Engineering a live NFL game

Mark Bowden for The Atlantic:
“Aaaand go!” shouted Fish, a wiry man in faded blue jeans and a loose-fitting, long-sleeved cotton shirt, a headset clamped over a baseball cap. He was leaning up and out of his swivel chair, choosing shots and barking orders, arms elevated, snapping his long fingers loudly with each new command. “Go fan shot! Ready four. Take four! Ready eight. Take eight! Ready one. Take one! Ready 12. Take 12! Ready five. Take five! Ready thre–ready two. Take two! Ready three. Take three!” Camera three, which Fish returned to just before the snap of the ball, offers a wide angle from above that’s used to frame the play. In this case, with one eye on the play clock, Fish snuck in one last scene-setting image–Burress lined up and looking back toward his quarterback–before returning to the wide angle as the ball was snapped. This was just 30 seconds. The entire broadcast would last more than three and a half hours.
[via Kottke] Photo: Medium Mike
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7 Responses to Engineering a live NFL game

  1. therevengor says:

    @2 – check out I recall watching a game and being able to pick from six or so angles.

  2. igpajo says:

    I have a degree in broadcast production and the live stuff was always such a rush, even if it was just a half hour live newscast. The coordination and concentration necessary for a live sports event with 20+ cameras to me is just mind-boggling!! Say what you will about the finished product…it’s amazing these guys pull it together the way they do. I can’t imagine the pressure. I’m sure they’re paid well for it though.

  3. luthier58 says:

    There’s something to be said for both of the above posts, but I have to say-I got a degree in Radio/TV production (which I only marginally use…) and the TV Direction classes were the best example of being “in the moment” that I’ve ever experienced. Watch everything, make instant decisions, lead from that decision to the next, trying to keep a coherent narrative in a chaotic live situation…the post-mortem was often brutal, but immediately after the broadcast, well, let’s say I always wanted a cigarette.

  4. InsertFingerHere says:

    I work in TV, mostly as a tape-op on sports broadcasts. Let me tell you, it can get hairy as all sh*t some days. About 10 minutes to a big hockey game, we had to send a ‘package’ to our master control. This was me working 3 digital decks, and essentially editing a 3min piece together from stuff we had just laid down.

    Well, our first run went so-so, but not good enough. Just as we started our 2nd (and last chance), one of my controllers puked , so even though I had written down my plan with 3 decks, I now had to improvise and do it with 2.

    I did it, my fingers were flying, and I was all nerves the rest of the night…

    that post-game beer tasted so good… they all did.

    And not all trucks are the same. The one I usually work on where I live, it’s OK, does the job, tight but reliable. Another city I work in, the truck has lots of room, but the gear is crap, always breaking during live, and some of the local crew are border-line retarded.

    It’s funny, I think of myself as a very laid back and relaxed sort of guy, yet my job is really stressful.

  5. nathanrudy says:

    Well, that’s the fricking problem with football on TV. The best way to watch the game — assuming you understand the player positions and strategy, and if you don’t really why watch? — is to be able to see how the players line up before the play unfolds.

    Instead we get to see the head coach looking down at a piece of paper, a closeup of the quarterback’s face, then the quarterback’s girlfriend in a booth, then the ball in a frame that only includes the center’s hands, and — assuming we are really lucky — a split second look at a pullback shot of the quarterback calling for the snap.

    The same idiocy is done with film or TV shows of stage plays, rock concerts, theater dance, etc. We get all sorts of cuts, pushes, pulls, closeups and jumps that it is impossible to get a sense of how the production was staged for us. These things were created to be viewed as a whole from the audience, not to see a closeup of the dancer’s feet or an actor’s hand!

    All it would take for a good football game on TV is three live cameras for the angles behind the line of scrimmage, in front of the line of scrimmage and at the line of scrimmage. Put another couple on the goal lines to track the odd long play and you are good to go.

  6. privacyisaright says:

    I’d take it even a step further and get rid of the play-by-play and color commentary as well. Just give me the sounds of the game without Phil Simms throwing up stupid football cliches all over it, please.

  7. grimc says:


    Less cameras? Less pointless shots, sure, but more cameras, I say! Even as it stands, plenty of play reviews end up as “inconclusive” because the right angle wasn’t available.

    My dream is more cameras with their raw feeds available to users, so we can engineer our own experience.

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