Live From Super Bowl LIV: ESPN Expands South Beach Presence To Meet Programming Needs
Two studios each at Lummus Park and Radio Row handle pre- and post-game coverage
Broadcasting from South Beach is nothing new for ESPN, which has studios at the Clevelander on Ocean Drive. And, for Super Bowl LIV, the broadcaster has upped its presence across the city, with two studios in Lummus Park across the street from the Clevelander and two on Radio Row at the Miami Beach Convention Center. ESPN’s activities culminate at Hard Rock Stadium for the game itself with pre/postgame coverage.
Carlton Young, associate director, remote production operations, ESPN, says it has been a smooth ride this year because the company has worked in South Beach on previous big-time events.
“Permitting is always a process, but we are aware of how that moves,” he says. “You just have to be patient, meet all the deadlines, and then be prepared for the weather, people, and traffic. But we’re in good shape.”
The Lummus Park operations include two stages: a large one for ESPN domestic and a smaller one for ESPN International needs. Shows SportsCenter, Get Up, and PTI have all called the park home, and, on Sunday, it will be home to expanded pregame coverage until 2 p.m. when Fox Sports has the exclusive pregame rights.
Ten cameras are used across those stages, including two jibs and an RF Steadicam that can roam around South Beach. Up the street are two TVU pod locations in a hotel where talent can do quick hits without having to leave their hotel.
“We have two fiber transmit and two fiber return paths installed at the beach,” Young says. “We also have two IP encoders for backup transmission, and the LMG mobile unit that is onsite has a satellite dish. In the event we need to use that dish, we can book satellite space accordingly.”
Key technology providers at Lummus Park include Illumination Dynamics, which is providing power; LMG, which is providing the production truck; CP Communications, which is providing wireless audio and video systems; and NB Pro Sound, which provides the sets.
The Clevelander across the street has also been home to First Take and PTI near the pool on Ocean Drive as well as to the regularly hosted shows from the studio upstairs. The option of both an open-air festive format with fans and an enclosed traditional studio environment proved useful following the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
“The team at PTI wanted to be sensitive,” notes Young. “So they moved inside away from the pool-party atmosphere while Jorge Ramos moved his show to the pool.”
One new addition at The Clevelander is the presence of Mediapro’s 40-ft. 4K-capable Odyssey production unit. It typically works on the Canadian Premier League but made the trip down from Toronto to handle the additional production needs at the hotel.
Terry Dippolito, senior remote production operations manager, ESPN, says the truck has been great and that the production and operations team at the hotel have been amazing. “The shows are a success due to the teamwork,” she says.
According to Odyssey EIC Mitch Lapoint, the truck features a Grass Valley Kayenne production switcher, Sony HDC-4300 cameras, and EVS XT4 and XT3 replay servers. “I like to say it’s small but mighty. “It packs a lot of punch into a 40-ft. space.”
New this year is an expanded presence on Radio Row for shows like Golic and Wingo; First Take, Your Take; The Will Cain Show; and The Dan LeBatart Show. An Azzuro pop-up studio kit allows those shows and social-media hits to be done from two stages. In the past, Young says, ESPN typically took over a small corner of Radio Row, but now it has a bigger footprint.
Explains ESPN Operations Manager Mark Mignini, “We wanted to be bigger, so there are four cameras and a nicer set with lighting. Internal feedback has been really great, and we see that getting bigger and better every year.”
For Carlton and the operations and technical team of more than 200, today marks the end of much of the activity, with The Clevelander operations wrapping up. And, when they head to Hard Rock Hotel, they will have another new remote-production unit to call home: Game Creek Video’s Gridiron, a 53-ft. expando unit that is 4K- and HDR-capable.