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NFL Kickoff 2022: ESPN's Monday Night Football Gets Makeover With Remodeled Truck, Refreshed Imaging Arsenal, New Star-Powered Booth

12/09/2022

NFL Kickoff 2022: ESPN's Monday Night Football Gets Makeover With Remodeled Truck, Refreshed Imaging Arsenal, New Star-Powered Booth NEP's EN1, MNF's production truck since 2013, gets an IP upgrade By Brandon Costa, Director of Digital

Monday, September 12, 2022 - 3:39 pm

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Week 1 of the NFL season comes to a close tonight, and a weekend full of compelling storylines is capped by perhaps the most intriguing broadcast of the season.

ESPN's Monday Night Football is back, opening its schedule with the captivating return of quarterback Russell Wilson to Seattle in his first game under center for the Denver Broncos. On top of that, the storied Monday Night Football brand ushers in an exciting new era as the longtime announce team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman make their much anticipated ESPN debut.

For Monday Night Football, ESPN upgraded its EN1 production truck and upgraded its camera arsenal to some of the latest imaging solutions from Sony and Canon.

There's a little bit of something for everyone in this production tonight - even for those keen on what happens behind the scenes.

Amid the highly publicized changes that occurred during the MNF offseason, ESPN also made significant investments in its production and operations facilities, working with partner NEP Group to dramatically remodel the property's primary mobile unit, EN1.

The home for ESPN's NFL coverage since 2013, EN1 is now essentially a new truck, with a backbone infrastructure that includes a new Lawo router and NEP's Total Facility Control (TFC) proprietary broadcast controller and network-orchestration tool. It brings a truck that was entirely SDI into a hybrid ST 2110 IP environment.

Who doesn't love walking into a brand-new kitchen in a house you've lived in for a decade? says Jimmy Platt, lead director, Monday Night Football, ESPN. That's the most important factor for me and the rest of the team. For the engineers, the space is a second home for five months of their lives, three days a week. To walk into the same home you've been walking into for several years is refreshing, and to see the same familiar faces that make the trucks work every week is awesome. Then to have all brand-new appliances, the latest and greatest on the market right now, is just remarkable.

All new is the replay network (which has been bumped up to EVS XT-VIA servers and LSM-VIA remotes), the entire routing system, and the multiviewer network through a Cisco spine with Lawo processing. NEP says the four-unit EN1 was refreshed in a seven-week sprint that got it ready for a rehearsal the MNF crew ran during a preseason game in Seattle last month.

[EN1] truly was the biggest, best truck that you could build [in 2013], says Michael Pean, director, sales, NEP Group, but ESPN was at the point where they had filled it up. If they added anything, they had to take something away. Everything was accounted for. We worked together to grow it together. We came up with a hybrid 2110 with a decent amount of SDI still, because we did not have time to rebuild an entire truck.

The upgrades to EN1 brought with it a full update of ESPN's replay network for Monday Night Football. New to the show are EVS XT-VIA servers and LSM-VIA controllers.

According to Dan Turk, VP/chief engineer, NEP Group, the new and improved EN1 and its IP benefits offer the flexibility that the Monday Night Football crew didn't have last season. Everything can be distributed among the multiple trucks through a protected SMPTE ST 2110 network and even reserves some space for five operator stations with custom GUIs so that rooms can route their own multiviewers, rollers, tallies, etc.

The new infrastructure also enables ESPN to bring aboard a whole new lineup of acquisition tools: a fleet of Sony 5500's, two Sony F5500's, and a collection of new Canon lenses, including some 122 8.2 glass.

The best part about [the new lenses] is, you get more of a distance throw from a hard camera, Platt explains. For example, at a high end zone [position] that's really far away, you can get tighter shots off of the camera than you've ever been able to get. That's remarkable.

But the thing I like about them that probably gets overlooked, he continues, is that the wide side of the lens is much wider than we're used to. It doesn't sound like much when you go from an 8.9 to 8.2, but, with just that little bit wider shot off a game camera or a high-end-zone [camera] in big moments when the crowd is just going bananas, you can envelop it in one camera shot. That's wider than you're used to, and that's really tremendous.

ESPN's Monday Night Football trucks parked outside of Lumen Field for the season opener between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Platt is particularly excited about tools that allow his crew to add more cinema-style imagery. To do that, ESPN has put Sony F5500's as handhelds on each sideline, added a higher-resolution camera in the booth for shots of Buck and Aikman, and, where permissible, will use live or prepackaged drone footage. The crew has also brought back the Sony HDC-4800 full-sensor camera at the top station of the dual sideline cart, as well as the on-field RF rig of a Sony FX9 with a prime lens on an ARRI Trinity stabilizer.

We have quite an array of camera types and lens pairings to tell the story visually in ways I think will be more compelling, says Platt, who works at the front bench alongside producer Phil Dean. It may not be super noticeable by the audience, but I think they'll feel something a little bit differently without knowing it.

If you [asked] the great cinematographers in Hollywood, Platt continues, they would tell you that what they pride themselves on in their work is that [t
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