ESPN Aims To Innovate Its College Football Playoff Semifinals Productions With RefCam, Goal Line and Line-to-Gain Pylon Cams

Extensive MegaCast offering will bring to 12 viewing options each for Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl

It’s that most wonderful time of the year — not only for college-football fans but for ESPN’s extensive list of production and operations talent as the sports-media giant again pushes the broadcasting envelope with its coverage of the College Football Playoff.

PylonCams (seen here at the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Atlanta) will be deployed by ESPN in the four corners of each end zone of both College Football Playoff Semifinals on Saturday.

On Saturday, ESPN delivers college football’s ultimate doubleheader with the CFP Semifinals at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in Arlington, TX, featuring No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame (4 p.m. ET) and the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami pitting No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma (8 p.m.).

Among the production highlights are some unique camera angles, bringing viewers closer access to the action than ever before and a whopping 12 ways to watch the games via the network’s MegaCast effort.

Specialty Cameras Spice Up Traditional Linear Coverage
At each of the semifinal locations, ESPN is loading up on fun imaging tools and technology, deploying more than 50 cameras (including three super-slo-mos) at each game with a few poised to give viewers a look at the action in a way unlike anything before seen on the CFP.

Debuting on this event is RefCam. A robotic camera will be affixed to the bill of the hat of two of each game’s officials, offering a look into their line of sight.

Also available on the POV/robo front is PylonCam. Viewers have grown to love PylonCams at the goal line over the past few college and pro seasons after the technology was first tested at the CFP Championship in 2015. This year, in addition to PylonCams at all four corners or each end zone, ESPN will also add a pylon-like camera at the “line-to-gain” or first-down marker embedded with the chain gang. The wireless camera system is built into a pair of movable pylons that provide a replay angle straight down the first-down line from both sidelines.

Fully Loaded MegaCast Makes Triumphant Semifinal Return
The MegaCast, which has become an annual highlight of ESPN’s coverage, continues to grow in size and scope. Although it has long been linked with the CFP Championship Game, the MegaCast made its first appearance ever on the two semifinal games a year ago, and, for Saturday’s Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl action, it’s back and bigger than ever.

There are as many as 12 viewing options for the two games, with a strong focus on offering hyper-customized experiences for fans who want to experience the game in a way that’s different from the main linear telecast on ESPN. There are multi-window screens spotlighting in-depth stats and real-time analytics; there is live, conversation-driven analysis by coaches and personalities to isolated alternate camera angles, as well as a multitude of audio options, including calls from hometown radio teams and Spanish-language options.

Here’s a quick breakdown from ESPN and where each is available for viewing:

Command Center: A split-screen with four simultaneous camera views, which could include the main ESPN camera angle, the SkyCam view, and isolated camera feeds of both head coaches at any given time. Enhanced statistics and real-time drive charts supplement the game action. (ESPN2 and ESPN App)

Coaches Film Room: Head coaches watching the game in a film room offer strategic advice in real time. Participating coaches TBA. (ESPNEWS and ESPN App)

Thinking Out Loud: Trio of Marcus Spears, Greg McElroy, and Alyssa Lang make their MegaCast debut together, bringing hijinks, highlights, and hilarity. (SEC Network for Orange Bowl Only)

DataCenter: A perfect catch-all viewing option, with ESPN’s main telecast surrounded by up-to-date real-time stats, analytics, social-media reaction, and player information. (ESPN Goal Line and ESPN App)

SkyCam: The popular view from above the action — and behind the offense on most plays. This unique angle has been one of ESPN’s alternative viewing options for many years. (ESPN3 and ESPN App)

All-22: Watch the game the same way players and coaches study film, with a vantage point high above the field of play. The angle allows the 22 players on the field to be seen at all times, providing the ability to distinguish how plays develop. (ESPN3 and ESPN App)

ESPN Radio: Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Todd McShay (Rose Bowl Game) and Bill Rosinski, David Norrie, and Ian Fitzsimmons (Sugar Bowl) call the games. The broadcast is available throughout the country on more than 400 ESPN Radio stations, the ESPN App, ESPNRadio.com, SiriusXM, Apple Music, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. (ESPN App)

ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes Radio: Spanish-language call with Lalo Varela and Pablo Viruega (Cotton Bowl), and Kenneth Garay and Sebastian Martinez-Christensen (Orange Bowl) on television. Radio announcers TBA. (ESPN App)

Hometown Audio Feed: A partnership with JMI Sports, Learfield, and Notre Dame Global Partnerships pairs the ESPN telecast with the hometown radio call of the four teams. (ESPN3 and ESPN App)

Top Executive Talent Steers the Ship
ESPN’s production of the Capital One Orange Bowl will be run by the network’s top college-football producer/director team of Bill Bonnell and Derek Mobley. The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic will be produced by Phil Dean and directed by Scott Johnson.

Production and operations of the College Football Playoff Semifinals and National Championship Game is overseen by some elite executive talent at ESPN. Following promotions announced earlier this month, Lee Fitting now oversees all live and studio football programming for both college and the NFL. In addition, Stephanie Druley has been elevated to EVP, event and studio production, across the company’s full portfolio. Also, Ed Placey is senior coordinating producer in ESPN’s remote production department in charge of college football, and John LaChance is director of remote production operations.

SVG will be onsite at the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Santa Clara beginning next weekend. Continue to visit sportsvideo.org for more reports.

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