Fans attending the Hornets’ home opener Friday night against the Hawks may notice some enhanced high-tech elements as part of the game presentation, and they will have Charlotte-based content studio Wheelhouse Media to thank for it. Wheelhouse last season produced three in-arena takeover animations for the NBA team: “Get Loud,” “Swarm Time” and “Hornets Win.” Each animation runs at key points during the game and appears across the center-hung display, LED ribbon and corner displays, creating a fully immersive atmosphere for fans at Spectrum Center. This season, Wheelhouse also is rolling out a “Tipoff” takeover that activates just prior to the start of play. The NBA switching to Nike jerseys and five different looks for each team added a new wrinkle for Wheelhouse to contend with. Wheelhouse Client Dir & Producer Adam Colborne: “We’re having to reformat all these moments to create certain color palettes for each jersey.” In addition, the studio customized each of its animations to fit the Hornets’ specific needs for game atmosphere. Wheelhouse Motion Graphics Dir Dave Mason said the “Swarm Time” piece runs during the equivalent of the “seventh inning stretch” of the game, while the “Get Loud” piece is used as a “turbo boost to get fans to another level of excitement,” and the “Win” element adds energy game’s conclusion. The new 40-second “Tipoff” takeover, Mason noted, is used to convey, “You’re in Buzz City, you’re inside of the hive, let’s give them that big explosion of excitement.” Elements from the team’s existing advertising/marketing themes were used in each piece, particularly “Tipoff.” Mason: “We want the look to remain consistent.” Colborne: “These things become so identifiable to the fan and consumer, and are so much ingrained in their entertainment value.”
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Wheelhouse’s diverse capabilities impressed the Hornets starting with the studio’s initial pitch in June ’16, when it created a to-scale 16-by-18-foot replica of the home court to showcase potential graphics elements. The NBA team will continue to leverage that versatility and attention to detail, with Wheelhouse working to develop virtual reality and augmented reality Hornets content. Colborne noted three upcoming VR short films will go live on the Hornets’ new mobile app, showcasing the premium seating areas at the arena and “interspersing live game action into those pieces through VR capture.” Wheelhouse may also produce AR content for the app that would go live next season. Outside of its Hornets work, the graphics shop also has held talks with the Hurricanes to develop content for the NHL team.