Here’s How Fox Sports Created a One-of-a-Kind Set for its Veterans Day Fox NFL Sunday Show in Annapolis
The onsite production showcased the United States Naval Academy
Each Veterans Day, Fox Sports ramps up its NFL coverage to pay tribute to those who have served our country. Fox NFL Sunday’s longstanding tradition of broadcasting from a military installation has included stops at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, West Point, Fort Benning, Naval Station Norfolk, Pearl Harbor, Afghanistan, and U.S. aircraft carriers. On Nov. 7, Fox took this tradition to a whole new level with a special two-hour Veterans Day–themed Fox NFL Sunday show live from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.
“These Veterans Day ‘Salute to the Troops’ events are by far our favorite at Fox and are a labor of love for execs, staff, and crew alike,” says Rod Conti, VP, studio remote operations, Fox Sports. “We all consider it an honor and privilege to participate and to be reminded that this event is ultimately for honoring the sacrifices that these service men and women make for our freedom. It is simply awe-inspiring. It’s a chance to stop and think about how truly fortunate we are to have such heroes to thank for that freedom.”
The Set: Iconic Bancroft Hall Provides Perfect Backdrop
Each year, once a military installation is selected for the special edition of Fox NFL Sunday, Conti and his team search for a location that evokes the history and emotion of that military entity in just one look. In Annapolis, Bancroft Hall was the obvious choice.
“First and foremost, we start with the military personnel,” says Conti. “This is why we do this and who we do it for. Each show starts with the best way to showcase their commitment and might, which sets our course for the overall look and feel of the show. We then look for a proper setting, one that best represents their military history. In Annapolis, Bancroft Hall provided that all.”
Fox worked with Filmwerks to create a 4,000-sq.-ft. Fox NFL Sunday presence that featured a 40- x 40-ft. set, 40- x 30-ft. demo area, and bleachers for the service members.
“In Annapolis,” Conti explains, “the approach was simple but different from others. The sheer beauty of Bancroft Hall made for a perfect setting. However, the difficult part was incorporating all of our pieces — such as the set, LED screens, bleachers, and demo field — into the space without taking away from the historical beauty of the hall. We needed a different approach.”
Having worked with scenic designer Michael “Spike” Parks and his design company MOOD on the Westminster Dog Show, Conti thought the faux stonework that Parks had created for a previous event would solve the unique issues in Annapolis. Fox worked with Parks and his team to create functional pieces of scenery as well as backdrop pieces, such as faux cannons, for the installation.
“The most difficult part was keeping the design subtle, as if they have always belonged there,” says Conti. “A great amount of detail, color matching, and textures had to be perfected to pull off the overall look and feel.”
The Gear: Techno Jib, Strada Crane, 4K Lenses Top High-Tech List
The set was outfitted with four Canon UJ27X6.5B UHD 27 4K studio lenses and Vinten Quattro-L 4 stage pedestals. The field camera complement comprised two RF Sony 2400 R cameras, one RF Steadicam, two jibs (one Techno 22 jib for the demo area, a 73-ft.-high Strada crane for high wide shots). Aerials were a key factor, with AVS providing a fixed-wing craft that helped showcase the United States Naval Academy and its harbor setting.
“Using the right cameras to show off the setting [was key],” says Conti. “Utilizing the Strada crane as well as the Canon UJ27X6.5B UHD 27 4K studio lens and the Vinten Quattro-L 4 stage pedestal to support [cameras] gave us a clean studio look for the desk shot.”
Fox rolled out Game Creek Video’s Justice single-truck mobile unit, which offered the versatility, from a size standpoint, to work within the space constraints at the Naval Academy.
Although the entire production was produced onsite, Fox did deploy its PARK (Production Anywhere Remote Kit) to support feeds from L.A., as well as a seven-channel inbound mux dedicated to highlight feeds and remote integration to site.
The Team: Remote Studio Staff Thrives on Busy Fall Season
Key personnel on the Annapolis project included the Fox Sports technical team led by Tech Supervisor Greg Pfeifer and new Technical Producers Michael Vaughan, Kory Scudder, and Dan James; Operations Director Rob Mikulicka; Remote Studio Operations Manager Amy Burns; and Production Manager Matt Fruitman. On the production side were Art Director Johnny Chou and the Fox graphics department; EVP, Production, Bill Richards; Director Stephanie Medina and Show Producer PT Navarro. Conti also calls out Parks and his team at Mood, who played a critical role in creating and executing the unique look in Annapolis.
The Veterans Day-themed show at the Naval Academy is the just the latest in a nearly constant stream of onsite studio shows produced by Fox Sports in recent months. In addition to creating onsite sets for Fox’s MLB Postseason coverage, the team also has managed its largest-ever Big Noon Kick Off college-football schedule and multiple large specialty productions like NFL Veterans Day.
“The studio remote team has never been busier than this season,” notes Conti. “In the wake of last year, which dramatically affected our fan-facing events due to the COVID pandemic, our workflow since the release of the vaccines this season has tripled in both size and scope.
“Simply put,” he continues, “everyone is excited to be back to some normalcy and to have so many events on the agenda. Our team has had all pistons firing in unison. [The packed schedule] has only increased our performance and helped to raise the bar on these remote events. For that, I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”