April 1, 2015

“On the Road” with the PBC

Bringing Professional Boxing back to primetime is much more than a ring and two fighters. To gain coveted mass appeal, Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) understands the importance of a fan experience that rivals the biggest major league sports. Fan expectation has changed dramatically since the last primetime network boxing broadcast some thirty years ago. Great competition is still the centerpiece, but an engaging top to bottom fan experience is required if the sport is to gain traction.

Walking into an arena decked out for a PBC event is awe-inspiring. The super structure of the set is grand and imposing, leaving no doubt that something heavy is about to go down. Yes, the ring is front and center, but the surrounding environment lends an air of importance the sport has never seen. It’s a fitting tribute to the combatants...the modern day torch bearers of the original king of combat sports.

In 2015, the PBC series is launching into its inaugural season, which will span 45 fight nights across America. Each event will be broadcast live in primetime on one of five major networks, NBC, CBS, ESPN, Spike and NBCSN. PBC entrusted the Executive Producing of the arena experience to Michael Marto of Executive Visions Inc., one of the nation’s leading event and network broadcast producers.

To design the environment, Marto collaborated with longtime associate Bruce Rodgers of Tribe Inc. Rodgers is a superstar in the world of live event and broadcast design with credits including multiple Super Bowl Halftime shows, countless rock tours, Grammy Awards and Presidential Political Conventions.

Upon entering the arena, the visual senses are first struck by the “Ring of Honor”. It’s a massive, multi-tiered circular structure suspended above the ring and spanning nearly the entire length and width of the arena floor.

The otherworldly looking structure supports a lighting system that would be the pride of any concert tour. With lighting design by John Featherstone of Lightswitch, the system paints the arena with 400 computer-controlled fixtures driven by 350,000 watts of power. The design envelops the audience in a dazzling world of light, color and texture…matching the drama and mood of any given moment.

Another prominent feature is a 360-degree arrangement of high definition LED panels. An explosion of entertaining graphics and information circulate on the panels, drawing the audience into the world of the PBC and the nights featured events.

Yet another circular truss looms lower over the ring and serves as the rig point for a technological marvel called the fight track system. Designed just for PBC, the system is loaded with 32 HD cameras, one positioned every 11.25 degrees to provide a 360 degree view of the action below.

Inside the ring hangs the visual centerpiece, a huge 3.9 mil jumbotron and scoreboard providing a ringside view for everyone in the arena.

The final set piece is a scenic backdrop at one end of the arena referred to as the “Wall of Thunder”. Behind the wall are glamorous pre-fight prep rooms, designed to give fighters a shot of adrenaline as they get focused and tape up the gloves. At fight time, they emerge through the wall onto a stage platform with it’s own set of HD LED Panels and lighting system. Never before has a fighter entrance been treated with such spectacle. They take their bows in front of a blazing stream of media, then make their way ringside down a pair of cascading ramps through the fans. The wall and stage serve as the network anchor position for teams like Al Michaels and Sugar Ray Leonard of NBC Sports and provide a beautiful visual backdrop for the fight telecast itself.

Equally keen on the audio impact, Marto brought in Mario Educate of On Stage Audio and Media Solutions. The team has built an impressive reputation by providing complete technical services to some of the largest corporate, sporting events and concert tours in the U.S. To meet the demanding sound expectation, Educate designed around Martin Audio’s Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) sound system. It’s a system that allows tremendous control, balance and evenness of frequency response throughout the listening environment. The system has redefined concert audio on numerous rock tours, including a year-long Steely Dan tour with Walter Becker and Donald Fagen…perhaps the most demanding ears in the business. With his 30 years of experience, Educate is also heading up overall production and tour management for PBC.

Along with the tremendous line-up of fight cards, this grand environment has made a huge impact on fans at the live event and on the dynamics of the television broadcast. No detail has been overlooked in the effort to support PBC’s goal of putting boxing back in primetime.

After each fight night, an army of technicians and stagehands disassemble the massive set with its staggering array of gear and load the waiting haulers. In all, twenty full-blown tractor-trailer rigs roll out in a pre-dawn convoy for the next city. With the next fight less than a week away, the show is constantly on the move. A cross-country trek… a new arena… and another gathering of fans eager to witness the new glory days of the king of sports.

For more, please review our PBC case study.

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