Big 12, ACC Title Games Headline ESPN’s Jam-Packed Championship Weekend

Remote-operations team is set for a busy weekend before embarking on bowl season

Simply put, no one produces more college football than ESPN. So, although crowning six conference champions in 24 hours may seem a tall task, the network’s college-football remote-operations team is more than up to the challenge this weekend.

Having covered nearly 500 college football games (400 telecasts, 75 live streams) this season, ESPN will wrap up the regular season with championship games for six conferences —American Athletic, ACC, Big 12, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt — on ABC and ESPN. And Sunday is Selection Day, when the final College Football Playoff rankings and the New Year’s Six bowl matchups will be revealed.

“Our group is used to high volume, so [the number of games] this weekend is not a problem,” says John LaChance, director, remote production operations, ESPN. “But the stakes of the games are so much higher this week. We want to be extra ready and leave no stone unturned. Whether it’s advanced planning or the technical equipment onsite, we want things to go as flawlessly as possible.”

Championship Weekend: Big 12’s Debut, ACC Back for More
The ACC Championship at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, and Big 12 Championship — in its first year on ESPN — at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, will headline the network’s slate of conference championships this weekend.

Game Creek will provide production facilities for both games, with Spirit on hand for the Big 12 title game and 79 handling the ACC finale.

In Charlotte, the ACC game will feature more than 30 cameras on the field, plus four Admiral Video PylonCam systems (totaling 16 miniature cameras). The complement will include five Sony HDC-4300’s (three running at high speed), an RF handheld, a SkyCam system, four Vicareo RefCams, and two RF line-to-gain PylonCams on the first-down markers, which have become a fixture this season on ESPN’s A-game telecasts.

At AT&T Stadium, ESPN will roll out 26 cameras, including a pair of Sony HDC-4300 high-speed cameras (one hard, one handheld), a SkyCam system, two Vicareo RefCams, and four PylonCam systems.

“You’ve got a couple great matchups on the field and want to make sure that we are delivering a compelling telecast for the fans at home,” says LaChance. “I think the lineup, technically speaking, will give provide fans with great coverage”

The Postseason Awaits: 65 Telecasts on the Docket
Of course, this weekend is just the beginning of a long haul for the college-football ops team, which is putting the finishing touches on ESPN/ABC’s comprehensive postseason coverage plan for 65 total telecasts, including 35 bowl games and the CFP National Championship over 17 days. In addition, ESPN will produce 23 FCS Playoff games, three Division II Championships, and three Division III Championships.

“You never want to rest on what you’ve done in the past, so, each year, we attack [the postseason] with a fresh mindset,” says LaChance. “We make sure that everything is coordinated as methodically as possible and that we’re giving the tools to our ops teams in the field to be ready to execute all these December games.”

2018 Highlights: RefCams, Line-to-Gain Cams, Ops Team
With the regular season nearly over, LaChance and his team have time to reflect on a successful 2018 campaign. He cites increased use of Vicareo RefCams (now on multiple games per week) and the line-to-gain PylonCams (now standard on A games) as technological high points and heaps praise on his operations teams for staying centered amid the chaos of 30-plus college-football productions per week.

“Every year, we’re always trying to bring fans closer to the action, and being able to [deploy] those new systems without technical issues has been terrific,” says LaChance. “We are also blessed to have a great team in Bristol and a great remote-operations teams in the field. They are the ones responsible for making sure those things get executed. I’m very proud of our team.”

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