Behind ACC broadcasts: People, players, technology
Posted September 10, 2013
As more and more live sports coverage moves to cable, Raycom and the ACC Network remain a lone outpost of major college sports offered over-the-air to those who don't have cable or satellite (and there are still thousands of them in ACC country).
It all comes together at the Raycom game day headquarters in Charlotte, where producers pull from the two remote productions at the game sites. I got a chance to sit behind the scenes on Saturday, Sept. 7, for the production of the University of North Carolina game against Middle Tennessee.
Behind the scenes on game day at ACC Network
10:45 Raycom Executive Producer Rob Reichley joins what’s known as the 105 meeting, 105 minutes before kickoff. Also included: officials, game operations crews from both schools, the stadium operations crew and the television timeout coordinator, Bob Stauffenberg (he’s the guy in the red hat).
11:15 Sports information directors from both schools drop by the Raycom truck to go over rosters and lineup changes.
11:40 The teams take the field for pre-game warmups and the Raycom crew clicks into high gear.
Over the next 20 minutes they will shoot close-ups of UNC quarterback Bryn Renner, running back Romar Morris and head coach Larry Fedora. They will also record a piece from sideline reporter Rachel Baribeau – all these will be fed to Charlotte for Raycom’s pregame show, the ACC Blitz.
11:50 The crew sends Charlotte still more material: UNC’s Old Well Walk, shots of fans tailgating, shots of fans in the stands painted and ready to go. Also team huddles for both Middle Tennessee and UNC.
11:55 The truck sends Charlotte the “Bo-Time” roll-in, which will be aired during a commercial break in the game. The video shows students at a tailgate party earlier in the day, wearing Bojangles boxes as helmets. Two of the kids do a head bump. Consensus in the truck: “This is our best Bo!”
11:58 The truck tells Raycom Game Day Headquarters in Charlotte they plan to leave a live camera outside the UNC locker room. It offers producers and directors another shot to choose from as the day wears on.
12:00 The ACC Blitz begins. Host Tom Werme opens with video of the Miami Hurricanes taking the field. The Canes’ game with Florida will be a major focus of coverage today. Werme, with analyst Tommy Bowden, will also recap Boston College’s Friday night win over Wake Forest, hit Baribeau’s pre-game report from Chapel Hill, and toss to Jenn Hildreth at Raycom’s second game, Clemson and South Carolina State.
12:05 UNC players, before leaving the field, mingle with fans and even jump into the stands. Raycom photographers record and send shots back to Charlotte for use on the ACC Blitz.
12:10 The truck rehearses the "open," the edited beginning of the game broadcast.
It is impossible to overstate how many elements are at work here. Announcers Steve Martin and Dave Archer set up the game, amplified by high energy music from Jason Aldean and pre-recorded video montage and multiple pieces of game day video, including a pan of the Kenan Stadium crowd, a shot of Renner, one of Fedora, video of Middle Tennessee and many more shots of players and fans. And from the sidelines, Baribeau talks about the void left by UNC’s departed running back Gio Bernard.
Good call. The Heels would end with only one long run on the day.
12:15 UNC’s Larry Fedora has given Raycom permission to put a camera in his locker room pre-game. Most coaches won’t grant this much access. Raycom records shots of players with game faces, stretching, meditating etc. These are sent to Charlotte for use on the ACC Blitz.
12:20 Executive Producer Reichley tells the crew he wants to keep track of "explosion plays" – runs of over 12 yards and passes over 16 yards. With Fedora’s offense, big plays and the number of plays are more important indicators of how the team is doing than the traditional time of possession.
12:21 Fedora addresses his team in locker room. Tells them to be “fast, smart, physical.”
12:24:30 The truck gets the one-minute cue.
12:25 Moments before the ACC Blitz in Charlotte throws coverage to the game day truck in Chapel Hill, Miami scores. Tom Werme recaps Stephen Morris’ touchdown pass and quickly tosses to the ACC Network game of the week.
12:25:30 ACC Network hits air, with pre-recorded elements rolled from Charlotte and live elements put up from Chapel Hill. The last-minute speech from Fedora was seamlessly inserted into the show open. The continuing flood of video, music and announcer analysis fit together without a hitch.
12:30 The kickoff. Almost anti-climactic for a moment after the well-produced show open. Raycom will use a total of eight cameras for game coverage. Two game cameras are on the wings for high and wide game coverage. The others are used for isolation shots, replays, reaction shots, etc. Raycom uses one camera placed on a cart to cover high and low in the end zones.
12:36 Middle Tennessee is moving behind QB Lucas Kilgore. Mysteriously, the Blue Raiders change quarterbacks. Both director Roy Alfers and analyst Archer pick up on this.
12:38 Kilgore, back in the game, throws to the goal line. Director Alfers: "He’s open!" Indeed he is. The Middle Tennessee receiver is pulled down close to the goal line. Play-by-play announcer Martin says it looks like he’s out on the one. Official signals touchdown. We go to our first official review. There will be about half a dozen on the day.
12:40 Reichley calls up the angles he thinks will most help the replay official upstairs evaluate what took place. After watching the first replay, analyst Archer believes the receiver never touched the ground before whipping the ball across the goal line.
12:42 Director Alfers tells his crew: "This is going to be overturned." And so it is. Referee Ron Cherry makes the announcement and gives Middle Tennessee the ball on the one-yard line.
12:43 After running one play that gained no yards, then sustaining a false start penalty, Middle Tennessee has second down from the six. Incomplete pass.
12:44 Martin, perhaps on a prompt from Reichley, notes that Boston College had two goal line stands during its win over Wake Forest last night.
12:44:30 On cue, UNC’s Tre Boston intercepts Lucas Kilgore’s pass. Big moment for UNC.
12:47 Carolina has the ball. The TV crew is reluctant to try to do much because of UNC’s fast-paced offense. They do slip in the sponsored starting line-ups. Charlotte wants to give an update on the Miami game. EP Reichley: "They’ll have to wait. Can’t do it now with this offense."
12:50 Heels score in just five plays. Romar Morris going 26 yards for the tally. Lots of reaction shots here – Morris and teammates, Fedora clapping hands. Then a replay. Truck goes to commercial break with more shots of Morris, Fedora and fans.
12:51 Reichley asks: "What was the average time of each play?" Answer: 15.8 seconds. (I’m thinking, it’s interesting doing live TV when you have so little time between plays).
12:53 After the break, Charlotte updates the Miami score. Werme and Bowden tell us the Canes now lead 14-6 over Florida. Could be big for the ACC.
12:56 With UNC on defense, Raycom zeroes in on Darius Lipford. He missed more than a year due to injuries. Crew gives us a couple of different shots of Lipford as Archer tells his story.
12:57 Heels record tackle for loss on great play by Lipford. Middle Tennessee has to punt.
12:58 Truck quickly prepares to go to break. There is a ten-second countdown. Martin recaps, covered by a couple of shots of excited UNC fans. Two minutes of commercials from Charlotte.
1:00 Back up in Chapel Hill. Now comes the Bojangles roll-in. Steve Martin, with enthusiasm, reads commercial copy live over the video recorded earlier at tailgate time.
1:08 Heels score again after four pushes down near the goal line.
During what I call “scrum plays,” it’s really hard to see conclusively whether someone scores or not. Officials have a tough job. Two of the four plays in this sequence were reviewed.
And oh yeah, while the truck is focused on the replay process, Charlotte weighs in. Wants to do a Clemson update. Truck tells them there will be time if this is ruled a touchdown. It is.
1:10 Charlotte gives update. Clemson rolling over SC State as expected.
1:13 First quarter ends. Raycom tosses to break with six shots and a music bed.
1:14 During the break, UNC’s women’s athletics teams are honored for winning the Capital Gold Cup. About a dozen athletes from soccer, lacrosse and tennis hold the cup high. There is also presentation of a $200,000 check for scholarships. Raycom records this and sends the video to the ACC Digital Network for posting. Raycom also airs the video between the end of the commercial break and the start of play.
1:17 Sponsored stats and a promo for the new ACC Football Challenge Gaming App.
1:21 Back from break, network airs sponsor billboards with lots of scenic shots from Franklin Street, Chapel Hill and the UNC Campus. Martin notes: “Franklin Street in the town of Chapel Hill. And it will always be a town, not a city.”
1:28 Baribeau reports from the sidelines about Middle Tennessee’s Logan Kilgore and what he has overcome. Her commentary is covered by several shots of the player. Martin and Archer build on the Baribeau report with more comments about the QB.
1:29 Alas, Kilgore throws an interception. Sometimes it goes that way.
1:31 UNC’s Sean Tapley makes a catch near the sideline just getting one foot down in bounds. Replay shows clearly he landed with his right foot in bounds before his left foot hit the sideline.
1:32 Heels run a gadget play, a throwback pass to Marquise Williams, who is in the game for Renner at QB. Raycom not fooled by the play. Crew responds with replay and good analysis.
1:33 Injured player. This gives Charlotte a chance to do another update. Also time for Martin to give some scores and the ACC schedule for later in the day.
1:34 Renner, back in the game, throws a pick. Truck tells timeout coordinator: “We’ll take a timeout if you can get it, Bob.” He can and they do.
1:36 Out of the break directly to Tom Werme in the Charlotte studio. Florida has just turned the ball over. Miami goes to halftime leading 14-6.
1:39 Middle Tennessee has to punt. Raycom goes to break with a tribute to UNC great Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice.
1:40 During the break, the crew looks at the game stats, deciding whom to feature when they come back from commercial.
1:42 Truck flashes stat: Renner had thrown 140 consecutive passes without an interception until the one just a few minutes ago.
1:42:30 Renner throws a long pass to Tapley. Camera crew gets sensational angle for replay, showing Tapley one-on-one with the defender and running right by him. Ball comes into frame only at the end.
1:43 UNC now in the red zone. Director Alfers tells camera crew to be ready. First play: no touchdown.
1:43:30 Alfers calls out shots in anticipation. "Ready two, take two. Stand by camera three, take three." And to his next camera “hurry.” Heels score. Raycom nails the touchdown and gets a nice replay.
1:44 During celebration, Charlotte checks in. Wants to do an update. Truck says they can have 15 seconds.
1:46 Charlotte promotes halftime coverage for the “ACC Blitz.”
1:47 UNC kicks off.
Raycom runs sponsored segment “The Play of the Week.” During this brief interval, director Alfers instructs his handheld cameraman to find AJ Blue, number 15, who just scored the touchdown. He seems to be lost in the mass of players on the sideline.
1:48 Crew finds AJ Blue and sends back a couple of shots. This sets up Baribeau’s sideline report on the UNC running back.
1:50 Network continues constant crawl at the bottom of the screen with massive amounts of information. ACC news, stats, schedules, national scores and comments from Twitter.
1:56 Half is almost over. UNC driving, calls a timeout.
Network runs promo for the ACC Archives.
Archer tags out talking about UNC’s three top quarterbacks: Renner, TJ Yates and Darian Durant. Archer notes that Renner will be best man in Yates’ wedding next spring.
1:56:30 Archer transitions back to the play that’s about to unfold. Says Renner needs to take a three-step drop here, adding “He can’t take a sack; He can’t take another timeout.”
1:57 Alfers to crew: "Everybody ready. Rachel will get Fedora right after the half."
1:58 Renner throws to Quinshad Davis in the end zone. Fairly quick review here. One foot was clearly on the line.
2:00 Heels settle for a field goal.
2:02 Baribeau finds Fedora in a crowd on the field. He says he’s pleased with the defensive response after the initial drive. Feels like the offense needs to be more consistent. Truck throws to the studio.
2:02:30 Director Alfers to crew: "Keep one camera manned. Everyone else can take a break. Great job guys."
2:03 ACC Blitz hits halftime highlights of all four ACC games in progress, plus analysis from Tommy Bowden.
And there’s still one more half to go. Not to mention many more games.
I’ve heard it said that live TV is critical to the growth and prosperity of college athletics. Actually, it’s more important than that.