Live From 2022 NFL Draft: ESPN Goes All-In on Three-Day Party in Las Vegas
The broadcaster’s main stage is in the shadow of the High Roller Ferris wheel
Every day, ordinary people become instant winners in Las Vegas. Starting tonight, NFL franchises will roll the dice, and some of the best collegiate football players will win the jackpot at the 2022 NFL Draft. ESPN will provide 15 hours of linear and digital coverage of the league’s annual spectacle and, in tandem with ABC for the fourth consecutive year, is doing the production in a big way.
MORE FROM THE 2022 NFL DRAFT
- NFL Media Stitches Together City-Wide Canvas With Powerful Connectivity, Broadcast Tech
- Van Wagner Looks to Bring Vegas Style to On-Site Show on the Strip
- Bleacher Report Streams Live From Newly-Design Set at New York City Headquarters
- NEP Is Out in Force With U.S. Mobile Units, AVS, Bexel, BSI, Fletcher
- Game Creek Video To Support NFL Network’s Studio, Flashy Red-Carpet Programming
- Wrangling Audio Challenges Live on the Air and on the Strip
Production Essentials: Aerial Drone, Two-Point Supracam, 75-Ft. Technocrane, 70 Cameras
Making the production as large as possible, ESPN will handle as many as 70 total camera feeds. Like NFL Network, the broadcaster will take to the skies in two ways: a drone flying above the shops of Caesars Forum and a helicopter. In addition, a two-point Supracam system running from near the base of the High Roller Ferris wheel to the main Draft stage will offer up another point of view. Closer to the ground, at the Bellagio Fountains, a 75-ft. Technocrane will provide sweeping views of the floating Red Carpet stage and the surrounding waters.
Fans watching from home will be treated to AR enhanced graphics driven by the network’s internal production team and produced with four jibs, the drone, and the helicopter through optical tracking. As for regular cameras, a mix of Sony HDC-2500’s, HDC-3500’s, and HDC-4300’s; an RF MōVI; and a Steadicam will be deployed.
The tech plan has been in the works since before the pandemic, but it was solidified with site surveys at the beginning of 2022. “We were out here at the end of January and early February for the Pro Bowl so we stayed an extra day,” says Steve Carter, senior operations manager, ESPN. “We did two more trips in March. The crew that’s working [this event] has been doing it for so long that everyone knows what to expect.”
The team chemistry is particularly useful for the NFL Draft, a show that evolves every year with a different location and variables. To improve year after year, the broadcast requires both production and operations teams to get creative with coverage. Ever since the first production with ABC at the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, producing the show has become a more difficult task.
“The ABC element adds a layer of complexity since we’re sharing audio and video sources,” says Carter, “but we’ve designed [our system] to have all of our sets be homogenous. This year, the toughest thing to overcome is how spread out our footprint is.”
That problem is solved with 240 strands of fiber. NFL Media is using the same pipeline for its coverage, but ESPN will have 54 dedicated strands: 36 for the main theater, 18 at the Bellagio and Caesars Palace.
Compound Workflows: NEP Trucks Drive Main Production, Studio Shows
With the wealth of technology covering activity near the Bellagio Fountains and Caesars Palace and the main Draft theater, Carter and his team will be working from the television compound. This group of the more than 425 credentialed personnel will be within a handful of NEP trucks: EN1 A, B, C, D, E units for the main production and Supershooter 5 and ST5 for College GameDay.
NEP subdivisions are supporting this show in many different ways. Fletcher is supplying two Sony HDC-P50 robotic cameras with 40X lenses and two Sony HDC- P50 robos with wide-angle (WA) lenses on the main stage, two Sony HDC-P50 robos with WA lenses at the Draft Theater and three Sony HDC-P50 robos with WA lenses in the green room. Bexel is providing an ESU distribution flypack, fiber transport/prompters, main fiber transport and fiber cable, and GFX systems. And BSI is managing 15 RF feeds, two video return paths, and three Blue Steel microphones.
On the programming side, ESPN will flood Sin City with its top-tier lineup of NFL personalities. Two sets will be located at the Draft theater: the main ESPN desk beneath the roof and the College GameDay/ABC telecast set near the High Roller. Mike Greenberg, Booger McFarland, and Louis Riddick will be working from the Draft theater set, joined by Mel Kiper Jr. from home via the broadcaster’s at-home workflow and a satellite-uplink truck. Farther from the High Roller, the ABC telecast will be led by Rece Davis, Desmond Howard, Jesse Palmer, and Todd McShay at the desk, with Sam Ponder and Robert Griffin III joining from the Beer Park setup at the Paris hotel. Each telecast will have two distinct themes during the first two nights: ABC highlighting each player’s backstory, ESPN focused on each draftee’s play on the field. For Saturday’s portion of the Draft, ESPN will shift to Beer Park, and a simulcast will be offered on ABC. Prior to each day’s linear coverage, College GameDay will take over the set at the High Roller and feature Davis, Howard, Palmer, Ponder, and David Pollack.
Like College GameDay, other studio shows are calling Las Vegas home this week. NFL Live — ESPN’s premier NFL show with host Laura Rutledge and analysts Ryan Clark, Mina Kimes, Dan Orlovsky, and Marcus Spears — will air live from Beer Park. ESPN Radio with Shae Peppler Cornette, Mike Tannenbaum, Ian Fitzsimmons, Bart Scott (Thursday and Friday), and Jordan Reid (Saturday) will air from Caesars Forum. For digital-centric fans, social-media shows will be produced from ESPN’s Las Vegas studios at The LINQ. On-air talent Kimes, Harry Douglas, Domonique Foxworth, Jason Fitz, Spencer Hall, Field Yates. Mike Clay, Daniel Dopp, Skubie Mageza, and Phil Murphy will drive these live streams on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the ESPN App. First Take with Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim will also host shows at The LINQ. The Paul Finebaum Show will have an onsite presence on SEC Network and ESPN Radio. ESPN Deportes’ Eduardo Varela, Pablo Viruega, Sebastián Martinez–Christensen, and Miguel Pasquel will broadcast from Bristol, CT, with Rebeca Landa and Carlos Nava reporting from Las Vegas.
Carter is joined on the NFL Draft production by Senior Remote Operations Specialists Jack Coffey, Joe Rainey, and Terry Cook; Senior Remote Operations Producer Dustin Epstein; Senior Remote Operations Coordinator Kelsey Hahn; Remote Operations Specialist Kevin Cleary; and Remote Operations Coordinator Samantha Majewski. On the College GameDay side, the onsite shows are handled by Remote Operations Manager Mark Mignini; Senior Remote Operations Specialist Lu Fisher; Remote Operations Producers Danny Reifert and Dean Ellington; and Remote Operations Coordinators Leah Morgenstern and Jason Dorsey.
Three-Year Wait: First ‘Normal’ Draft Since 2019
The sports-video–production industry has been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic: production operations have been changed; new techniques, implemented. A lot of things have stayed the same, though. Most notably, the NFL Draft is still a time to have fun and ponder the future of the league’s new additions. And, following the 2020 fully virtual edition and the 2021 version driven by health and safety protocols, the broadcaster is more than prepared to host a three-day party in the desert.
“If you want to do it big,” says Carter, “Las Vegas is the perfect place to do it.”