Kicking it with the ‘Big Blue’ marvel

Fresh from overseeing ESPN’s critically acclaimed and Sports Emmy award-winning coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup last August, Jed Drake mulled how best to carry over the production highlights and lessons of South Africa to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011.

Drake, ESPN Senior Vice President and Executive Producer for Event Production, envisioned a World Cup presentation that would take viewers on an exploration of a country well known for engineering precision, rich architecture and history.

To capture this sense of place, ESPN will utilize a unique mobile studio throughout its coverage of Germany 2011 (June 26 – July 17).

The unit, named “Big Blue,” will travel to six different cities and historic locations throughout the country.

Take a look at it in the slideshow above.

“Big Blue” will be used for pre-match, halftime and post-match shows live, as well as World Cup-branded segments on SportsCenter, First Take and ESPNEWS.

“The Women’s World Cup matches will be exciting and will represent some of the world’s greatest athletes as their best,” said Drake, a World War II history buff.

“As we document the matches, Big Blue will allow us to capture the pomp and pageantry surrounding this event as well as give viewers an opportunity to experience some aspects of the German culture.”

The mobile studio unit is a more dynamic and updated version of the company’s acclaimed pit studio used for NASCAR Countdown.

It was built and assembled in Holland over the past six months specifically for Women’s World Cup coverage.

The unit has two levels with the studio set — including host and three analyst positions — on the top floor, and a fully-functional control room on the lower level with its own audio mixer and video switcher.

The mobile unit expands to 25 feet high and up to 16 feet sideways.

In transit, it travels as a compact 18-wheel truck.

A hydraulic lift and an electric motor expand and contract the dimensions of the unit, making it possible to navigate the narrow streets of historic German city centers.

The planned route during Germany 2011:

June 25-26: Berlin “Olympiastadion”: The historic stadium hosted the 1936 Olympics, and the 1974 and 2006 FIFA World Cup matches, including the Italy-France final in 2006.

June 28-29: Dresden, overlooking “Church of Our Lady”: The Lutheran church built from 1726-1743 was heavily damaged in World War II. The church’s restoration, which started in 1994 and was completed in 2005, is now a symbol of reconciliation in Germany.

July 1-3: Heidelberg “Marktplatz” (Market Place): Adjacent to the historic Town Hall and Neptune Fountain. The U.S. Army has had a military base in Heidelberg since 1951.

July 5-6: Wolfsburg’s “Phaeno Science Center”: A unique architectural achievement, the interactive science center in downtown Wolfsburg illuminates at night. The city is also known as the home and headquarters of Volkswagen.

July 9-10: Dresden, outside the Opera House: Built in 1841, beside the River Elbe.

July 13-17: Frankfurt, outside “Women’s World Cup Stadium”: The site of the final match and the International Broadcast Center for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

For more views from Germany, check out the this Flickr photo stream, courtesy of our friends at espnW. It’s shot by employees and updated daily.

ESPN will present comprehensive coverage of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup June 26–July 17 from nine cities across Germany. For more information, click here.

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