Live From Super Bowl LIV: NFL Network At Home Efforts Make a Difference
The NFL Network this year is embracing the at home production concept with three control rooms at its headquarters in Culver City, CA and a control room at NFL Films in Mt. Laurel, NJ, tied in closely with the sets and Game Creek production trucks that are located across South Beach and Miami.
“The biggest difference this year compared to last year in Atlanta is that events here in Miami are much more spread out,” says Dave Shaw, NFL Media, VP of production. “Every Super Bowl is unique, and we want to show off every city and here you have to be at South Beach. But its far away from Hard Rock Stadium where the game will be played and also from Marlins Park where Opening Night was.”
Opening night kicked off the at home efforts as Game Creek Video’s Pride A and B units were at Marlins Park. But the main production team was back in Culver City, a step that helped the network realize some cost savings in terms of travel. The Pride units are now at the Stadium while Game Creek’s Nitro A, B, and Discovery units are located at the Convention Center and Game Creek’s Justice will be at NFL Honors on Saturday night.
“People like to be at the remote site, but they also understand the business and travel costs have really inflated, especially in Miami in February where things are top dollar even without the Super Bowl,” says Shaw.
The personnel in Los Angeles and Mt. Laurel, NJ are connected to a wide footprint of NFL Network facilities in Miami. The closest thing to a hub is NFL Network operations at the Miami Beach Convention Center where the NFL Experience, Radio Row, and other media events are held. The South Beach studio show set is located a block north of the Fox Sports sets on Ocean Drive, about a 25-minute walk from the Convention Center
Bjorn Estlund, NFL Media, senior manager, remote technical operations, says the South Beach set is connected over dark fiber to the Game Creek Video Nitro A and B and Discovery units at the Convention Center.
“We have DANTE transport and fiber back video feeds,” he says. “The biggest challenge is swinging coms and tally to the three control rooms and the control room in Films.”
There are 90 feeds being sent out to the team in Culver City and 50 feeds coming back from Culver City.
Shaw says the South Beach set location provides three directions to shoot from. “Good Morning Football” kicks things off in the morning with Muscle Beach as a backdrop and, thankfully, it’s plenty busy even early in the morning (that show is cut from the NFL Films control room so the team on the West Coast doesn’t have to roll into work at 1 a.m.
“We can also shoot north and south from the set to give a real flavor of Ocean Drive,” says Shaw. “The set is nestled among the palm trees, so we needed to get around those and Adam Acone [NFL Network, director, media operations] did a great job designing with Filmwerks who did a great job.”
Unlike the Fox Set, which was built on sand, the NFL Network set is on grass and that removed some of the concerns about things like wind blowing sand into the set and equipment.
“We also have a space in a hotel across the street that gives us a platform so we can have some unique looks as we are in the midst of everything and everyone on Ocean Drive,” adds Shaw.
The Network also has a set in the NFL Experience and on Radio Row.
“It’s great being among all the fans and the activity,” he says.
The Super Bowl caps off a season that Shaw says was a great one.
“With Thursday Night Football and our really good partnership with Fox Sports we were able to hit it out of the park with programming and viewership numbers that were up all year long,” says Shaw. “Watching the NFL ratings go up was really positive and then on the NFL Media side we’re excited about building a new facility [at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles].”
Helping in all those efforts is a team that Shaw says is strong from top to bottom.
“In all my years I don’t think I have experienced having such a great team, from the remote team that is dedicated to the freelance crews who are regulars and know how to get this stuff out,” he says. “And then there is a studio operations teams that is the best it has been and a great engineering team. They’re all superstars.”
And more than ever the digital and social teams are getting integrated with the rest of the production and operations team.
“It’s all a team effort and they are using the same facilities and infrastructure as the NFL wants to make sure users of all the platforms see our products.”