For some, the following laundry list would constitute content for an entire year: 22 features; 12 vignettes (mini-features); an hour-long NASCAR Face to Face special; and more than 40 athlete shout-out elements for SportsCenter’s coverage of Veterans’ Day.
For the ESPN Features Unit, that impressive array of quality storytelling is just another week at the office.
Or, in the case of Feature Producer Sharon Matthews, it was a “virtual” week at the office.
The production process behind creating the Matthews-produced piece “Warrior and WarHorse” for Sunday’s Outside the Lines pales in comparison to the piece’s compelling storyline. Still, technically, the bi-coastal creative collaboration is a story worth telling.
“The demand of edit space and edit time on campus prompted the use of new technology — mobile editing — to create a productive and beneficial workflow,” said Features Unit Coordinating Producer Valerie Gordon.
Matthews worked from Bristol, Conn. while editor Thom McCallum, Creative Director at The Seventh Movement, contributed his editing from San Francisco (some 2995.71 miles away from ESPN’S headquarters, according to MapQuest).
Utilizing a web-based video-conferencing service, the pair was able to collaborate on the project in real-time.
“It’s a great set up to be able to do an amazing piece on two coasts,” Matthews says.
“Thom can take control of my screen, see the piece, and be able to ask, ‘You mean right here?’ He can see the clip I pulled up on my screen, he can see the end point.”
Technology being used to remove geographical barriers is nothing new for ESPN.
“By being tapeless, the material was ready for edit — no ingesting was needed — and it allowed Matthews and McCallum to begin editing almost immediately,” said Feature Unit Manager Denny Wolfe, who is leading the group’s ‘tapeless workflow’ initiative.
“The set-up still allowed for the same high standard of production and actually saved costs that are normally associated with outside edits.”
Creating shared folders to eliminate countless e-mails is another major advantage to the traditional production process, as is the ability to invite others into the “virtual room.”
“Tom Rinaldi, [reporter for the piece], could be on a GameDay remote, and we can bring him into our virtual timeline,” Matthews says.
“Otherwise, he would physically have to be in the room. This way, we just send him an e-mail and invite him into our room, and he can see our screen.”
This technology is being employed on a story whose idea came from Associate Producer Kris Kugler, who has worked on many horse-related pieces for ESPN.
“Think of what these veterans have done,” Matthews says. “And think of the uncertain future of a retired race horse. Combining these two worlds is an amazing story.”
Here are some more details of the Saratoga WarHorse Program and OTL’s filming in Saratoga, N.Y.
“Warrior and WarHorse” will be part of Outside the Lines’ Veterans Day special which will air at 10 a.m. on ESPNEWS.