NFL’s Eagles Refine Video Workflows in Regular-Season Final Stretch
Midway through the first quarter of the Philadelphia Eagles’ recent home win against the Tennessee Titans, Eagles running back Darren Sproles rushed for 4 yards and scored the team’s second touchdown of the game. The refs, however, weren’t so sure that Sproles had broken the plane.
With a bird’s-eye view of the field and more cameras deployed than ever before, the Eagles’ video-production crew quickly played back the drive from every angle. After a $125 million offseason renovation that affected nearly every facet of the Eagles’ game presentation, the guys in the control room are using the gear both to boost the fan experience and to benefit the team.
“In Philly, we’ve got pretty educated sports fans,” says Eric Long, event production manager, Philadelphia Eagles. “People aren’t coming here for entertainment as much as they’re here because they want to watch the game. Our philosophy’s probably weighted a little more towards competitive advantage than what you find with a lot of other teams. A lot of the decisions that we make are based on [whether this will] give us an angle that we can show our coaching staff on the field that would help them to challenge a play or to show whether a call was made correctly.”
To showcase those countless replays, the Eagles tapped Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Group to design and install two mammoth end-zone videoboards. Clocking in at 27 ft. x 192 ft. in the north end zone and 27 ft. x 160 ft. in the south, the boards feature 10-mm resolution for exceptional viewing angles from any seat in the venue.
“To me, the viewing angle of the board is all about the fans,” says Barry Belsky, senior solutions manager, Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Group. “The only people who can look [at a board straight on] are the players. All the fans are sitting at angles, and our boards have — from what I’ve seen — the best viewing angles of anyone’s boards. It’s not just that you can see [the video]; it’s that it still looks good and you don’t see a degradation at all in the image.”
For each game, Long writes the game script and produces the in-venue video show with Associate Producer Carson Smucker. David Sullivan serves as building engineer and Chris Johnson oversees the show as executive producer. A team from Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Group is on hand to assist if necessary.
After upping the camera complement to 10 Sony F55s — eight hard, two handheld — at the start of the season, the Eagles continue to configure three Evertz DreamCatcher replay servers for 1080 in/1080 out and one for 4K in/1080i out. The team worked with Chesapeake Systems to install Reach Engine by Levels Beyond as their workflow automation platform at both Lincoln Financial Field and the team’s training complex and tie the two locations together.
“With the DreamCatcher system, we’ve now got it set up where, basically, we’re clipping everything off with the DreamCatcher during the game and sending it down to our [asset-management system],” says Long. “We’re able to send multiple angles that are available right away for our Web-production team to look at and put together postgame highlight packages. The DreamCatcher has really helped us out with our workflow as far as logging and tagging those clips quickly on the fly.”
Throughout the Nov. 23 game against the Titans, the boards were most often used in a multiwindow format: live video, dynamic and static sponsor content, and graphics (the team upgraded its Sportvision graphics package for this season). While much of the content comes from the Eagles’ own cameras (both the Sony F55s and several POV cameras), the team has access to the network’s cameras, taking up to 10 feeds for a total of 22 or 23 camera angles per game — a major increase over last season.
“I think we’ve found [that we’re set] camera-position–wise. We spent a lot of time working on where our angles are and what we’re using them for,” Long explains. “Used to be, everybody [followed] the ball because we had five cameras last year, and we were working with a weird aspect ratio. Now we have all kinds of assignments just like you would find on a TV truck: we’ve got some guys [on] far-side receivers, near-side receivers, the backfield. So the quality of footage that we get is a lot better.”
During a recent Monday Night Football game, the Eagles had access to one of ESPN’s two 4K goal-line cameras, fed from the truck through the team’s Evertz router and 4K-configured DreamCatcher and out to the videoboards. The 4K feed allowed the Eagles to zoom in up to 600% on the goal line, a useful tool in gaining a competitive advantage.
“That was pretty cool, and it’s something that I think we’ll continue to do,” says Long. “We’re going to put more pathways in between our control room and truck docks, and our hope is, down the road, we can potentially be taking two or three 4K feeds, which would be awesome in addition to all those 1080 feeds that the trucks already give us.”
Looking ahead to the second half of this season and next season, the team plans to run additional fiber paths down to the stadium’s club-level fascia and goal-line positions on the TV side in the hopes of installing goal-line cameras before next season. The Eagles will also continue to experiment with Panasonic’s ultra-wide cameras, tweaking the interface and waiting for the opportune moment to debut them.