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Monday Night Football: Behind the ScenesThe trucks, the crew, the drama of the largest prime time sports broadcast in the world
On a cold November night on the frozen tundra of northern Wisconsin, a team of nearly 200 of the worlds best video warriors staked out their turf, planting 25 HDTV cameras in a myriad of locations around the legendary Lambeau Field. It was time for Monday Night Football, with its convoy of trucks containing only the best technicians, artists, creative types, leaders and technology, all poised to bring their unique interpretation of NFL football into millions of living rooms across America. Are you ready for some football? It was a Super Bowl-sized extravaganza, and Digital Media Net was there. Heres our exclusive insider report.
The sheer magnitude of this weekly television broadcast is nothing short of astonishing. Seen by more than 300 million unique television viewers since its inception 35 years ago, Monday Night Football is considered the most successful prime time sports television broadcast in history. Given the programs importance and extensive technical requirements, there is an enormous crew to accomplish all the tasks required of such a broadcast. ?There are almost 200 people working on the show, said ABC Technical Supervisor Stu Strelzer. ?Its almost a Super Bowl every single week. The broadcast requires a fleet of at least seven trucks, including whats called the ?A unit, containing the main control room, digital and tape playback/recorders and an audio control room. The ?B unit houses robotics, more digital and tape devices, and audio submix facilities, and then theres an edit unit, an expandable truck that serves as a mobile edit suite as well as taking care of all the graphics requirements for the broadcast.
There are also two horse trailers (see graphic above), one of which houses the wireless communications for the show. The other horse trailer houses Sportsmedia's first down marker, the yellow line thats become a staple of broadcast football games. And then theres a trailer containing a lounge area for visiting dignitaries, where they can relax while watching an HD feed of the festivities. Finally, theres a satellite uplink truck, backhauling all the high definition data to ABCs network headquarters in New York. But all those trucks arent even enough for all the demanding requirements of this highly refined broadcast. Added Strelzer, ?Our biggest problem is that we only have so much real estate and we have to put a lot of stuff within that real estate. Plus, we usually have at least one or two house trailers that we get locally that become our offices and our catering and everything else. Basically we create a little city.
|A Chapman crane can elevate this camera to a height of 19 feet. It moves up and down the sidelines according to where the ball is located.|
|The production uses 19 Thomson LDK WorldCams with Canon lenses|
Its a city that is watched over by dozens of high definition television cameras. In this Monday Night Football production of the game between the Green Bay Packers and the St. Louis Rams, 25 cameras were used, where 19 of those were Thompson LDK 6000 mk II WorldCams, operating in 720p HDTV. The camera units themselves were surprisingly tiny, about the size of a typical ENG camera. After all, the camera functions as an HD imaging device whose electronics arent particularly large. The biggest item hanging on all the cameras were the huge Canon lenses, with most being either 86x9.3 or 75x9.3 and a few even 100x9.3. Most of these telephoto lenses can easily get a shot of the moon that looks like it came from the Hubble Space Telescope, or effortlessly zoom into a head-and-shoulders shot of Brett Favres wife in a skybox a hundred yards away. Also added to the compliment of cameras was a compact Panasonic AK-HC900 720p HD camera mounted on a SkyCam system (which will be described in greater detail later in this article), remotely-operated cameras on each of the two goalposts, cameras on the play clock and the game clock, a camera in the announce booth and one in a blimp high above the stadium. Cameras were positioned on tripods all over the stadium as well as on cranes, on Steadicam stabilization mounts, and handheld.
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