NFL Network, NFL.com Make Perfect Production Combo at Scouting Combine
Less than two weeks removed from a major multifaceted production in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, NFL Network is back at Lucas Oil Stadium this week for its annual NFL Scouting Combine coverage. The Combine might be a lower-profile event, but you can’t tell from the massive complement of production elements that NFL Network has rolled for this one-of-a-kind show.
“This is unlike anything else we do — or anybody does, really — all year,” says Rod Conti, director of remote studio operations, NFL Network. “[The network] is expanding [its total coverage] of the Combine every year. Plus, it’s phenomenal how large the viewership has become on NFL.com. With that viewership expansion comes an expansion of the production scale.”
Conti and company have deployed a total of 34 cameras (NFL.com has another four dedicated cameras) to cover the 300-plus NFL prospects on hand in Indy. NFL Network will produce 50 total hours of live Combine coverage over the next six days.
The network essentially produces three shows at the Combine: the actual coverage of the player workouts (Saturday-Tuesday), daily press conferences (Thursday-Friday), and a live on-site version of Total Access (daily at 7 p.m. ET), the network’s signature studio show. In addition, NFL.com supplies full coverage of two groups per day throughout the four-day workout session, as well as a multitude of video clips from each day’s events.
The Network Side
Having used Corplex Iridium as its primary mobile unit in past years, NFL Network is deploying its sister truck Chromium this year, along with a full battalion of specialty camera systems.
Two Inertia Unlimited X-Mo high-speed camera systems (featuring Vision Research Phantom cameras) will be on the field — one in a hard configuration and one in a soft — to cover the start and finish lines during the 40-yard dash, as well as the vertical and broad jumps, three-cone, and position drills.
“Those [X-Mos] are definitely our money cameras,” says Conti, pointing out that they capture the smallest details in workouts where those small details are often the deciding factor.
Having not been taken down after the big game, the Cablecam system used by NBC at the Super Bowl is being featured in NFL Network’s Combine coverage in a traditional game-day setup.
All press conferences are Thursday and Friday are once again being shot exclusively with Robovision robotic cameras.
The .com Side
NFL.com’s ever expanding role at the Combine will be highlighted by NFL.com Live, which allows online viewers to choose between two feeds featuring players as they make their way through workouts and drills.
As was the case last year, NFL.com uses Reality Check’s Uppercut switching, data-parsing, and graphics-triggering system to produce both live feeds. The Uppercut system is also being deployed for the Robovision-driven press-conference coverage on Thursday and Friday.
Instead of rolling out an entire truck for the streaming show, NFL.com will run all four of its dedicated cameras (two for each feed) out of a flypack from VER. In the past, all four cameras terminated to the primary truck, but this year, the VER flypack will allow a single operator to shade all four cameras from outside the truck.
“We’re slowly separating NFL.com from our truck, and we are almost getting to the point where .com could need a full truck,” says Conti. “In the past, those cameras used to be handled by the Corplex truck, but, with the expansion of our show and their show, there is only so much you can cram into one truck.”
New to the NFL.com offering this year is the Combine Tracker, which provides unofficial 40-yard–dash times for each participant immediately after the athlete crosses the finish line. The Combine Tracker also provides a graphic of statistics from every drill, offering a central location for every player’s results from every drill.
“For our video feed, we have always had a graphic that illustrates their unofficial 40 times, but this will actually be part of a database that complements our video feed on the page,” says Coordinating Producer Drew Kaliski. “That way, the viewer can find this information without having to go back in the video feed.”
Back Again: Simulcam, QB Tracking
Simulcam and QB Tracking, both staples of the network’s Combine coverage, will once again be featured in both NFL Network and NFL.com coverage.
Deployed primarily for the 40-yard dash, Simulcam uses background recognition and camera-matching technology to overlay the image of one prospect’s dash on top of another. This provides the viewer with an in-depth visual comparison of the athletes competing (click here for video of Simulcam in action).
Meanwhile, QB Tracking records the distance thrown, ball velocity, and time it takes to go from the hand of the quarterback to that of the wide receiver.
NFL Network’s coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine kicks off with live coverage of all press conferences at 2:30 p.m. ET Feb. 23-24. NFL Network and NFL.com will begin their live coverage of workouts at 9 a.m. ET each day Feb. 25-28. Total Access airs each night at 7 p.m. ET live from Indianapolis Feb. 23-29.