NFL Draft 2019: NEP, ESPN Go All 1080p in Nashville With EN1 and ND1
NEP’s Bexel, BSI, and Fletcher teams also played a major roles in Nashville
NEP leapt into the future in Nashville this week, rolling out its first side-by-side 1080p productions for ESPN’s dual NFL Draft productions on ESPN and ABC, respectively. NEP’s EN1 and ND1 were on hand to serve the pair of 1080p shows as part of NEP’s massive presence on-site, which also included recent NEP acquisitions Bexel, BSI, and Fletcher.
“This is the first time, at least I’m aware of, that two production trucks are working side-by-side in 1080p — at least certainly not on this scale,” NEP’s EN1 engineer-in-charge Bruce Hogenboom said in Nashville. “We’ve done plenty of 1080p shows within EN1 with multiple control rooms, but now we’re shipping signals back and forth between multiple mobile units. That’s been probably our biggest challenge on this show — coming up with a way to do that efficiently and cost effectively. It was a little bit of trial and error, but we worked through it all.”
Although ESPN provided facilities for ESPN’s dual Draft telecasts — the main telecast on ESPN and a College GameDay telecast on ESPN2 — last year as well, the ESPN2 production was in 720p. While EN1 is a 1080p vet, the Draft marked ND1’s first-ever 1080p production.
“We’ve been doing the Draft for years with ESPN, so when they came to us with the opportunity to do the GameDay show with ND1 in 1080p, we knew it would be a great opportunity and also a great challenge for us,” says NEP senior account manager Michael Pean. “Doing one of these 1080p shows is no easy task, so doing it with multiple trucks is that much more complex. So I’m really proud of our team here in Nashville — at the shop, on the operations side, and everyone else involved in the planning stages of this to make sure that these guys had all the tools to execute what we promised ESPN.”
Two Beasts in the Compound: EN1 and ND1 Offer Plenty of Firepower for ESPN
Inside the compound, the two control rooms inside EN1 (A, B, C, and E units) handled the the ESPN Main Stage set and various studio programs, while ND1 (A, B, and C) control room was home to the ABC/College GameDay production. The seven mobile units were tightly integrated, allowing any source from throughout ESPN’s Broadway setup to be accessed from anywhere.
“The beauty of having EN1 and ND1 here is the sheer size of what they can deliver together,” adds Pean. “We’re providing over 40 cameras between the two trucks. There aren’t a lot of trucks out there that carry 20 cameras, so to have the firepower that we do with EN1 and ND1 here, to be able to roll in and have almost all of the necessary gear already onboard, it eliminates a lot of the fuss that often comes with doing a big show like this.”
It’s All in the NEP Family With Bexel, BSI, and Fletcher in Nashville
Of course, NEP’s presence at the Draft was much more than just mobile units. The benefits of the company’s acquisitions of Bexel, BSI, and Fletcher are already becoming apparent, especially when it comes to complex dual 1080p productions like ESPN’s NFL Draft shows.
“It’s been real helpful working with BSI, Fletcher, and Bexel because we’re collectively getting more and more used to working in 1080p as a group,” says Hogenboom. “So the gear that’s coming in is already compatible and configured correctly for 1080p, which has helped a lot.”
Pean adds: “We’re really proud of the fact that we’ve got not just our 40 cameras on the trucks here, but also robos from Fletcher, RF systems from BSI, and Bexel provided all the fiber to all the sets. Having the multiple sets and multiple shows going on, it’s great to be able to service ESPN as greater NEP.”
Fletcher Rolls Out Robos All Over Lower Broadway
Fletcher’s role at the Draft was big as ever, providing a dozen robos for ESPN and four for Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment Productions. In addition to standard positions such as in the green room and hallways and covering the mainstage podium and Selection Square, Fletcher provided ESPN with a unique robo position hanging over the sign at the Redneck Riviera on Lower Broadway.
“That [Redneck Riviera position] is definitely the coolest spot this year and took a lot of effort. It’s one of several amazing robo positions we’ve got up and down Lower Broadway here and we’re really proud of them,” says Ed Andrzejewski, manager of Fletcher’s sports department. “The Draft is not your typical stick-and-ball event. Best-laid plans often completely change on-site. Something that a director blocked out and thought was going to look great can change last minute just because of the nature of this event. But we’re always ready to adjust at a moment’s notice.”
BSI Navigates RF Challenges of Downtown Nashville
BSI rolled out more than a dozen RF camera systems and microphones at the Draft. BSI also provided RF connectivity for both broadcasters’ SupraCam point-to-point aerial systems, which ran parallel to one another down Lower Broadway.
BSI supplied ESPN with eight camera systems — an RF SteadiCam, a MoVI buildup, two handhelds, and RF for the SupraCam system — while ABC had three handhelds at its disposal. BSI also provided eight BSI Blue Steel wireless microphones, as well as IFB intercoms for all the on-air talent and dozens of PLs for crew communications. NFL Media had two BSI SteadiCams, three handhelds, wireless Sony F55 4K camera for cinematic shots, and the SupraCam system, along with three Blue Steel wireless microphones, IFBs for talent, and PLs for the crew.
In order to cover the sprawling NFL Draft footprint — which included six city blocks along Lower Broadway, Schermerhorn Symphony Center (Selection Square), and the NFL Draft Experience at Nissan Stadium across the Cumberland River from the mainstage — BSI deployed myriad receive sits throughout the area.
“We’ve had to really cover this place with a lot of receive sites to be able to do it. So we have receive sites up at the top of Broadway, the middle of Broadway, down on the stage. We have three receive sites across the river to cover the fan fest area. They have one receive site in the Symphony Hall,” says BSI director of business development Clay Underwood. “We worked with ESPN to figure out the best possible overlapping coverage areas, so that all the cameras can basically move almost everywhere within the operational area, and sometimes even beyond. No matter where the cameras go, the microphones go, the talent goes, we can handle it.”
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