NFL Draft Day pushes ESPN crews, talent to limits

By Ken Kerschbaumer

If you think NFL teams have spent a lot of time prepping for Saturday’s 2007 NFL draft it’s nothing compared with the hard work put in by ESPN and its staffers.

In recent months the network’s editing teams have been busy putting together video highlight packages of more than 250 draft hopefuls to ensure ESPN has a clip to roll when an obscure left tackle from a small Midwestern college has his name called out as the 232nd pick.

And for Steve Carter, ESPN Remote Operations manager, and his crew Saturday is one of the longest working days of the year as ESPN hits the air with a special SportsCenter at 10 a.m. and will have live coverage through 10 p.m. that night.

“We haven’t been caught yet without a highlight package of a player,” says Carter of the hard work put in at ESPN’s Bristol, CT headquarters. Beginning at 6 a.m. he and the crew will be hard at work readying 17 Sony cameras and NEP’s SuperShooter 16 and SuperShooter 10 for draft day fun and excitement.

This is the second year in a row that the draft has been held at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan and Carter says it’s a great place to work because venue personnel are familiar with working on TV programs and big productions.

“There were six semi-trailers of equipment that came in for staging, monitors, platforms, etc. on Wednesday,” says Carter.

ESPN will have three main set-ups, including a main set where Chris Berman, Mel Kiper, Chris Mortensen, Steve Young and Keyshawn Johnson will weigh in on the picks. Six Sony BVP-950 cameras will be used on that set with three cameras at the Monday Night Football set, a jib camera to follow players on and off the stage, a back-of-house wide shot, a shot-clock camera, and a number of Sony BVP-900 handheld cameras in the green room with families and players.

Because the NFL Network will also be airing coverage there will also be some sharing of cameras. The wide-shot of the podium will be shared and the NFL will cover the press conferences.

While ESPN has made a big-time commitment to HD draft coverage will once again be in SD. For Carter it’s the only event during the entire year where he kicks it old-school with 4:3 and less than 720 lines of progressive resolution.

“There are some aspect ratio differences but in terms of set-up it’s the same from my perspective,” he adds.