Content will be generated from Indianapolis and Charlotte
In what has become something of a tradition, ESPN’s SEC network will take part in yet another national college football qualifying championship, and its participation in the 2022 title game is multi-faceted. Not only does the production team provide a host of studio shows from Indianapolis and its broadcast center in Charlotte, NC, but fans watching the game between the Alabama No.1 and the Georgia’s No. 3 tonight can enjoy Hometown Radio’s calls to the action at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Everyone who works on this game is incredibly motivated,” says Tom McCollum, Senior Coordinating Producer, ESPN. “We will work to give viewers the best possible experience, but we will also enjoy the climax of another great football season.”
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With the world of college football descending to Indianapolis tonight, the SEC network will be covering every possible angle of the proceedings for supporters of both programs. All scenarios will be covered from three locations in Indianapolis – the upper lobby of Lucas Oil Stadium, the venue’s field level, the nearby convention center – as well as Charlotte. Decisions on where to place each set and how long will be based on many factors.
“During the regular season,” says McCollum, “we have the luxury of having a sprawling footprint when SEC Nation goes to each campus every week. In Indianapolis, we don’t really have that because our shows start right in the game instead of starting early in the morning.
“We’re also coordinating with ESPN and what they bring to the game,” he continued, “so we have to figure out how to put everything together effectively. It’s a big headache, but our operations team is planning everything so that we let’s be ready to go when my team arrives there.
Starting at the start of the weekend of Saturday, January 8, the first piece of the programming puzzle began with SEC now media day at the Convention Center, anchored by screenings at 9 a.m. ET on Saturday and two Sundays: press conferences with Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart at 9 a.m. and another at 11 a.m. Dari nowkhah, former Alabama security Roman Harper, 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, 2010 National Champion and current University of North Carolina Head Coach Gene Chizik, former Georgia tight end Benjamin Watson, Marty Smith, Ryan McGee, and Chris Doering.
Monday’s schedule of over 2 p.m. content started early at 8 a.m. with DRY this morning by Charlotte. Hosts SEC Network anchor Pierre Burns and Doering, along with former Georgian kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, will delve into the latest news around the conference. The next one at 2 p.m. is Marty and McGee, with Smith and McGee entertaining guests such as Watson, Ole Head Coach Miss Lane Kiffin, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and comedian Jeff Foxworthy. From 3 p.m., most of the day will be devoted to The Paul Finebaum show. Emanating from Section 401 to Stadium, the three-hour edition will feature Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, Commissioner Sankey, the cast of SEC Nation, and more. The kick-off is approaching, SEC Nation will take viewers to the grass on the main set at 6 p.m. Host Laura Rutledge, former Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, Tebow, Harper and Finebaum will set the table with pre-game analysis in the atmosphere of the biggest college football game on the calendar. After the last whistle, SEC Football Final with Rutledge, Harper, Tebow, Rodgers, Smith and Watson will break down the events of the game.
Inside the compound, Game Creek Video Webby, Maverick and Peacock One are on hand to manage these shows, which use a total of 11 cameras. In addition, TVU Networks technology provides connectivity between Indianapolis sites.
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SEC Network goes from studio programming to game coverage with a special presentation for Crimson Tide and Bulldogs fans. Hometown Radio – a MegaCast offering that overlays the Alabama Crimson Tide Sports Network radio streams powered by LEARFIELD and Georgia Bulldog Sports Network on top of the main broadcast stream – can be experienced in a number of ways throughout the night.
On the linear channel, the show will be divided in two: that of Alabama Eli Gold, John Parker Wilson, and Rashad johnson in the first and that of Georgia Scott Howard, Eric Zeier, and DJ Shockley in the second. Full streams will be available exclusively on the ESPN app. Operationally, the production team will tie these items together before shipping them out as the final product.
“We’ll get the discrete audio streams here at the stadium and compile them with the video,” says Brian Hegner, Supervisory Director, ESPN. “When he gets to Bristol, they’ll have a clean feed with native sound and effects. They will use Grass Valley’s Ignite platform for dual feed with Alabama graphics and cameras and Georgia graphics and cameras, including Skycam and Coach Cams.
Changes from year to year: how content and logistics adapt to new challenges
Since the SEC Network has become a familiar entity in this annual game, the team have been doing everything in their power to keep things fresh and to match current circumstances. From a creative standpoint, each team sets a large number of themes discussed on-air, but making major or subtle changes to the network’s studio lineup prevents a repeat of the same show.
“The storylines dictate our shows,” adds McCollum, “but we are constantly and consciously changing the talent and the shows as well. We have a new producer of SEC Nation, michelle Rosenhouse, which brought new energy to the show, and we took Marty and McGee on the road for the first time. Every year is different, but it’s been great, and we have a really good group of people who bring a lot of unpredictability to these shows.
Another massive but obvious change is in the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The accredited staff will be 65 people (40 on the technical side, 25 on production), a number that has been drastically reduced due to the current wave of Omicron, and the way the game is covered will also be affected. For example, Saturday’s media day leveraged Zoom’s workflows to allow players to attend press conferences virtually from their hotel rooms while reporters asked questions from the Convention Center. Social distancing, testing and appropriate face coverings will also be required within the compound.
” Since the first day [of the pandemic], Walt Disney Co. and ESPN have continued to guide and protect us through this to have minimal impact on our shows, ”said McCollum. “The last few weeks have turned things around a bit, and we had to spend a little more time than usual for most of the fall. But the precautions remain the same, and we will be super safe. “
Technology has come a long way since Alabama and Georgia last met at the 2018 CFP National Championship in Atlanta. Over the past four years, remote productions and cloud-based solutions have become more prevalent and equipment has continued to advance. This hardware and software allows coverage to progress and improve with new ideas on display during the pre-match show, including camera feeds from each team getting off the buses and a fan watch night. at the Stegeman Coliseum in Georgia.
“Technology was born from the way we do shows differently,” Hegner explains. “Whether it was the audio, a router interface, or our truck’s ability to call any source in the complex, it got a lot better. “
Busy New Year: Crew splits operations between Miami and Dallas
Ahead of tonight’s championship game, the SEC Network team ditched party hats and champagne flutes on New Years Eve to feature Alabama and Georgia’s participation in the playoff semifinals. college football in the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl, respectively. This effort required a division of resources between Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Due to the dominance of the two teams, there was a high percentage of chances that they would advance to the final. Given this scenario, Hegner and his operations team were tasked with planning the split-team setup for the semi-finals and consolidating the logistics of the show in Indianapolis.
“We did it before in 2018 with Georgia at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., And Alabama at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans,” Hegner said. “This year in Dallas, SEC Nation had two graphics channels through our GREMI model, two EVS operators on site and 20 cameras in total, six of which were from both the field and the set. In Miami, we had a much smaller production because we were in a small space in the lobby for the pre-game with five cameras and an EVS.
Charlotte also played a role in covering the semi-finals, with every truck on site harnessing their reliable communications and technology to seamlessly integrate content generated by the North Carolina-based studio.
Back to the Natty: SEC Network Completes Coverage of Another National Title Game
There’s regular college football, then there’s college football played in the SEC. An SEC program has been present in seven of the last eight league games since the inception of College Football Playoff in 2015. The conference has such a hold on the game that it has been a part of everyone since 2016. For the SEC network team and those who watch her religiously, this time of year has become a gift that keeps on giving.
“It’s pretty amazing that I was so involved in this event,” Hegner says. “I’m starting to plan for this in February, and the track record of our conference allows me to be a little more prominent in the conversation. It’s always a pleasure [working on this game], and everyone has a common goal of putting on a great show. “
SEC network coverage of the 2022 National College Football Championship begins with SEC Nation at 6 p.m. ET. The network will also rebroadcast the winning team’s post-game press conference at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, January 11.