NFL Network ready to serve up NFL game with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving

By Ken Kerschbaumer

This Thanksgiving the NFL Network will serve up dessert for the nation in the form of a third primetime NFL telecast, a move that might leave wives and girlfriends wondering aloud if two football games isn’t enough but will fill the insatiable appetite of NFL fans across the country.

The feast will feature the Denver Broncos battling the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. And it’s up to Mike Loomis, NFL Network coordinating producer and 16-year ABC Sports veteran, and more than 200 credentialed staffers, to pull all the pieces together.

“We certainly have the facilities to make the telecast look as good as any game carried by our network partners,” Loomis says of the mid-season debut of the network. “I have full confidence that our telecast will look as great as anyone else’s. It will be really good at the start and get better as we go.”

During the next six weeks Game Creek’s Patriot truck and two other Gamecreek vehicles will hit the road for five Thursday night games and three Saturday night telecasts, including two weeks of Thursday and Saturday night action.

“Thanksgiving will be a big day for the NFL Network,” says Loomis. “And for me it’s a new challenge and opportunity. It’s a new adventure.”

The Turkey Day presentation will feature an abbreviated one-hour pre-game show. But going forward it will be three hours long with executive producer Eric Weinberger overseeing the show.

“We want to bring the fans to the game and let them know what it feels like to be in Kansas City or Cincinnati,” says Loomis.

Loomis has worked the big games before. Last year he was integral to ABC’s production of the BCS National Championship Rose Bowl game between the USC Trojans and the Texas Longhorns. He also produced the 2002 and 2003 BCS National Championships for ABC. “Some things are easier in the NFL because there are fewer players and they’re more media savvy,” he says.

Game Creek’s Patriot truck is 53-foot expando until with a Grass Valley Group Kalypso HD production switcher and Sony cameras. A Calrec Alpha 100 audio console with 128 inputs and 5 EVS replay machines are also on board.

A total of 21 cameras will be used for the telecast, including a blimp shot, CableCam, three super slow-motion systems and a jib camera. The game will also give NFL Films personnel a chance to make the jump from film to live video as NFL Films cameramen will operate the super slo-mo systems.

“It’s hard to come up with anything new for the production because everyone else has pretty much tried everything,” says Loomis. “We’re focusing our time and energy on making the game coverage better. We didn’t spend a lot of time on fancy opening graphics of gimmicks. The focus is on the games.”

That doesn’t mean the NFL Network won’t have any bells or whistles. A player will be miked for each game and the network will continue a trend in NFL coverage of using Vizrt graphics systems.

“The Vizrt system is a really powerful engine that can handle a lot of animations and can do some really neat things,” says Loomis.

The network won’t go overboard with flash and pizzazz because it is born, to some degree, out of an NFL Films culture that conjures up images of Vince Lombardi, Roger Staubach, and the voice of John Facenda whose rich baritone could send chills up the spine by simply saying the words Lambeau Field.

“It’s important to embrace that culture,” says Loomis. “Day in and day out the NFL Network has a mix of programming and the art is to give an NFL Films feel to it.” Helping out in that effort will be Dave Ribidoux, an NFL Films composer who is scoring the music for the NFL Network.

Any new splash will be the handiwork of graphics designer Carlos Aguero who joined the NFL Network from Fox Sports. “Hopefully it will be the best of both worlds,” says Loomis.

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