“SS25,” as it’s more affectionately known, is ESPN’s ‘big event’ production unit. Monday Night Football, NBA, MLB Home Run Derby, Women’s Final Four, X Games, etc.
The two 53-foot rigs (A and B units) cover them all. ABC even used it this year to produce the Oscars’ red carpet special outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Following the Miami Heat-Philadelphia 76ers NBA Playoff game Sunday in Philadelphia, SS25 A and B were driven to Bristol in preparation for this week’s NFL draft (three-day coverage begins Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The trucks normally would park in New York on Monday, but Radio City Music Hall was host to a matinee of Madagascar Sunday. Staging and set trucks needed to load everything out.
ESPN Senior Operations Manager Steve Carter has been planning contingencies for this since January, so he decided to bring the trucks to Bristol where the crew could do their prep work.
“We can get a lot of our elements and set-up done here without losing time,” he said.
This includes installing graphics machines, editing systems, loading playback elements and audio patching — all the things they normally would be doing in New York.
Set-up will last until 6 p.m. Monday before the trucks are packed up and driven to New York early Tuesday morning, where they will be parked at 4 a.m. on 51st Street outside Radio City.
In New York, it doesn’t get any easier for the ESPN crew.
They will be working 16-hour days on-site to get the venue ready before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium Thursday with the Carolina Panthers’ first pick. It’s one of the longest weeks of the year,but also exciting.
Carter adds: “It all comes together and Radio City is a neat place. It’s a unique opportunity because you come in each year with a blank piece of paper compared to a pre-cabled stadium where you know all the camera positions.
“When you first walk into the theater, you’re thinking about site lines and whether the angle is right. Every year you kind of tweak it a bit and try to make it better. It’s what makes it so interesting.”