Monday, January 23, 2012

Under the Helmet

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Our town's library puts on some really amazing events. The one we went to tonight was no exception.

Here is the description of the event from the library's website.
Under the Helmet with Fred Gaudelli and Drew Esocoff

If you've ever wondered how one of the biggest events in sports television ACTUALLY happens, come to New Canaan Library and get the behind-the-scenes scoop! Join football fans for our second annual Under the Helmet program to learn everything it takes to televise the Super Bowl and other live sports events.

You'll hear about the team match ups, coaches, drama and personal stories from our guest speakers, Fred Gaudelli, Producer, and Drew Esocoff, Director, of NBC Sports’ Super Bowl production this year. Leading the conversation will be special guest emcee, Chris Hansen of "Dateline NBC." From personal predictions, to rating the quarterbacks to the critical details of what it takes to cover an event of this magnitude, no question will be left unanswered. These two professionals will show clips of some of their favorite games of the past, discuss hilarious moments not seen on camera, and reveal the intense process behind capturing that all-important play that makes you jump off your couch and yell at the TV!

Fred Gaudelli is in his sixth season as producer of Sunday Night Football, which received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Live Sports Series in each of the last three years. Gaudelli, a 10-time Emmy Award winner, also has produced Super Bowls XLIII, XL and XXXVII and will produce Super Bowl XLI in February, 2012 in Indianapolis.

Drew Esocoff is in his sixth season as director of Sunday Night Football, which received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Live Sports Series in each of the last three years. Esocoff has directed Super Bowls XLIII, XL, XXXVII and XLIII and will direct Super Bowl XLVI next February in Indianapolis.

Chris Hansen is a correspondent for NBC News’ “Dateline NBC”. He has reported on issues of both national and international interest, including the Columbine massacre, child labor in India, the Oklahoma City tragedy, the TWA flight 800disaster and issues related to national security and airline security. Hansen has received numerous awards throughout his career, including seven Emmys, three Clarion awards, the Overseas Press Club Award, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists Award, and four Edward R. Murrow awards.

Interesting facts I learned
  • On a typical Sunday night football game they have about 27 cameras.  At the super bowl they have 40.  The additional cameras are stationed on all the boundaries of the field for additional coverage of important potential game changing plays. 
  • Since 9/11 they do not have an aerial presence (blimp or plane) for the superbowl so they use a mounted camera on a neighboring high rise.
  • The planning and preparations for the superbowl begin 18 months in advance.
  • There will be 24 commerical breaks throughout the entire superbowl.
  • The camera's cost about $100,000 and have nearly 1000x zoom that can be doubled digitally if the lighting situation is good enough.
  • The biggest challenge is showing the replays and the personalities in a timely fashion, so that it tells a story, and wraps up in time for the next live play.  It is a lot of data to process.  For every second that appears on your television they have trashed 39 seconds worth of material.  Actually more when you consider the teams that are creating the replays and the pertinent graphics. 
  • That challenge will be even greater at this super bowl because the patriots play a no huddle offense and the game moves very quickly.
  • The producer and director are doing there work in a truck at the stadium but do not see any of the game "live".
  • For 22 weeks these 2 men work 110 hours a week on average and are on the road Thursday through Monday and they miss being home for all the major holidays (thanksgiving, christmas and new years).
  • They communicate with the "talent" Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth only through an earpiece -- so it is quite the coordination feat to have them talking about what is showing up on screen --they both must make a lot of assumptions trying to anticipate what footage and graphics the producer and director will put on the air.
  • They each got their start at ESPN (the producer started in the mail room).  They got where they are today through hands on experience.
  • The future technology?  3D and computer generated 3D images generated by merging all the camera angles --- then they will be able to remove players and strip down the images to the basics. 

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