Live From Final Four: ESPN’s College GameDay Rolls Into San Antonio’s La Villita for Onsite Studio Coverage

Hybrid effort features set, demo basketball court, and a few REMI elements

ESPN’s College GameDay is one of the great road shows in sports television, and it is onsite in San Antonio for this weekend’s Final Four.

The network has established a set in the city’s La Villita Historic Arts Village, which is just blocks from both the Alamodome and the city’s popular River Walk destination. A portable studio set sits atop a 24- by 24-ft. stage and is accompanied by a 48-ft.-wide x 52-ft.-long half basketball court, which is being used for demo segments by GameDay analysts.

ESPN’s College GameDay is onsite for the Final Four with a set located in San Antonio’s La Villita Historic Arts Village.

It’s an impressive use of the space, although it is, admittedly, smaller than an outdoor College GameDay set during the football season.

“The big difference between this show and our normal basketball show is that, typically, we are indoors; being outside, we have more cameras, plus there’s a lot more movement,” explains Operations Specialist Luther Fisher, who works College GameDay during basketball and the football seasons.

The setup features six cameras, including a jib, a Steadicam, a roving handheld, and a Marshall robotic atop the backboard of the demo court. The show is supported by a 40-ft. hybrid mobile unit provided by Live Mobile Group (LMG).

This is not an “at-home” production, because the show is being cut by a front bench in San Antonio. However, a couple of production elements do leverage ESPN’s REMI workflow. According to College GameDay producer Drew Gallagher, the show is being cut from the truck onsite, but certain elements, such as B-roll and graphics, are being overlaid from a control room in Bristol, CT.

ESPN’s onsite efforts are supported by the operations team of (from left) Luther Fisher, Carlton Young, and Daniel Reifert.

To accommodate all of this, ESPN’s transmission plan is satellite-based, with a backup using the public internet. The GameDay crew also has a link to the Alamodome, where ESPN’s game crew is producing the tournament world feed.

This edition of College GameDay follows the tradition of using largely the usual traveling crew. According to Daniel Reifert, senior operations specialist for College Gameday (both football and basketball), the crew here is about 90% made up of the same production and operations talent that works the show throughout the football and basketball seasons.

In his eyes, it’s a big part of what makes the show so successful: “College GameDay is so big and unique that we really value having a group that knows each other and the show. It’s a huge benefit to have these talented guys that you can trust.”

The set was live for a full four-hour show that aired on ESPN on Saturday. It has continued to do live hits through the day on Monday and will be used for live hits following the Championship Game.

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