Live From the 2019 CFP National Championship: ESPN’s MegaCast Finds Deeper Purpose as It Matures, Evolves

TechCast among the offerings to showcase potential of tech toys deployed at Levi’s Stadium

You’d be hard pressed to find a single event on the entire sports calendar that’s covered quite as in depth and from so many angles as the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. That fact is largely due to the annual technology-fest that is the MegaCast.

ESPN’s Ed Placey oversees much of the network’s vast efforts behind the MegaCast.

This marks the sixth year that ESPN has offered viewers its MegaCast, and, with each passing year, the options grow and change. Want to watch the game from just the SkyCam? You can. Want to watch the game from the sideline with only commentators from the sideline? You can. Want to see all the PylonCams at once (for some reason)? You can!

For a detailed listing of all the MegaCast offerings, CLICK HERE.

However, as the MegaCast has evolved, so have its goals and purpose in the eyes of ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Ed Placey.

“When you’ve used it enough,” he notes, “people are past the ‘Hey, doesn’t that look cool’ phase and moved on to ‘How does it make a difference?’ That’s a good place to be.”

For Placey, the MegaCast gives many of this event’s most innovative technology tools a place to live all night long, adding further ROI on a piece of tech that may otherwise be deployed only on the main game broadcast maybe once or twice a night, if the proper scenario calls for it.

“We always try to take advantage of all of the stuff that’s already happening anyway and put it on a channel,” says Placey. “We’ve got two different SkyCams. Just pop it on ESPN3 and put some graphics around it. All of that stuff is already in place. It’s all happening, regardless. So let’s put it out there for those that enjoy it.”

It’s truly a playground, and ESPN execs aren’t shy to acknowledge that a few of the offerings find their way onto, say, ESPN3 because “Why not?” Placey loves that it’s a relatively risk-free environment to try things and monitor viewer behavior and reactions. In fact, many things that ESPN has learned from MegaCasts past are now deployed in weekly applications all season long because it’s clear that people are interested in it.

Perhaps the most notable debut on this year’s MegaCast is BlimpCast, a project that ESPN has been experimenting with and has attempted to get off the ground in the past, to no avail. Tonight (weather permitting), SportsCenter’s Matt Barrie and Elle Duncan will actually ride in the Goodyear Blimp for the entirety of the game, calling their own version of the action from, perhaps, the wildest seat at the game. The duo will have a game feed pumped into the cabin from which they can call the game.

“It’s really more of a radio talk show,” says Placey. “Just, you know, in context of a game from a thousand feet over the stadium.”

Aboard the blimp, in addition to the on-air commentators, will be a “jack of all trades” technician to assist with video, lighting, audio, etc.; a camera operator; and a pair of pilots.

Specialty-camera geeks will particularly enjoy the TechCast, which will spotlight the best of ESPN’s innovation throughout the game, thanks to 12 camera views showcased in small boxes surrounding a split-screen view. The split-screen views will rotate among the 12 options throughout the game. Among the vantage points: SkyCam, High SkyCam, RefCam, PylonCam, AllCam, and Marker Cam.

In addition to the 90 or so traditional camera resources committed to game coverage, MegaCast offerings have various cameras dedicated to their programming. The Sony HDC-2500 is the camera of choice to supplement a few of those efforts. Two hard cameras are dedicated to following the head coaches for the Command Center. Two RF/cabled handhelds will work Pre-Game Field Pass. Three more will be assigned star players to iso. One will fill in as a handheld in the booth, offering an extra angle of the main game commentators. Two more will provide unique angles to the Home Town Radio MegaCast feeds, and one final one will assist on the all-22.

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