Live From the 2019 CFP National Championship: Van Wagner, 49ers Teamwork Makes Difference for Big-Board Show
VWSE produces the in-venue show for videoboards, LED ribbons
It wouldn’t be a CFP National Championship Game without the team from Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment onsite to handle the stadium big-screen entertainment. Eleven VWSE staffers are on hand, working alongside the staff from Levi’s Stadium to make use of eight cameras and the venue’s in-house video-production-control room to deliver a compelling show to the videoboards and LED ribbons in the venue.
“For the CFP, we model what the [venue’s video team] would do and don’t rock the boat, whereas, at the Super Bowl, we will bring in 17 of our own cameras,” says Bob Becker, EVP, VWSE Productions. “It’s a point of pride for the [venue staff], and they want to be part of the big game, so we are all family.
That blend of teams will be on display tonight. San Francisco 49ers Videoboard Director Kyle Farnum will direct the show, and VP/Executive Producer Rob Alberino Jr. will handle replays and packages. VWSE Executive Producer Brian Scott will produce the show, and the crew will have eight cameras at its disposal to cover the game.
What makes the CFP exciting as an event, says Becker, are the marching bands for the two universities. “They really drive the energy, and, at the end of a break, we are going to go to the bands. You can have highlights and notes on the board, but the bands are driving the atmosphere. At the Super Bowl,” he adds, “it would be the DJ.”
Every stadium is different, and the VWSE team will typically bring in some of its own gear. But it also relies heavily on the equipment available in the control room.
“We’ve done shows here before, Pac-12 games and the Super Bowl, and [the venue’s] people and crew are up there with the best in the business, the [Evertz] DreamCatchers are great, and the camera locations and replay angles are great,” says Becker. “When we walk in here, we know we can put on a show the next day. It’s as easy as that.”
Although it’s possible to walk in and put on a show the next day, the VWSE crew has been onsite all week, getting things ready and working on shoulder events like Media Day.
Says Becker, “We have four edit stations we brought in as well as a Ross Xpression, which we used to drive Media Day and do what we call the Brady Bunch look with video from every podium up on the board.”
The team also takes some prebuilt elements, replacing stand-in elements with logos, headshots, names, and other elements from the University of Alabama and Clemson University. The team begins building out the sponsor and corporate elements in December.
“It’s an accelerated process that is fairly aggressive [the last week],” adds Becker,“but we are still bringing in a year’s worth of stuff for this one game.”
The VWSE team is accustomed to working in the world’s best stadiums, so Becker and the team are well-versed in what makes for a solid control room. Topping the list for VWSE is a control room that is flexible and also has some expansion room so that additional personnel and equipment can be integrated.
“Those are the things we look for as well as the technology,” he explains. “If they have some toys, we will put them to use.”
The doors for today’s game open at 2 p.m., and the big-board–production team will slowly ramp up the energy level.
“For the first half hour,” Becker says, “we take it easy and play some music, do some social-media stuff, and show some different packages as we have a great relationship with ESPN and we can run some of their three- and four-minute features. As we ramp things up with the national anthem and the matchup video, the place is rocking. It’s all about the marriage of the video, the LED ribbons, the bands, and the inflections of the PA announcer.”
Once the game starts, the show is on. A new element this year is Janel Klein, who will be a roving host.
“For the past four years,” says Becker, “we had a pregame desk, and we like to mix things up. So Janel will have about a minute and a half each quarter to do something.”
The next big show for Becker and the team is the biggest of them all: Super Bowl LIII, which will be played in Atlanta, the same venue that hosted last year’s CFP National Championship. The iconic Halo scoreboard will be a big part of the show, and Becker and the team will have another chance at refining the show and making it all it can be for the circular scoreboard.
“We will add in another Ross Xpression Tessera system,” he says. “We have a lot to program for that board and weren’t able to look at stuff while programming it when there is only one Tessera. For that game, we will hire Ross Video as part of our team to program that board. There are things we do at the Super Bowl that are in the moment, reactionary, and colorful.”
But that is next month. Tonight, the energy is focused on Levi’s Stadium and the big matchup between the Crimson Tide and the Tigers.
“This is one of the premier events in the world, right below the Super Bowl,” says Becker. “It’s a very high-energy and exciting show, and we’re proud to be part of it. In the future, the sky’s the limit with this show.”