Pylon Cam Continues ESPN’s Monday Night Football Evolution

In its preseason Monday Night Football telecast last night (Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns), ESPN continued its testing of Pylon Cam, a custom-molded goal line pylon that houses multiple cameras in order to bring viewers brand new perspectives around the goal line during the game. ESPN, in consultation with the NFL, has been in continued development of Pylon Cam since it first debuted during the College Football Playoff Championship in January.

Jed Drake (right) and crew with pylon camera during a preseason NFL game. (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

Left to Right: Marc Rowley (ESPN), Nate Lowe (BSI), Gil Pascal (BSI) and Jed Drake (ESPN) with pylon camera during a preseason NFL game. (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images) (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

Since that time, development has focused primarily on added safety enhancements and improved picture quality.

In consultation with the NFL, ESPN production, technology and operations personnel have conducted testing at the company’s Innovation Lab at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, FL.

“Our heritage has always been to try and bring fans close to the game and deliver views that enhance their experience,” says Marc Rowley, director of production enhancements, ESPN. “Still, safety has to be the first priority on a project like this and we approached it with the belief we could develop a very safe pylon housing that could deliver high-quality video to give our production teams new ways to bring fans close to the action.”

The system tested at last night’s Monday Night Football telecast is significantly evolved since the first iteration used in January. It has advanced from eight two-camera pylons, with lower quality wireless cameras, to four four-camera pylons (one on each side of the field at both goal lines) featuring higher quality cameras, custom-made in-ground wiring with easy break-away connections into the custom-molded pylon, which itself is designed to compress (like a crumple zone) on any impact.

In developing the system, ESPN has also collaborated with leading micro-camera company BSI and leading pylon manufacturer Gilman Gear.

ESPN will continue testing at the August 24 Monday Night Football preseason telecast (Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers).  Depending on the results and feedback from the NFL, Pylon Cam may be used during the Monday Night Football regular season, which kicks off with a Sept. 14doubleheader – Philadelphia vs. Atlanta Falcons (6:55 p.m.) and Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers (10:20 p.m.)

ESPN may also look to utilize Pylon cam in some college football telecasts this season.

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