCAA Tournament can be streamed on March Madness Live or can be found across CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV. The full schedule and listing for the tournament has been released. All tournament games airing on CBS can also be streamed through Paramount+.

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