Live From the NFL Draft: NFL Media Gets into Honky-Tonk Groove With Massive Operation in Nashville
NFL Network has erected sets at both ends of Lower Broadway
NFL Media is fully embracing the Nashville scene this week at the NFL Draft, bookending Lower Broadway with a pair of sets located on the Draft Main Stage and attached to the legendary Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge honky-tonk bar. While the downtown streetside locations make for breathtaking on-air visuals, the confined space on Lower Broadway also presents plenty of challenges for the NFL Media operations and production teams.
“We always try to tell the story of the city and give viewers the feel of being here at the Draft,” says Dave Shaw, VP Production, NFL Media. “Broadway truly highlights the fabric of Nashville – it’s always crowded and hopping with music everywhere until 3 a.m. Of course, we wanted to be right in the middle of all that, so we knew we needed to find a way to make this work. The biggest challenge has been the limitations in terms of space here on Broadway, but I think we were able to handle that really well.”
By week’s end, NFL Media will have presented 76 hours of live coverage from Nashville, including coverage of the Draft itself and surrounding onsite studio shows, the Red Carpet Show on Thursday, live editions of Good Morning Football from inside Tootsie’s, and Draft Tonight streaming on NFL.com following the conclusion of NFL Network’s coverage each night.
From Tootsie’s to the Main Stage, NFL Network Takes Over Lower Broad
Without a doubt, the star of NFL Network’s show in Nashville is its custom set constructed outside Tootsie’s, which has been designed to match the bar’s iconic purple-brick exterior. Designed by Jack Morton Worldwide and the NFL Media creative team and architected and constructed by Filmwerks, the set is located four blocks up from the Draft Main Stage on Broadway and 1st Ave.
“Due to the secure perimeter,” says Shaw, “we couldn’t quite get a set location right [by the Main Stage], so we did several surveys to find a location that would accomplish what we were trying to do, which is to showcase Nashville. When we found out Tootsie’s was available and the city okayed it, we jumped at the opportunity. What says Nashville more than Tootsie’s?”
The structure protrudes out from Tootsie’s and appears to be a direct extension of the three-story building (an overhang allows spectators to traverse the public sidewalk beneath). Inside the 30- x 30-ft. set on the second floor of the structure are four hard cameras and a jib covering the four-person desk. The interior has been custom-designed to match Tootsie’s aesthetic, including guitars on display and framed photos of NFL legends (à la the Tootsie’s Wall of Fame).
“Simply put, the design team and Filmwerks created the best set I’ve seen since we’ve been doing the Draft,” says Shaw. “They truly captured the flavor of Tootsie’s, including creating renderings of the purple brick to match it perfectly. And all the famous details — hanging pictures, lots of guitars, signing the wall — all of that’s in there. The level of detail is just amazing. Tootsie’s is so happy with it and they’ve been phenomenal to work with. It’s the focal point of our [presence], and we couldn’t be happier with it.”
Among the key leaders at NFL Media who made the Tootsie’s set happen are Rick Qualliotine, VP emerging production platforms; Jennifer Love, VP production and coordinating director; Adam Acone, senior director media operations; and Jesse Medieros, creative designer.
In addition, NFL Network’s Good Morning Football is being produced live from the third floor of Tootsie’s Thursday-Saturday, complete with a full house band. Each morning, the NFL Media team builds out the Good Morning Football set and then strikes it prior to the bar’s opening at 10 a.m. GMFB is also being simulcast on ESPN2 Thursday and Friday.
NFL Network’s main set, where Rich Eisen and company will host Draft coverage each night, is located four blocks down Lower Broadway at the Draftville Main Stage, along with a small secondary set for NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport to deliver live reports.
NFL Media will also have a presence at the Red Carpet Show, which airs exclusively on NFL Network on Thursday evening.
Both the main set and the Tootsies set are fibered to the truck compound, where Game Creek Video’s Encore is serving as home to NFL Media’s Draft production. Both the Red Carpet Show and Good Morning Football are at-home productions, with camera and audio feeds being home-run back to dedicated control rooms at NFL Media’s Culver City, CA, broadcast center. Filmwerks is providing power for the compound and all sets.
SupraCam, JITACam Headline 30-Plus Cameras
The star of NFL Media’s camera complement this year is a SupraCam point-to-point aerial system that traverses more than 1,000 ft. over Lower Broadway. ESPN also has a SupraCam system, and the two extend in parallel all the way down the street.
“We wanted to make sure we captured all that Broadway has to offer, and the point-to-point SupraCam system was the best way to do that,” says Shaw. “ESPN had the same two-point camera concept in mind, so we worked closely with them to make sure we both got what we wanted. The two paths come down Broadway and actually cross over at Third Ave. That way, we can each get the best possible shot of our [respective] sets on Broadway. We’re both going to be happy.”
For the second consecutive year, NFL Media has positioned a JITACam (jib in the air) above the Main Stage area.
“Besides the two-point system, the JITA was the next biggest thing on our wish list,” says Shaw. “The position of our JITA is in such a great spot. It’s got an arm that comes out to capture the flavor of all the crowd right in front of the stage. You’re at the base of Broadway and we’re expecting hundreds of thousands of people, so this should be pretty nuts. We have a 20-ft. arm that’s going to swing down low, catch the crowd, come up high, get where our announcers are, and get the whole flavor of the stage.”
NFL Media’s 30-plus camera complement also includes five RF cameras (two Steadicams and three handhelds) provided by BSI, a roving Sony F-55 to capture cinematic shots of the festivities, and an army of Robovision robos covering the stage and green room and providing various beauty shots throughout Draftville.
Beyond Nashville: War Rooms, Draft Parties, and Day 3 Picks
While NFL Media’s on-site presence is as big as ever at this year’s Draft, it’s the dozens of live video feeds from across the country that have become the network’s signature element. More than 60 feeds from coast to coast are being transmitted to Culver City, including war room cameras from a record 23 teams, and live reporters stationed at nearly a dozen team facilities, draft parties, and look-ins of players at home who did not attend the Draft.
In addition, as part of the NFL’s 100th anniversary celebration, the league will have active service members announce one of the picks from an Army Base in South Korea, which NFL Media coordinated with DVIDS (Defense Visual Information Distribution Service).
“The feeds from all over the country is what has really become our signature,” says Shaw. “We have an entire group in Culver dedicated to just managing those feeds.”
Day 3 selections for Rounds 4 through 6 will be made from special local locations of each team’s choosing, including team headquarters, military bases, state landmarks, and major attractions (Round 7 picks are announced on-site in Nashville by local fans). NFL Media has once again been tasked with managing all these feeds throughout Saturday for NFL Network, as well as for distribution to ESPN and the on-site production in Nashville.
“Day 3 is always the big one for us because all of those feeds from every single teams’ pick location comes through us, so we are instrumental in that process.” says Shaw. “Our team coordinates those feeds and brings them into Culver. If there’s a trade then we have to rotate the feeds to move who’s coming next. They communicate closely with every single team all day, so it’s very systematic and complex. Then those feeds come here to Nashville and we feed the house, ESPN, and our own broadcast.”
NFL Media is also sending back 20 feeds from Nashville to Culver City using two redundant fiber circuits from The Switch (out of Bridgestone Arena) and CenturyLink (from a PoP in downtown Nashville). Although the bulk of NFL Media’s content – including hundreds of player highlight packages – is already loaded onto its local EVS network, the broadcaster is also leveraging Signiant for file-transfer between Nashville and Culver.
NFL Media Team Continues to Up the Production Ante at Draft
While potential thunderstorms are in the forecast for Thursday evening (the on-stage festivities would be moved to Selection Square inside Symphony Center should lightning force the issue), NFL Media has weathered plenty of operational storms already in Nashville – raising the bar yet again for its 14th year at the Draft.
“The Draft never gets old for us. We’re always trying to one-up ourselves and come up with something new,” says Shaw. “I try to keep that perspective for our whole team. For some fan out here, this event is on their bucket list, so we need to make it as special as possible. And I don’t think it will ever gets old for our team.”
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