Trucks, Trailers, and Extra-Wide Sidelines: ESPN Settles in at Sun Life Stadium for BCS Championship
By James Fisher, SVG Correspondent
On New Year’s Day, an ESPN crew produced coverage of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. Tonight, after a quick cross-country trek, the same crew will wrap up the college football season at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, with the Discover BCS National Championship Game.
ESPN has six Game Creek Video trucks at the stadium. The 53-ft. Victory and its B graphics and support unit will be used for the 2D production, with additional support from the GCV B2. Both Victory trucks have been used all season for ESPN on ABC’s Saturday Night Football.
Another pair of 53-ft. trucks, Freedom and its B unit, were used throughout the season for ESPN College Football Primetime on Thursday nights. At Sun Life Stadium, they are being used for ESPNU and other network programming. The sixth truck, Larkspur, is the production truck for College GameDay, an assignment the 53-ft. truck has had all season.
“These Game Creek guys build great trucks,” says Derek Mobley, who will direct ESPN’s HD production.
For its 3D production, ESPN has brought in the NEP Broadcasting SS32, launched last year and developed specifically for the network’s 3D sports coverage. CAMERON PACE Group’s Shadow 15, parked next to SS32, is in place for 3D conversion of the broadcast.
Based in Hudson, NH, Game Creek maintains more than a dozen HD mobile units, along with supporting B, C, and D units. According to Game Creek VP of Engineering Paul Bonar, the company supplied almost all the equipment for the BCS Championship coverage. (Notable exceptions include the 3D cameras and some specialty audio equipment.) Game Creek has 10 engineers on-site to support ESPN’s extensive game coverage, and each truck has an engineer-in-charge who travels with the truck almost exclusively.
“We assign engineering staff to specific trucks because we want them to take ownership,” Bonar explains. “They are our first line of defense and our first line of communication with our clients.”
ESPN also has three office trailers and its own power — a quad generator — on-site. It’s all about redundancy: according to ESPN VP of Event Operations Bob Braunlich, if you have no power or transmission, you have no show. That is why ESPN’s fiber uplink is backed up with a satellite-uplink truck. Plus, the quad generator that powers all the trucks has built-in redundancy and is backed up by the stadium’s house power.
“We always leave time for planning for the unexpected,” notes John La Chance, ESPN associate director of remote production operations.
The complex also features a 5.1-surround audio room, a soundproofed trailer where executives and invited guests can watch the game live — and experience full 5.1 surround sound.
Braunlich says Sun Life Stadium is a user-friendly venue, with a short run from the trucks to the end zone that simplifies some cable runs. The playing field also has very wide sidelines, a byproduct of its years doubling as a baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins. The College GameDay set fits comfortably in the northwest corner, unlike at the Rose Bowl, where very tight sidelines necessitated a custom College GameDay set.