Live From the NFL Draft: VWSE Productions’ Powerful Flypack Drives 28 Million-Pixel Main Stage Display
One-off control room is built to handle fast-paced, dynamic show
Each year, it seems as if the onsite videoboard show at the NFL Draft couldn’t possibly get any bigger. And yet, every year, it does just that. Van Wagner Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment (VWSE) Productions has once again upped its game, driving an army of on-set LED displays, including the whopping 28 million-pixel Main Stage display, in Nashville this week. To drive this gargantuan screen, VWSE worked with VER to build out a state-of-the-art flypack of equipment in Nashville.
“Our team has built a control room from scratch in just a couple weeks that rivals some of the top [permanent] stadium control rooms in the country,” says Bob Becker, EVP, VWSE Productions. “And the league built a stage that rivals the biggest stage ever for an event of this size in a matter of weeks. Plus, this is the largest [main display] we’ve ever had at a Draft. Everyone has worked hard to come together to put on this amazing event, and we’re very proud of it.”
Building a Control Room With the Power of a Stadium Facility
Ross Video gear is playing a major role in VWSE’s presence. VWSE has deployed Ross Video’s Ultrix routing and A/V-processing platform, Carbonite Mosaic video processor, and XPression Tessera real-time graphics-rendering solution to drive all the on-set LED displays (the Main Stage display is the largest Tessera deployment to date), with everything controlled via Ross’s DashBoard software control system.
The flypack also features a Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame 4M/E switcher, an Evertz EQX 288×864 video router, two EVS XT3 replay systems (one 4×2 LSM, one SpotBox), a Calrec Brio audio console, a Riedel Artist intercom system, and an Andiamo MADI router for audio/comms distribution (to broadcast and radio partners and FOH production).
“Conceptually, we’re basically taking the sports-venue model of a control room and deploying it for a one-off event, which I think is pretty impressive,” says Nathan McCoart, director, technical operations, VWSE Productions. “Typically, on an event like this or an awards show, you’re running standard content for playout through a server system. But the Draft is so fast-paced, and things can change so quickly that you couldn’t possibly prebuild all those scenarios to execute live. Plenty of credit goes to our whole team, VER, and the Ross Video team for making this all happen.”
XPression Tessera’s real-time render engine and Dashboard control allows the VWSE production team to dynamically update numerous graphic looks for all 32 teams at the push of a button.
“The biggest factor is the amount of team-specific customization that we’ve built out for the show,” says McCoart. “This allows us to do things like take over the entire canvas with a prospect headshot the second that a selection is announced, along with a dynamic team background of who just picked them. Tessera allows us to fully customize the canvas on a moment’s notice. Having pre-rendered content for 32 teams for every single prospect is just not reasonable, but, by using Xpression and Tessera in this implementation, we’re able to [create] full-takeover graphics for those huge moments in seconds.”
Ross also supplied Carbonite production switchers to cut live concert segments (a separate control room was built to handle the parade of concerts taking place at the Draft), as well as XPression Studio graphics to provide content to the many large LED displays temporarily installed across six city blocks on Lower Broadway. In addition, the NFL Experience production at Nissan Stadium is being driven by a host of Ross Sports venue solutions.
Mixing NFL Media’s Feeds, Unilateral Cameras To Feed Displays
To produce the onsite show, VWSE has access to all of NFL Media’s camera feeds inside its Game Creek Video Encore mobile unit. In addition, VWSE has deployed four Sony HDC-2500 cameras (with one 86X and three 11X Canon lenses), four Fletcher robos, two Panasonic PTZ cameras, eight POVs (Marshall, Iconix, PTZOptics), and a roving RF camera.
“Our RF camera has coverage all the way up Broadway, on the Main Stage, in the prospect green room, and in Selection Square [at Schermerhorn Symphony Center],” says McCoart. “That gives us the flexibility to send that [operator] anywhere to do anything at any time, which has been really helpful.”
On stage, PRG provided all the LED displays, including the 3-mm ROE VR3 on the Main Stage. Eighteen 1080p feeds are required to drive the full Main Stage display. Additionally, VWSE provides signal distribution to repeater screens every block up Broadway, as well as across the Cumberland River for the NFL Draft Experience at Nissan Stadium and at Selection Square at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
Creating a Nashville Look for the Show, Embracing NFL History
Each year, the NFL’s creative team develops a style guide for the NFL Draft show, customizing it to the host city. VWSE takes those concepts and builds out elements to bring the Draft to life onscreen.
“The Draft is more unique than anything else we do, because we’re not [covering] one or two teams playing a game; we’re representing all 32 teams,” says VWSE Executive Producer Brian Scott. “We have to come up with a concept and then figure out how to replicate that 32 times. Thankfully, the style guide that the league put together this year gave us a lot more to work with than we’ve ever had. You’ve got a fantastic city, you’ve got music, you’ve got food, you’ve got everything, and it’s all intertwined within this style. So we’ve actually had more pieces to work with this year than we’ve ever had.”
With the NFL100 celebration in full swing in Nashville, VWSE also worked to weave in more historical elements and integrate classic photos of NFL stars’ being drafted while each team is on the clock.
“All three days of the Draft have their own individual identities, so it evolves throughout the show. Thursday is more the pomp and circumstance of the NFL Draft,” says Scott. “We try to give the first night a feel of elegance and gala. We are celebrating the prospects that are here, so there’s going to be a lot more content focused on them.
“Day two is when we bring in some NFL legends,” he continues, “so we are integrating the history of the game more than we’ve ever done at this event before. And Saturday is a totally different animal. Picks are made much quicker and mostly from remote locations, so we’ve got a million different feeds coming into us. It’s a lot of juggling and reacting on the fly.”
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