National Lacrosse League’s First Outdoor Game Is Its ‘Largest Production’ Ever
‘Stadium Showdown’ brings box lacrosse to San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium
The National Lacrosse League (NLL) will make history this weekend hosting the “Stadium Showdown” (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT, ESPN+), the first outdoor game for the professional box lacrosse league. At Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, the hometown Seals host the Las Vegas Desert Dogs in an event that the league is describing as its “largest production” ever.
The league, which typically produces its live game broadcasts via a centralized REMI workflow, is going big onsite with two production trucks, 13 cameras, microphones on selected players and coaches, and a crew of more than 60 personnel.
“We were extremely committed to making sure that this was a broadcast that was commensurate with the historic proportions of doing an outside game,” says Joel Feld, EVP, broadcast and content, National Lacrosse League. “It’s also a way for the league to showcase the game in a way that it hasn’t been showcased before. We’ll get to test how some of this additional equipment — which, frankly, is commonplace in other [sports] — can cover the game in a way that no NLL game has been covered before.”
In the beefed-up camera arsenal is a Spidercam, as well as the league’s take on the shallow–depth-of-field gimbal.
The Spidercam on this show marks the first time in NLL history that a cabled aerial camera will be used on a live game broadcast. It required a special rigging plan because the playing surface runs the length of the stadium’s end zone: the four points of the Spidercam are limited to one quadrant of the stadium, as opposed to spanning the venue’s entirety as would typical with a cabled aerial camera system.
Feld expects the Spidercam shots to really pop and contribute to the elevated look of the broadcast.
“The game moves really fast up and down the floor,” Feld explains. “Unlike soccer or even football, it’s going to be, I think, a very interesting experiment for our director to get used to and figure out how to make the camera work within the context of the broadcast itself. From a live perspective and from a replay perspective, I do think it’s a game-changer and is going to be a very interesting way of being able to see the game.”
The NLL is partnering with Ross Production Services to handle operations, crewing, and logistics. The “traditional” onsite show is a significant departure for a league that typically produces its entire regular-season schedule via a league-run REMI workflow.
A regular-season game features four or five cameras. Even the TSN Game of the Week, an elevated weekly production, deploys about eight.
Ed Derse, consultant, broadcast operations and technology, NLL, points out that some elements of the league’s live production workflow will still be deployed: such as the use of IP for transmission to selected partners via BitFire as well as the league’s cloud-native live scorebug.
Stadium Showdown, though, with its added resources onsite, will certainly present a different final product.
“I think we’ll have the ability to do a better job at portraying the physicality of the game,” says Derse. “Our game moves so fast, and we don’t always have the ability to show a lot of the physical contact; a lot of that gets missed. I think that some of these additional camera angles are going to be able to convey how big, strong, and fast these guys are.”
Onsite in San Diego from to produce the game are Ross Productions producer Todd Jones; director Brett Lancaster; Director, Special Projects Em Donald; and Director, Business Development, John Vassallo.
The live-broadcast side is also working closely with the San Diego Seals on this project, including President Paul Speaker; President, Lacrosse Operations, Steve Govett, and Director, Game Presentation, Mike Grace. Additionally, Toriana Johnson, event manager, Snapdragon Stadium, and venue parent Oak View Group provided key contributions.
Production setup will be a bit compressed because Snapdragon Stadium is hosting a pair of field lacrosse games on Friday. That means that the box lacrosse structure can’t be erected and final broadcast plans can’t be set until very early Saturday morning.
Stadium Showdown is an event many years in the making for the NLL. In fact, the league had an event in San Diego called the “Rumble on the Runway,” which was set to take place at the MCAS Miramar base (where the movie Top Gun was filmed). Planned for February 2020, the event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stadium Showdown can be seen live on ESPN+, TSN+, KSWB-TV San Diego, KVMY Las Vegas, and same-day rebroadcast on ESPNU at 11 p.m. ET.