CFP National Championship 2022: ESPN, Game Creek Video Overcomes Cold Weather, Tight Timelines To Erect Mega-Compound
Trucks needed extra spacing at Lucas Oil Stadium, fiber-only connectivity in case of snow
Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game marks the first “cold weather” final in the CFP era.
In the eight-year history of the tournament, the champion has been crowned in such locales as New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, and Arizona. This year, in Indianapolis, with temperatures in the teens at night this week, there’s a different feel in the air.
Now, does any of this matter to the game? Of course not. The players will be warm and toasty inside covered Lucas Oil Stadium, but don’t tell that to the folks working in the production-truck compound just outside.
Frigid temperatures, the threat of snow, staffing travel delays, and a tight timeline are just a few of the major challenges that have faced the team at ESPN and its primary mobile-production-facilities provider, Game Creek Video at the 2022 edition of college football’s biggest event.
The compound in Indianapolis is 11 units deep, counting production, support, and office trailers. All mobile units anchoring video production, whether for the live game coverage on ESPN or for surrounding studio coverage on the ESPN family of networks — including SEC Network — are Game Creek vehicles.
The cold has been perhaps the most pressing issue since crews began arriving at Lucas Oil. Given the parking plan for CFP and the fact that there was an Indianapolis Colts home game on Jan. 2, the compound was unable to use any indoor space beneath the stadium and needed to be completely outside. CES Power has provided five mega watts of power for the compound with miles of cable and also brought in large heaters to battle the freezing temperatures.
Parking was unable to begin until the morning of Jan. 3, and the compound was not able to get power until Jan. 4 as the power generators’ fuel lines needed to be winterized. It then took engineers and drivers approximately five hours to get the trucks warm enough to begin powering up any of the video equipment inside.
“Between the initial delays with power and the closed practices and rehearsals, we had less than four days to pull together a show that is close in size to the Super Bowl,” says Game Creek Video Engineering Manager Brian Nupnau, who built out this project. “This is a testament to the talented and hardworking engineers and technicians that pulled this off in such a short time. They are the best at what they do, and it shows.”
Although it hasn’t snowed, the threat of snow has shaped the CFP production compound. To ensure a clear path for snow removal, trucks needed to be spaced out a bit more than usual, and the vast majority of interconnects had to be done with fiber only. According to Nupnau, that included the vast amount of networking, which comprised trunking together all truck intercoms, tying together all truck networks and the Calrec Hydra network, and tying together the signal-distribution grid that allows any truck to get any signal.
All in all, Game Creek has some of its top facilities onsite to support the event. Game Creek 79 A/B, Peacock A/B, and Edit 1, 3, and 4 are all supporting the main game telecast, as well as operations for various forms of ESPN’s MegaCast offerings. GC Maverick is home to College GameDay onsite studio coverage, which was broadcasting hits throughout the weekend, including its own show on Saturday morning and during Sunday NFL Countdown on Sunday morning. Game Creek Webby is anchoring studio coverage exclusive to the SEC Network.
“We have an excellent technical offering this year, and I think that’s hats off to this tech crew here,” says John LaChance, director, remote production operations, ESPN. “This is a marquee event that has the shortest setup window. With any type of travel or weather impact, you need to get a great plan and a great crew that’s going to put it together and offer an awesome lineup of gear, too.”
The compound came together quickly from major events from across the country. 79 A/B, Maverick, and Edit 4 all came straight to Indy from one of the CFP semifinals: the Orange Bowl in Miami on New Year’s Eve. Edit 3 was on semifinal duty at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on New Year’s Eve. Peacock A/B was at the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona on New Year’s Day.
The compound supports about 115 cameras deployed in and around the stadium for game, studio, and reporter coverage for tonight’s big game. Game Creek has also brought additional resources: 24 EVS servers, a pair of Calrec Apollo consoles, three Calrec Artemis consoles, and a Calrec Brio console.
In all, Game Creek’s presence in Indy is 22 engineers strong along with 14 drivers.