Venue Q&A: Jacksonville Jaguars’ Larry Rosen
By Rick Price, MOEBAM! Contributing Editor
Larry Rosen, an Emmy Award-winning producer, reporter, play-by-play announcer, and team executive, currently serves as senior executive video producer for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his current role since 2014, he leads the Jags Cinema video-production team, which is responsible for creating a dynamic in-game production for EverBank Field’s new 8K video displays.
Prior to joining the Jaguars, Rosen served as VP of broadcasting for the Baltimore Ravens from 2000 to 2014 and previously worked as a reporter/producer for Philadelphia Phillies baseball broadcasts on Prism Sports Channel.
At SVG’s Venue Production Seminar at EverBank Field on Wednesday Nov. 4, Jags Cinema will showcase its production workflows, control-room technology, and content created to fire up fans on Jaguars game days. SVG caught up with Rosen to talk about Jags Cinema, his lessons learned from last season and plans for future seasons, and what Seminar attendees can expect from their visit to Jacksonville.
How did you arrive at your current role with the Jacksonville Jaguars?
In my early years, I was pretty much purely on-air. As I advanced in my career, I wanted to have more control over everything that we did. so I moved more into the management side. About 15 years ago or so, I was hired by the Baltimore Ravens right around the time that in-venue initiatives became a profession of their own, when large displays and making sure that what fans were seeing in buildings was of the same technical quality and production quality as what they were getting at home. That became my mission for the past 15 years of my career: to create an in-venue atmosphere, production, and technology that was of a network quality [and to create] exclusive, proprietary, in-venue–production, entertainment, and game-coverage elements to give you an experience in stadium that you can’t possibly get at home.
I joined the Jaguars when the Jaguars went to the world’s largest outdoor boards, with a 6:1 aspect ratio, 17 different screens, and incredible technology. [They needed to figure out] how to take that new technology and create a new in-venue experience that was epic and panoramic and encapsulated the NFL experience on the big screens, imitating what they’re doing on television but expanding and changing the aesthetic because the television experience is so different than the in-bowl experience.
What is Jags Cinema? How did you arrive at that name?
It really is a CinemaScopic, feature-film–level experience that we’re creating in-venue. [We have] wide screens — 6:1 aspect ratio, 8,600-pixel widths, 366 ft. [long] — on both ends, and we really wanted to create what would be more of a cinema aesthetic than what would be considered a traditional television-broadcast aesthetic, so we went with Jags Cinema. Jags Cinema is our internal production group, [which] provides all the visual elements, support elements, crewing, game day, technology, [and] engineering and pulls the whole show together.
And then there’s the group that leads the display. I have seven full-timers, and I have a 65-person crew on game day. My seven full-timers are pretty much the guys that build all the precut elements and the underpinnings of the show, so that, when a freelance crew comes on game day, they — along with me — have the ability to [decipher] what the expectations are, what we’re trying to accomplish, and then kind of lead each of the groups — graphics, replay, etc. — through the day.
Early last year, we started putting up some of our material, and there seemed to be an overarching sense [from our fans] that we must be buying it from some Hollywood or New York production company because of the level at which we were able to make compelling programming. We want our fans to know that everything that they’re seeing was made in Jacksonville by Jacksonville people that understand our city, our team, our market, and everything that we’re doing in this community. At the end of the day, we’re trying to create a 70,000-person environmental community where we’re having shared experiences, and the fact that we’re all in this seating bowl together and feeding off each others’ energy is more fun than watching it at home. We just want to make the in-bowl experience an incredibly special time.
Were you involved with the original planning and installation of video-production technology, or did you come in after that?
They were in mid construction. They originally brought me in as a consultant to look at what they were doing. They had had a very small, 4:3 SD show with a lot of fixed signage, very [few] dynamic LEDs. Once they laid out the plan through the architects, the project managers, the engineers, all the folks they were putting in place, they reached a point where [they didn’t] know what to do with it all. [They have] an incredible amount of assets, and that was when they reached out to me.
I came down and saw the boards. I saw what they were buying. I saw the challenge of integrating that into a cohesive show. That’s when they had me. It was like, wow, the things that we can do with this are just extraordinary. For someone that’s had 30 years of this kind of work, the opportunity to have that kind of palette and that kind of gear and commitment from the owner and the president all the way down made it just an unbelievably compelling place to come to try put a show together.
Can you generally explain the scope of the renovations done last season? What is unique about EverBank Field?
There was an overwhelming rebirth of the stadium, if you will, across multiple platforms: clubs, field, outside, inside. In my world, it was taking a small 4:3 SD board and making it an 8K 366-ft. board on both sides with supporting boards on the corners, in the end zones, north LEDs, south LEDs, tunnel-cover LEDs, behind the bench, play clocks. A massive amount of assets were brought to the table.
Upstairs, they had to knock out walls and eat back in a couple of corporate suites to create a large enough control room to be able to put my staff in. For instance, my show requires two TDs (very unusual), one director, and one producer. The way that we’re calling is very different because one TD might be calling for the mix-effects busses in the center and the other TD might be cutting to the left wing or the right wing or both wings. There are 24 channels of replay, so there needs to be a replay unit. There are eight channels of [Ross Video] Xpression [systems], so there’s a graphics unit with operators. I’m able to communicate my desires to each of the units.
I’ve been in every control room in the NFL, most control rooms in Major League Baseball, a lot of the colleges, and there’s nothing even remotely similar to what we’re doing here.
Any lessons learned through this project and last season?
It’s an 8K board, meaning there are [Christie] Spyders and [Ross] Carbonites, all kind of seaming and combining to make the one 8K composite screen. Nothing in the world today is built for an 8K workflow. What we learned very quickly is that everything looks best and is its most powerful and impactful when we’re able to go full-screen. Now, the aspect ratio of the boards is more than 6:1, so imagine [scaling up] a 1920×1080 standard HD picture; you’ve lost so much quality to the original picture that you can’t go full-screen.
Originally, we started doing a lot of things in quarters, in thirds, in halves, in splits, and making all kinds of different looks to camouflage the fact that the boards were too big for an individual HD picture. When we discovered a 6K RED camera at NAB in April, we went through quality control, brought them in, and realized that we literally can now create a full-screen 8K. Now we’re able to create a show that is dramatically more full-screen. All of our player prompts, our precut features, the open videos, the bump backs: all those elements are all now built into full 8K with native resolution, and it’s just straight-up stunning. It literally takes your breath away.
As a result, your fan-experience surveys went from near last to first in the NFL last year. What do you attribute that to?
The league does an incredible amount of measuring. They measure through fan surveys, internal site visits; they have outside firms that they bring in to do all kinds of research on everything from game experience to technology. All we know is that, at the end of the 2014 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars had the highest-rated show based on fan vote — which is nice — and had the highest-rated show based on the external game-presentation investigation the NFL did.
I think a good deal of it is attributable to the technology, but I would think the overwhelming [credit is due] the staff and crew and their ability to pull off the show. No matter how big your screen is, if you’re not putting up the proper imaging or the proper calls or the proper replays, you’re just not going to get the proper response. Our number-one driver is the quality of our content and the quality of our game coverage, and the fans are seeing the commitment that’s been made from ownership all the way down through my staff, and we’re thrilled that the response has been strong.
What are some of the new and unique things you plan for this season?
The fact that we have RED and are able to do full-screen feature work and full-screen prompts in native resolution has been the number-one expansion of our show. We also have worked through the space a little bit and have developed terminology and moves [for our videoboards]. If we’re showing a replay on the center mix-effects busses and the team is now going into a no-huddle, TD2 will shift that into the left wing. We can continue to show the replay but still have live cameras for the play in case the snap comes. So that uncomfortable moment on television when the director has to cut out of the replay before the cogent moment occurs, we don’t need to do that because we’ll shove it to the wing and you can still see the replay but not miss the live play. That’s a really fun effect to be able to play with live in an in-game environment.
We also were able to squeeze down the center M/E — what we call our small double-up — and we can do simultaneous replays off different [Abekas] Miras. So, after a great touchdown, we keep the guy that ran in for the score center screen, squeeze that down, and now, instead of just showing one replay over his face, you’re showing replays on both wings simultaneously. You’re watching the player watch the replay when he scores. The way we’re able to divide and utilize the space to give better coverage and to give more-intimate looks, I think, has been a very big part of what we’ve been trying to do this year.
Why should people attend the SVG Venue Production Seminar at EverBank Field? What will they learn from the Jags?
I don’t want to minimize what everybody else is doing; there are obviously brilliant shows throughout the league. I think we’re doing something special because of scale and because of our 8K flow. I think, if you’re a technologist, you’ll have an incredible ability to understand how you get out of the native camera into our 8K work environment: how the flow works, how the whole EditShare functionality and the ingestion and the resizing process happen. It’s an incredibly well put-together room, so, on the engineering side or the control-room side, the way the room supports the content, the way the room supports the show that I’m trying to put together is truly stunning and amazing.
The flexibility, the way we use everything from frame syncs to mix-effects busses to all the I/O, the way we integrate. We have a live studio show, we have a live DJ up on the party deck, we’ve got a live field reporter, we’ve got a drum line, we’ve got cheerleaders, we’ve got mascots. There’s so many things happening simultaneously, and it comes together as an entertaining show. I think, if you’re in this business, there’ll be an awful lot of takeaways.
Karen Hogan contributed to this report.