ESPN Takes HD Football to New Level

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ESPN’s Monday Night Football officially makes the jump from football game to three-ring circus this Friday night in Philadelphia. (Yes, it’s a Monday game on Friday.) The game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers will be the first time ESPN will roll out its entire complement of 8 HD production trucks to deliver a slew of programming from the site of the game. That caravan will march across the country week after week for the next five months.

“It’s the Super Bowl every week,” says Rick Abbott, ESPN vice president, remote operations of the production that will require nearly 400 people, triple the amount for previous MNF telecasts.

Pardon the Interruption, Primetime, and MNF Countdown will all originate from the site of the game. In addition reports from the stadium will be filed to SportsCenter during the day.

The centerpiece of the operation is a 53-foot truck from NEP Supershooters known as SS25 and SS25A. More than 45 camera feeds will be pumped through the NEP trucks (an NMT side-by-side unit is also on hand) with 29 used for the game coverage and an additional 16 or so used for all of the pre-game coverage. Each telecast will also have two stage locations: one outside the stadium for Primetime and one inside the stadium for Countdown.

Abbott says among the unique features is a large area for instant replays with 14 fully interconnected EVS servers letting up to 14 users grab any highlight they need.

HD game cameras include a Skycam, four Grass Valley LDK 6200 super slow-motion systems, and Grass Valley LDK 6000 cameras. ESPN will also experiment with Fletcher Chicago’s UltraMo HD slow-motion system on August 28 in Cincinnati.

Abbott says the cooperation of ESPN NFL senior coordinating producer Jay Rothman and director Chip Dean has been crucial. “It doesn’t work without their interaction,” he says. “Sometimes the operations side can feel they’re working for the production side. But not here: it’s a true team.”

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