Live From 2022 NFL Draft: Van Wagner Looks To Bring Vegas Style to Onsite Show on the Strip
The emphasis is on entertainment in a return to in-person production
After a fully virtual production in 2020 and a hybrid production last year, Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment (VWSE) Productions is back at the NFL Draft in full force this week in Las Vegas. While VWSE is continuing to support feed coming in remotely from draftees’ homes and NFL team facilities, its presence onsite has returned to pre-pandemic levels to serve the hordes of fans on hand at the Las Vegas Strip.
“Onsite, we’re pretty much back to full bore pre COVID from a fan-experience perspective,” says Nate McCoart, director, technical operations, VWSE Productions. “We expect the site to be pretty packed over the couple days, and we’re looking forward to entertaining the fans.”
McCoart says the team onsite is slightly larger than at last year’s Draft in Cleveland and similar to pre-pandemic levels with 150-175 crew members in Vegas. VWSE’s main compound just behind the Draft’s main stage serves all facets of the show: NEP Denali Summit handling its main-stage theater production, Denali California the Red Carpet stage production. Bexel is on hand to manage fiber and signal transport across the show — from the compound to the Bellagio Fountain to the Red Carpet. VWSE also has office space in the Forum for its creative team and is once again working with Thumbwar on all its postproduction workflows and storage infrastructure.
“We have an edit team onsite and a whole slew more working remotely across the country on the postproduction side,” says McCoart. “It’s pretty amazing to see how that side of things has evolved over the past few years.”
Ross Video is on hand, providing XPression and Tessera graphics systems for VWSE’s main-stage canvases on both the main stage and Red Carpet. VWSE is also deploying a large XPression kit, several Carbonite Mosaic LED video processors, and multipole Ultrix routers to manage the swath of LED video-boards scattered throughout the Strip.
VWSE VP, Productions, Brian Scott and Creative Director Aaron Fletcher are overseeing Van Wagner’s monumental content-creation operation.
“Their team have [made] these screens and technology shine,” says Bob Becker, EVP, productions, VWSE Productions. “They are just blackboards and computers without the stuff these guys do.”
On the remote side, VWSE has worked with NFL Media to bring in live feeds from all 32 NFL teams’ facilities as well as the homes of 21 Draft prospects.
“There was a major advancement made on the virtual side of things last year in Cleveland and, of course, in 2020,” says McCoart. We’ve adapted that virtual plan with NFL Media this year and continue to enhance that part of the show.”
This year, NFL Media is sending a camera crew to each prospect’s home rather than sending a kit for the prospect to assemble onsite. As in the past, all transmission and distribution of these feeds will run on TVU IP systems.
“We’re continuing the learnings of the last couple of years in the remote world, mixed with a bit of a return to normalcy with folks being comfortable with having camera [operators] in their homes,” says McCoart. “That provides a a little bit more control to that world and is a bit of fresh air in terms of operational coordination.”
ESPN’s Bristol, CT, facility and NFL Media’s HQ in Inglewood, CA, will be able to bring in these TVU feeds directly for studio productions — a major advantage in that these feeds don’t occupy valuable transmission lines between the two sites.
“It has been really exciting how the event has been able to spread across Vegas from the main stage at the Forum all the way up through Las Vegas Boulevard to the Bellagio Fountain and the Red Carpet,” says McCoart. “It’s also great to get the band back together and see some folks in person that we haven’t seen in person in quite a while. It’s a fun event because it’s so different from a traditional game. It’s a genuine entertainment experience, and that’s what makes it unique. It’s all about the spectacle, and I have to say it’s one of my favorite events of the year.”