Eagles Television Network Runs HD Option with Panasonic

By Carolyn Braff

The Philadelphia Eagles may have missed the playoffs in 2007, but Rob Alberino has ensured that the Eagles Television Network (ETN) will continue to lead the League in 2008. Alberino, vice president of broadcasting and executive producer for ETN, is transitioning all of the network’s content to HD, and with three brand new Panasonic 1080p camcorders in hand, ETN is bringing fans closer to the team than ever before.

“The appetite for the Eagles is huge,” Alberino says. “We have such an awesome fan base that has completely dedicated their lives to the Philadelphia Eagles that they deserve to see the absolute best programming. People are expecting HD.”

From the magazine-style Eagles Locker Room show to the highlight-based Eagles Football Frenzy, ETN produces six different shows that run on three local networks from September through January. The award-winning Eagles Kids Club is the only show that runs year-round, but all six will air solely in HD starting this fall.

“Beginning in August, we will be delivering all of our shows in HD, including our live events,” Alberino explains. In addition to the studio and highlight shows, ETN produces all four of the Eagles’ preseason games.

Alberino convinced Eagles ownership two years ago that 2008 would be the year to make the changeover to HD. The business plan was his creation, but Alberino enlisted every member of the production crew to help him choose the appropriate equipment to make the switch.

“My editors, my youngest guys, my senior guys, my producers all had input. We looked at everything from independent cameras to Sony cameras, and then we asked some of the gurus in our business,” he says. “We talked to different film operations, private production houses, networks, and not one person had anything but good things to say about Panasonic.”

A Panasonic representative gave Alberino a camera to test at the end of the 2007 season and the crew fell in love.

“We played with the camera in the last two weeks of the regular season and our guys went nuts,” Alberino says. “The image quality, the versatility opened a whole different thought process for us, which is really what we were looking for.”

ETN’s new production package includes three Panasonic AJ-HPX3000 one-piece camcorders, 20 32GB P2 cards, Canon HJ 22×7.6 HD lenses, W80 HD wide-angle adapters, and a one-pound AG-HSC1U AVCHD camcorder. Just two days after the equipment arrived in Philadelphia Alberino sent it to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl.

“That was our very first P2 project, and we were scared to death,” Alberino says. His crew spent eight days shooting players, fans and the beauty of Hawaii while getting a feel for the gear on the road.

Alberino purchased 20 P2 cards to ensure ample storage should cameramen not get the chance to log their footage after a day in the field. Alberino purchased 20 P2 cards to avoid the danger of storage shortages, should cameramen not get the chance to log his footage after a day in the field. Already, Alberino has had days when his cameras have gone in three different directions – sometimes across different oceans – and storage space has yet to be a problem.

One of the camera features Alberino and his crew have already dived into is the time-lapse function. As grounds crews were laying down the sod at Lincoln Financial Field, ETN cameramen shot three days worth of action and compressed it into 30 seconds of footage.

“We thought it was the neatest thing watching it on our computers,” Alberino laughs. “We were kind of like kids again. We’ve won a billion Emmys, but here we are with this camera just thrilled to have it on our shoulder. It’s like a new toy.”

In 12 seasons, ETN has been nominated for 106 Emmy Awards, taking home 32, along with 53 National Telly Awards, but that does not mean that Alberino ever takes a day off. In fact, the off-season is usually busier than football season itself, as the crew travels the globe collecting footage for use during the season. This particular off-season is more hectic than most, as Alberino has challenged ETN to transition to HD virtually overnight, requiring re-shoots of every frame of stock footage.

“We’re starting completely from scratch,” Alberino explains. “All of our elements have to be in HD, so it’s almost like ETN is starting again. Even just exteriors of the stadium and our complex, guys weight lifting weights, everything you could possibly imagine, we’re re-shooting. We’re that committed to making sure that the minimum amount of standard def footage goes into our shows.”

The exception to the rule, of course, is the historical flashbacks that feature in ETN shows. “But we’re trying to minimize that as best we can,” Alberino says. “We’re trying to only harken back to yesteryear when we’re actually harkening back to yesteryear.”

ETN currently shoots in 1080i DVCPRO HD, but plans to transition to AVC-Intra shooting later this year, which will move ETN as far away from yesteryear as possible.

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