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Stanley Cup Final: ESPN Offers Visually Appealing Return with Two On-Ice Skate Cams, Cabled Aerials, 10 Super Slow Mos, and More

20/06/2022

Stanley Cup Final: ESPN Offers Visually Appealing Return with Two On-Ice Skate Cams, Cabled Aerials, 10 Super Slow Mos, and More Multiple players and coaches will wear microphones for in-depth audio coverage By Brandon Costa, Director of Digital

Monday, June 20, 2022 - 3:18 pm

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For many at ESPN, the return of the Stanley Cup Final to the company's programming lineup is not only a fitting culmination to its first full season of NHL coverage since 2004, but also a stark reminder of how far the network has come in just 15 months since the news first broke of the Walt Disney Company's seven-year rights agreement with the NHL.

Inside the ESPN production truck during Game 2 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. ESPN's lead producer and director team for the NHL is Jeff Dufine and Doug Holmes. (Photo: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

We started this thing with nothing. Actually, we had one thing: we had the music, says Jeff Dufine, lead producer of ESPN's NHL game coverage. Literally, a year ago, that's all we had. We didn't have production teams. We didn't have any operations folks lined up. We didn't have trucks. We didn't have equipment. It's been a huge lift, but we're really proud about how we got here and the product we put on the air.

In essentially a summer, ESPN recruited a group that produced north of 150 games for ESPN, ABC, and ESPN+ during the 2021-22 campaign that has included a playoff run and, now, the Stanley Cup Final, which continues Monday evening as the series shifts to Tampa for Game 3 with the Colorado Avalanche carrying a commanding two games to none lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Specialty Cams for Star Power Cameras have been a star of this series so far, most notably specialties ranging from a cabled aerial camera (SkyCam Wildcat), Ankle Cams in the lower corner boards, two Skate Cams (on-ice shallow depth-of-field rigs operated by Zac Laszuk and Steven Smith.), and more than 10 super slow-mos.

SkyCam Wildcat is up in both arenas to offer a fresh, aerial look to ESPN's game coverage of the Stanley Cup Final. (Photo: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

ESPN is also working closely with Canadian broadcasters Sportsnet and TVA, as well as NHL Network and the NHL itself to share those resources and adding about 25 more camera angles for the front bench to utilize. That includes a camera in the Situation Room in Toronto that can be shown on-air during a replay review.

Dufine says the various angles are simply enhancing a series that is full of fantastic storylines for me and director Doug Holmes. The overarching storyline simply being a matchup between a two-time defending champion looking to cement a dynasty and a young, star-powered team on the rise.

We're fortunate. These, I think, are the two best teams in hockey, says Dufine. Colorado's been that team the entire regular season and we all know that Tampa's going for three in a row. But when you look at it like, both of these coaches are super insightful. They're a walking soundbite, You can't go wrong. They're both phenomenal when, when we meet with them and they're really bright NHL minds. You look at their teams and there's Hall of Famers everywhere you look.

Maximizing Space at Each Venue Behind the scenes, the production compounds for the Final are a split between NEP Broadcasting in Denver and Game Creek Video in Tampa. Games 1 and 2 in Colorado saw NEP's EN2 A and B units as well as SS32 and ST32 anchor the operations, while the shift tonight to Games 3 and 4 in Florida welcomes Game Creek's Spirit A and B units, as well as Maverick and Edit 3.

Due to space limitations, ESPN chose to park its live production compound outside of Ball Arena for Games 1 and 2 of the series. (Photo: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

According to Erin Orr, Senior Manager, NHL Remote Operations for ESPN, each of the venues offers unique layouts and challenges to tackle when introducing an event at the scale of a Cup Final. In Denver, ESPN made the call to move the broadcast compound outside of the traditional dock location inside Ball Arena and instead position it in a remote lot outside. The regular dock simply didn't offer enough space for the resources needed by all parties. This required a cable bridge linking the broadcast trucks to the broadcast panel and extensive cable planning for execution.

Compound space is also tight in Tampa. There requires a well-coordinated arrival and parking of the trucks to ensure the space is utilized to its fullest capability Tampa is also not without unique limitations. Compound space in Florida is very tight and requires a very organized dance to ensure all trucks arrive and get positioned to the exact coordinate within the limited space. Additional cable infrastructure has been added to both venues, as well, to support a robust sharing of resources between ESPN and other broadcasters on site.

ESPN has added a second Skate Cam for the Stanley Cup Final. Here, operator Zac Laszuk runs a rig shooting images with a shallow depth of field during Game 2 in Denver. Operating the other rig is Steven Smith. (Photo: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

Orr praised the operations team for juggling the grab bag of obstacles that faced the crew this postseason - and in this series, in particular. That ops team includes senior operations specialist Jeff Werner, Associate Manager, Operations, Catherine Carroon, Remote Operations Coordinator Carson Kenney, operations specialists Brock Wetherbee and Jon Winders, and operations producers Katy Abbott, Tim Denyes, Phil Erwin, Diana MacLeod, Matt Pecarovich, Andrew Schneider, and Dave Walker.

Together, production and operations worked hand-in-hand and learned the importance of discipline, communication, respect, and, above all els
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2022/06/20/stanley-cup-final-espn-offers-v...
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