ESPN MNF Adds Marker Cam, Line-to-Gain Pylons; Jimmy Platt Takes Over Director Chair

ESPN’s Monday Night Football heads into the 2019 NFL season with a new graphics look, a new director, and some new sideline-camera technology that promises to bring viewers a little closer to the action, courtesy of being located in the first-down marker as well as line-to-gain pylons.

ESPN’s MNF will have a new graphics look this year.

Steve Carter, senior operations manager, ESPN, is looking forward to the season.

“We’ve got some technology changes and a new director, which means some different people,” he explains, “but it has been a great preseason. Everybody is pumped up as it’s the 50th season of MNF and the 100th season for the NFL, so there are a lot of things that are intertwined.”

The season gets off to a fast start with a double-header on Monday with an early game in New Orleans and a late game in Oakland. Because the game in Oakland also has to work around an Oakland Athletics home series over the weekend, the production truck will be parked in the Golden State Warriors parking lot and have cables run to the stadium.

As for the new cameras, the Marker Cam system has a new wrinkle compared with previous versions: it uses the C360 camera, which allows the operator to pan, scan, zoom, and extract video from within the camera’s wide field of view. The operator will be located in the NEP EN1 production truck and will have a dedicated replay server so the production team can find the most appropriate portion of the video to extract. In college-football coverage, it was used last weekend in the Miami-Florida game.

“We’ve previously used the C360 cameras on goal posts to look into the two corners of the end zone,” says Carter.

The Marker Cam will be complemented by the line-to-gain pylons, version 2.0, which feature cameras from 3G Wireless (the end-zone pylon cameras are provided by BSI).

“The line-to-gain pylon is a little bigger than the standard pylon,” says Carter, “and they are wireless.”

Also new is the move to Dante networking for the booth kit. Carter says Dante will help streamline operations, reduce the footprint, and improve functionality. Another bit of streamlining is the use of a Simply Live Ref box for rules announcer John Parry. It can record eight channels and allow eight cameras to be reviewed at once.

The new graphics for MNF are part of a larger effort to unify the look of all NFL programming, including Sunday NFL Countdown and NFL Live. This is the first time the entire lineup has a unified look, although each show will have distinct elements. ESPN worked closely with design houses Man vs. Machine and Big Block.

“Simply put,” says Mike “Spike” Szykowny, senior director, motion graphics, ESPN, “we wanted to create an NFL graphics package that would change the design landscape and highlight the intensity and passion found only in football.”

Jimmy Platt will take over the directing reins, having directed football since he joined ESPN full-time in 2010. The past five years, he has directed ESPN and ABC college football games, including at least one New Year’s Six bowl game annually. His ESPN director résumé features an array of marquee sports and events: 10 years of college basketball games, the past two NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Fours, Major League Baseball games since 2013, four NCAA Lacrosse National Championships, and four College Football Awards telecasts.

Super-slo-mo Sony HDC-4300 cameras will play a big part: four recording at 240 fps and two recording at 360 fps. The NFL also gave MNF permission to show postgame comments from the coach to the team in the locker room. The MNF crew will work closely with the teams to ensure that personnel from the team have a chance to clear that content.

“We’re really looking forward to the season,” he says, referring to the team that includes about 225 working on the game and 75 working on NFL Countdown. “It’s such a good group of people that are good at what they do. There are challenges, but they just get things done. There’s nothing they can’t do.”