NFL Network Leans on Culver City Crew for Super Bowl City Productions
Nearly 90 Hours of Live Content to be Produced From San Francisco
The NFL Network this year is taking a new approach to producing 88 hours of live content from San Francisco for Super Bowl 50: it’s cutting every other show from a control room located at NFL Network’s Culver City production headquarters, allowing the network to use people and resources hundreds of miles away to improve the overall quality of the productions.
“Our primary reason was less about saving money than it was about leveraging assets,” says Dave Shaw, VP of production. “We did save some money on travel but it’s much more about having the full complement of post production, graphics, and other things that are available in Culver City.”
More importantly, it gives the production teams for each show more time to get ready for their program. First, there is no need for a quick changeover within the production truck from one show to the next. There are also two sets of IFB and microphones, with the red set being used for the programs produced out of Culver City and the blue set for the programs produced out of the Game Creek Video production units that are on site at SBC and Levi’s Stadium.
“There’s no more confusion and we can go from show to show,” adds Shaw. “The first challenge is to get the production team meshing with the technical team so we can plan out the concept. And there’s no remote editing here; just a file transfer system in SBC and at the stadium.”
Overall the NFL Network and NFL’s digital platforms were “feed machines” as there were 53 concurrent feeds into the Culver City TOC (via The Switch and Level 3) and 20 concurrent feeds leaving Culver City and into various locations simultaneously.
“We take 600 Mbps of live circuits and dedicate it to file transfer and then we mimic what is in Los Angeles so everybody has the same tools, like a phone number, so it is like we’re in the office in Culver City,” adds Shaw.
Shaw credits Bruce Goldfeder, director of engineering for the NFL and Bob Hess, NFL senior remote operations manager, for making bringing the new workflow to life.
The remote operations also were important for the coverage of the Opening Night on Monday that was basically a revamped and restylized version of the traditional Media Day.
“There were 11 podiums for interviews that had cameras and mics that were set up by our team and then the signals were fed back to Culver City and recorded there,” says Shaw. “We also had six EVS servers in the truck and the Pride truck would pull in feeds from Culver City or go right into the EVS to pull out clips. It was our best production of Media Day.”
On With the Show
NFL Network has a presence across the Bay area but the main set is located at SBC. Located at the end of Market Street and in front of the San Francisco Ferry building it offers two great looks: one with a shot up Market Street where many of the visitors to SBC will congregate and then a second shot with the San Francisco Ferry Building and Clock Tower as a backdrop. There is also a Spidercam flying over Market Street as well as robotic cameras in the area providing beauty shots.
“We were fortunate to get the marquee position at the base of Market Street,” says Shaw.
The primary SBC set has two levels: a base level that measures 40×40 sq. ft. and then a 20×20 studio on a perch above the other studio that looks out to the Ferry Building.
“That has become the real prime spot as you can shoot in all directions,” he says. “We’ll be getting shots from there through Sunday.”
Filmwerks and the JCM Design Group worked closely together on building not only the main set but also what is called “The Huddle,” a production area dedicated to the digital media and social media teams. A third set is located at SBC inside Sue Bierman Park where concerts are held throughout the weekend.
Other NFL Network sets around San Francisco include a location at St. Francis Yacht Club at Marina Green that offers a great shot with the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz as a backdrop as well as a set at Sue Bierman Park
Behind the Scenes
NFL Network is once again relying heavily on Game Creek Video for its technical support as the remote production services provider has four units on site. Game Creek’s Pride unit was at the SAP Arena in San Jose for Opening Night and will be at Levi’s Stadium for live hits on Saturday and all of the network’s operations on Super Bowl Sunday. And in San Francisco, where much of the pre-game coverage has originated from Super Bowl City at the end of Market Street, Game Creek’s Glory has been on hand for coverage from the SBC studios; Justice for a concert that was part of the Opening Night programming; and Maverick which will be used for the production of the NFL Honors program on Saturday night at the Bill Graham Theater.
New this year is the use of a VER flypack for programs coming out of the sets on Radio Row in the Moscone Convention Center.
“We went to a flypack because we would have had to park the trucks on the street and the Moscone Center also has more modular space,” says Shaw.
With only two days left until the big game the NFL Network and NFL digital platforms will continue to offer up insights, interviews, and more from San Francisco. And by the time kickoff takes place on Sunday night NFL Network viewers would have had the ability to watch 88 hours of live programming.