Bowl Week Coverage a Yeoman’s Effort for ESPN

It’s that time of the year when most companies across America wind down and enjoy the holiday season. The last vacation days are used up and e-mail traffic nosedives. Not for ESPN’s college football production team.

“The most wonderful time of the year” means one thing in Bristol: Capital One Bowl Week; thirty-three games in 24 days, including at least one game a day for 17 days during that stretch.

“It’s a lot of people making sacrifices over the holidays,” says Ed Placey senior coordinating producer for ESPN’s college football coverage. “It’s the road warrior mentality of these people and we appreciate their efforts.”

So many games during such a challenging time of the year may sound like a monumental task, but for ESPN’s college football teams, its nothing different from a typical fall Saturday.

“We’ve never had this many bowl games before,” says Placey, “but we’re fairly robust during the regular season since we started doing games on ESPNU and ESPN regionals. We have a lot more of those groups out at at least a [bowl] game.

“Sure, it can be quite a process of weaving the assignments and just getting people from place to place but we have a whole army of people ready to go.”

The numbers can be staggering as there are bowls held across five time zones in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Various mobile production units will be called into action across the country as fleets from Game Creek, Lyon Video, Mira Mobile, F&F Productions, and Dome Productions will all be on site and crewed by a lengthy list of ESPN freelancers.

Many of the smaller pre-Christmas and non-BCS bowl games receive a standard compliment of game cameras and resemble that of a typical regular season ESPN college football broadcast. The network will make exceptions, however, for marquee matchups such as tonight’s Las Vegas Bowl (8 p.m. ET) which pits Arizona State against Boise State.

“We kind of wait to see which games get good matchups and than we pull the final trigger when we see which teams actually get there,” says Placey.

That increased coverage can include a couple of extra camera positions as well as the use of SkyCam, which will deployed at 14 different bowl games.

“We’re using a little bit more robotic technology,” says Placey. “We also have the opportunity to put some game cameras in unique positions and on the goal line. That’s something we’ve been doing a lot more of this year and that’s something we’ll do more of with the bowls and the BCS games.”

ESPN will also broadcast six games in 3D, using it’s 5D approach – a unilateral 2D-3D production that deploys a single mobile unit. The method, which was already used in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl earlier this week and will again be used at the BCS Championship Game next month, uses 3D rigs to shoot the action while taking the left eye and feeding that to the truck as the standard HD feed.

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