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NFL Media Expands Combine Coverage With Player-Tracking Robo on Catwalk, Exclusive Show on NFL+


NFL Media Expands Combine Coverage With Player-Tracking Robo on Catwalk, Exclusive Show on NFL Event is part of wild few months from Super Bowl LVIII to NFL Draft April 25-27 By Kristian Hern ndez, Senior Editor

Thursday, February 29, 2024 - 11:09 am

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The next crop of the National Football League's brightest stars will show off their skills during the 2024 NFL Combine Feb. 29-March 3 in Indianapolis. As the league's production arm, NFL Media is on hand at Lucas Oil Stadium to broadcast the multiple events and evaluations with an arsenal of technologies and a handful of studio shows covering the action from facilities in Los Angeles and New Jersey.

We go from our focus being millions of fans watching Super Bowl LVIII to looking at players hoping to break into the league, says Dave Shaw, VP/head of operations, NFL Media. This event gives fans behind-the-scenes access to get to know these players. It's an event that defines what NFL Network is really about.

The camera operators play a huge part of this intimate event.

Technology Mix: New, Traditional Workflows Enhance Multi-Day Coverage The NFL Combine officially begins late Thursday afternoon, but the preparation and additional programming that NFL Media is handling began this past week. With minimal restrictions to on-field access, the league is poised to litter the playing surface with cameras to capture all the angles and sounds of the various drills that put the potential NFL players through their paces.

The NFL Combine is a unique experience since it's done within a quiet stadium and only the prospects and coaches are on the field, says Adam Acone, director, media operations, NFL Media. You can hear everything, so the ability to capture all that audio is one of the great enhancements.

From left: Tom Pelissero, Ian Rapaport, Mike Garafolo, and Jeffri Chadiha on The Insiders: At the Combine

Much of the technology has become common at this event. On the audio side, more than 70 primary and backup sources make up the mix. That includes 25 RF and hardwired effects mics and four parabolic mics around the stadium, six RF mics on a handful of coaches, and 50 mics used by the onsite studio team and announcers. Talent Rich Eisen, Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis, Peter Schrager, Chris Rose, Ian Rapoport, Stacey Dales, and Jamie Erdahl will be joined by guests, including New Orleans Saints defensive end Cam Jordan on Thursday and former NFL offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and NFL Network analyst Shaun O'Hara on Sunday. They will be on the field and in the booth to explain the drills to viewers.

As for video, nearly 50 cameras will anchor coverage of all events, including hard and RF handhelds, a bevy of robotics, a Skycam, and a TVU-powered camera for live hits to free up sources in the production truck. Supporting the effort is a variety of partners and vendors: Robovision (robotics), Aerial Video Systems (RF video connectivity), CP Communications (RF audio connectivity), Filmwerks (power), and THUMBWAR (editing and file transfer).

Aerial Video Systems is handling RF video needs at the venue.

Educating fans about the players aspiring to the professional ranks is important to NFL Media. Editing everything together over the next few days is a big piece to our show, says Acone. We've taken a lot of material and put together a ton of packages that'll be played.

Keeping everything together in the compound is Game Creek Video PrimeOne mobile unit. It has handled NFL Media's NFL Draft coverage in the past, but this is its first time as part of the NFL Combine infrastructure.

Reporter Trevor Sikkema joins NFL Total Access via a TVU-powered camera.

In the stadium, something that isn't new to the coverage is the data-heavy and eye-catching 40-Yard Dash. Driven by the league's Next-Gen Stats and SMT player-tracking and graphics, this portion of the broadcast has changed dramatically since NFL Network began covering the NFL Combine in 2005.

It has been fun pitting the new players against older players that participated in the NFL Combine in the past, notes Shaw. It's a bit tricky to use the older technology and overlay it with newer technology, but it has become an awesome feature to our show.

Changes in technology aren't the only obstacle in pulling off this activation. With the league relying on both manual timers and electronic timing, the challenge is to make sure that the elements of the graphics overlay are synchronized. In the past, we've seen that the video doesn't always match up with the timer, says Shaw. [The officials] throw out the time that looks different from the others, but we can still use it as the base layer for our overlays.

Robovision is responisble for all robotic cameras in Indianapolis, including this one capturing press conferences.

Besides creating another year's worth of 40-Yard Dash overlays, the team is pushing SMT player-tracking and graphics to the limit with a new production wrinkle. Positioned above the field in the catwalk, a robotic camera offering a wide shot of the drills will integrate tracking and graphics for even more stats.

At Home in Indy: The Operations Team Knows the Venue Well Two of the league's tentpole events, the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft, have a different host venue every season, but the NFL Combine has called Indianapolis home for 37 years, since the last non-Indy event in New Orleans in 1986. Centrally located for all 32 NFL clubs, Lucas Oil Stadium is an ideal venue and, for an event comprising a multitude of moving parts, offers the operations team the confidence that comes with working in a familiar setting.

Some of the elements that we execute may change, says Jessica Lee, VP, studio operations, NFL Media, but it feels like coming home every tim
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