Arena Bowl 2011: NFL Network, Tupelo-Honey Productions Preach All-Access

While the NFL’s much-welcomed return to the field has dominated pro football headlines this week, the Arena Football League is set to put on its own greatest show on turf this Friday with the Arena Bowl at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ.

For the second consecutive year, NFL Network will carry the Arena League’s grand finale. Tupelo-Honey Productions will produce the game, as it has every week during the NFL Network’s 21-week Arena League schedule (the full season is 23 weeks including playoffs). While the Arena League may not boast the same level of top-tier talent as its stadium-housed big brother, it offers an all-access television format that fans can’t find on any other field.

“What’s exciting about the Arena League is the access we have to the field and the players,” says executive producer Adam Acone. “The Arena League is very fan friendly in that they do everything they can to make sure the fans have total access to the game.”

Arena League All About All-Access
In every single Arena game it covers – including Friday’s Jacksonville Sharks-Arizona Rattlers Arena Bowl Matchup – Tupelo-Honey outfits both starting quarterbacks, both head coaches, and referees with live lavalier microphones. This allows viewers to hear play calls, huddles, snaps, and hits first-hand, as well as provides the production crew with coverage cues for the upcoming play.

“We can go to those [microphones] live at any time,” says Acone. “We can capture the play call from the coach to the quarterback and from the quarterback to the huddle. It also helps us anticipate the plays from a production perspective. We are able to isolate a receiver or specific player because we know where they’re going to be.”

In the Booth and in the Truck
The overall production complement for the Arena Bowl will be almost identical to Tupelo-Honey’s average Arena League game, with the exception of the talent, which will include a second sideline reporter – Ari Wolfe joins regular reporter Anthony Herron – as well as guest analyst and former NFL MVP Kurt Warner in the booth with play-by-play man Paul Burmeister.

Tupelo-Honey will deploy eight cameras: a primary game camera, tight follow camera, high end zone, low end zone, two on-field handhelds, a booth camera, and a beauty shot of the arena.

Mira’s M-9 mobile unit (through its contract with Alliance Productions) will run the show, complete with three EVS replay servers (two four-channels and one six-channel). The game will be produced in full 5.1 surround sound.

Inside the Huddle and Along the Boards
The two on-field handheld cameras will be Acone & Co.’s greatest weapons on Friday. Both have the ability to weave across the field during the game and capture inside-the-huddle action. Operators sprint to the huddle before each play and then sprint back to the sideline as the whistle blows. Due to the boards along the sidelines, these operators frequently stay on the field during live play, allowing the cameras to be right in the center of the action.

“If a play is coming towards these cameras, they will be right in the play,” says Acone. “We obviously try to stay out of the way, but it is a very enclosed field with boards [on the sidelines] so we will often be right on the field as the play is developing. That is a very unique aspect that really helps fans understand the speed and the feel of the game.”

AFLi Finishes Season-Long Run
Following along with this all-access blueprint, Tupelo-Honey and the AFL will once again utilize AFLi during the Arena Bowl, an interactive application that allows fans to submit questions to plays and coaches via Twitter in real time. (CLICK HERE to see AFLi in action with AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz).

Fans can submit questions using the handle @AFLarenaball, and when the AFLi logo appears during the NFL Network telecast, fans can present questions using the hashtag #AFLi.

NFL Network’s 2011 Arena Bowl coverage kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Aug. 12.