NFL Media Goes Multiplatform at Scouting Combine
New Combine Primetime show on NFL Network offers Olympics-style recaps over the weekend
NFL Media is flexing its multiplatform muscle more than ever at the NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis. NFL Network, NFL.com, NFL Now, and NFL Mobile are offering a breadth of live coverage throughout the six days of press conferences and workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium. While NFL Network is once again providing the big-picture coverage — including a brand-new Combine Primetime recap show following daily workouts Friday-Monday — NFL Media’s digital platforms give hardcore fans plenty of detailed coverage from three sets at the Combine.
“As an NFL Media Group, we are trying to more fully integrate our network and digital platforms,” says Dave Shaw, VP, production, NFL Media. “We showcased that at the Super Bowl and are continuing it here. A lot of the pieces we use will be for both.”
Army of Trucks, Cameras in Indy
NFL Media has a trio of Game Creek Video mobile units in Indianapolis: Glory (A and B) for the network’s Combine Primetime, Pride (A and B) for workout coverage each day, and Dynasty for NFL Digital. In addition, a pair of HFi’s Crave support units are home to in-house editing, Sportvision virtual graphics, transmission, and quality-control operations.
Between NFL Network and Digital, a total of 24 EVS replay servers are on hand, as well as 20,000 ft. of cable runs and extensions.
Director Brian Hennessey and producer Chris Wertz man the front bench for Combine Primetime, and director Steve Beim and producer Mike Titleman are handling the workout coverage each day.
NFL Media’s 42-camera complement (32 for NFL Network, 10 handhelds for Digital) includes the Skycam Wildcat aerial system, two NAC/Ikegami Hi-Motion II ultra-slo-mos, a Steadicam, two jibs (one on the field, one at the NFL Network set on the concourse), five robos, three AVS (Aerial Video Systems) RF cams, one POV, and a pair of ENG cameras.
Also in the mix at Lucas Oil Stadium are a pair of Reality Check touchscreen displays on NFL Media sets.
To exchange content and deliver feeds, NFL Media has established eight outbound transmission paths to its broadcast center in Culver City, CA; eight inbound from Culver City; and direct paths between Indianapolis and Encompass Atlanta and between the Culver City facility and Encompass Stamford.
Augmented Reality Is Part of the Show
This year, for the first time, NFL Media has deployed an ncam system in conjunction with its Vizrt graphics platform to create augmented-reality elements during the workouts. These elements include player comparisons on the 40-yard dash, QB and RB comparisons, and social-media elements.
Returning on the graphics front is virtual 10- and 20-yard-cut time, which debuted at last year’s Combine. The RCS/Vizrt graphics generator takes in the data output from the tracking system supplied by the NFL Combine staff and creates a virtual graphic displaying each player’s 10-yard-cut time.
“We added the 10- and 20-yard-cut [graphics] because that burst speed can become very important — for linemen, in particular — so seeing it live on screen was important to fans,” says Shaw. “We did have some issues last year — occasionally, the clock wouldn’t stop on time — but we have worked with the vendor and tested it a lot this year, so we think we have that solved and will definitely be using it this year.”
Back for its eighth year at the Combine, Sportvision’s Simulcam technology applies background-recognition and camera-matching technology to overlay the image of one prospect’s dash on another’s (as well as anchor Rich Eisen’s annual 40-yard dash in his suit and cleats). This provides the viewer with an in-depth visual comparison of the athletes competing.
Combine Goes Primetime on NFL Network
NFL Network will launch its Combine Primetime recap show Friday night at 8 p.m., offering highlights from each day and previewing the next day’s workouts. NFL Network’s primary set, located on the concourse, features one of two RCS-powered touchscreens on hand at the combine.
“That primetime coverage will put live pieces around events of the day,” says Shaw. “It adds more of a big-feel coverage, as opposed to what we’ve done in the past, which was re-air segments from that day. It will address the impact of that day’s events and package it all to make a better show for the viewer.”
In addition, Shaw and company are supporting productions for the NFL HQ morning show live from Lucas Oil Stadium all week and produced live coverage of the Wednesday-Thursday press conferences.
NFL Network preproduced five player vignettes and 25 player-intro pieces from the Senior Bowl and other locations, with plans to build approximately 25 more onsite at the Combine. In addition, NFL.com’s Combine coverage features constantly updated VoD packages of the top prospects’ workouts and workout summaries.
“We are increasing our emphasis on player profiles and coach or GM interviews to get pieces to use across all the platforms,” says Shaw. “The idea is that we will use content for as many groups as possible — whether it’s Digital, Now, HQ, Total Access, Primetime, or something else.”
Ramping Up Digital Coverage
On the NFL Digital side, the NFL Now Live streaming production (Friday-Monday beginning at 9 a.m. ET) features three separate sets providing comprehensive coverage and analysis of the on-field drills. On the “Drills Set” located on the field, talent provides play-by-play commentary of the on-field workouts as they happen. On the “Context Set” located on the concourse, analysts provide NFL-player comparisons with the Combine participants, dissect team needs and best fits for prospects, and submit Mock Drafts. The “Social Set” located on the field serves as the hub for interviews with the top prospects and monitors all the social activity surrounding the Combine.
“The social-media piece is intertwined with everything we do on both digital platforms and network,” says Shaw. “So the social set has moved from the concourse down to the field level so they can get more pieces with participants.”
In addition, live streaming of NFL Network on mobile devices via NFL Mobile from Verizon is available to all Verizon Wireless customers. Live streaming on Xbox and Apple TV is available via Watch NFL Network.
“The combination of the network live coverage with the primetime Olympics-style overview of everything that went on that day is a vast improvement for the viewer,” notes Shaw. “And then, on the digital-media outlets, you can go back again and again to find pieces that are specific to your team, your college team, or players you might want to see. We are trying to get more reach across all the platforms and make for a well-rounded experience for the fan.”