NFL Playoffs 2022: ESPN Prepares To Make Monday Night History on NFL’s Super Wild Card Weekend
MNF crew adds extra resources for isolation shots of star players like Rams’ Aaron Donald
The Los Angeles Rams are the only team in the NFL that make Monday Night Football director Jimmy Platt uncomfortable. So, as ESPN looks to make history with the first Monday-night playoff game in the history of the NFL, it’s somewhat morbidly fitting that L.A.’s SoFi Stadium is the destination for a Wild Card matchup between those Rams and the Arizona Cardinals (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN App).
For the director of live football coverage, pace of play is a huge factor in establishing a rhythm for calling camera shots throughout the broadcast. The Rams and their eccentric head coach Sean McVey pose a rather significant disruption in that process.
“[The Rams] mix tempo well and do a lot of interesting things,” says Platt, who is wrapping his third season at the front bench of the iconic sports-TV franchise. “Sometimes, when they break the huddle, they sprint to the line and snap it; [other times,] they’ll sprint to the line and check into another play. With them, you have to be really diligent when you are doing replays, how many replays you are doing, and trying to get out of those replays and not miss a snap. The Rams make me very uncomfortable.
“Any game that I’ve ever done with them, they’ve had that mixed-tempo feel,” he continues. “We’ve talked about it as a production team, and we know we just have to be smart and do a little bit less. If we get one less look [at a replay] but we’re out of it by the time they break the huddle, that’s a win and where we should be.”
Expanding Resources for Isos
ESPN has rolled out NEP’s EN1 (A, B, C, D, and E units) in the truck compound and is adding some extra resources for this production on top of the already robust plan it rolls out on a week-to-week basis. There will be 41 cameras on this show in L.A., plus an additional 16 lenses inside a total of 10 PylonCams, positioned at each corner of both end zones and at the line-to-gain point along the near sideline.
The added resources are implemented for an emphasis on isolation coverage. That means more cameras, connectivity, and staffing (eight more people traveling to site) to ensure better lock-off shots of star players like Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald. According to Platt, the production team spent significant time discussing Donald — arguably the best defensive player in the league — on a call laying out the plan for iso shots. Platt is hopeful that the added resources allow the team to provide a more comprehensive look at the impact a player of Donald’s caliber has on the game.
On top of that, ESPN is also adding locked-off Sony 4800’s pointing directly down each goal line for a clear view of any tight scoring play in a high-stakes postseason game.
The crew is also bringing back its on-the-field RF shallow–depth-of-field camera (a Sony FX-9 on an ARRI Trinity camera-stabilization system) as well as a Fujinon SK 20×35 full-sensor Cinema Box lens on a full-sensor Sony HDC-4800 positioned at the higher post of a dual sideline-cart camera. That camera is used to acquire a shallow–depth-of-field effect on shots from a different angle than on the field and is typically fixed on the quarterback. The MNF crew used this camera/lens combo four other times this season.
Milestone Moment in MNF History
It’s difficult to ignore the historical significance of this night. This isn’t the first time ESPN has carried an NFL playoff game (that was in 2015), but, for Monday Night Football, one of the great series in television history, to cap a weekend of the NFL postseason for the first time in its 52-year history is a noteworthy event.
That fact is not lost on Platt, who is just the sixth director in the history of the franchise.
“It’s special,” he says. “Every night when I go to work on a Monday Night, I feel that it’s special to be in the position that I’m in. To see such a great program evolve and take the next step in doing a playoff game makes it even more special. I’m humbled by it, and it’s remarkable to think that we are a part of such a great legacy.”
Stay tuned to sportsvideo.org for more of SVG’s NFL Playoffs 2022 coverage in the coming days.