ICYMI: The Week on Front Row

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ESPN’s production assistants and content associates, with the oversight of highlight producers and managers, produce nearly 1,000 highlights every month. As a way to honor the hard work these folks do night-in and night-out, the ESPN Highlight of the Month (HOM) award was created by Adam Strain, Highlight Producer in ESPN Studio Production.

February’s HOM winner was Production Assistant Jarrod Ficklin. Working on the NBA Unit in Studio Production, Ficklin is credited with being the brains behind a football-themed highlight based off a Feb. 23 matchup between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers. The highlight aired following the game on the 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter.

Below, Ficklin and Jessica Yong, the lead content editor who created the football field effect in the highlight, explain the extensive process and collaboration that goes into creating a highlight in such a short time frame. Because of rights restrictions, we cannot show the full highlight on Front Row, but the gallery of stills above showcases some of the creative elements involved.

How did you come up with the idea to do a football-themed highlight?
JF: The Heat won the opening tip, and LeBron James decided to snap the ball through his legs like a football center to Mario Chalmers. From there, [Highlight Producer] Alex Estabrook and I brainstormed the best way to utilize that play.

What was the hardest part of making the highlight?
JF: The hardest part was deciding the best way to use to utilize that football play at the beginning of the game and make an entire highlight based off of it. However, when communication is working well in screening, great content is possible. Without the collaboration of everyone involved, the highlight would not have turned out as well as it did. LeBron also helped out by making plays that fit within the scope of what we were trying to do, so we can thank him as well.

What kind of deadline were you against?
JF: The highlight was supposed to run right after the game was over, so Andrew Harrison and I worked on it as the game was going on. Andrew also created the telestrations for the highlight.

Was making the football field graphic more challenging that normal?
JY: It was definitely the first time I have gotten the request to turn a basketball court into a football field, so it took me a minute to figure out how I was going to approach this effect. The particular shot they wanted the effect on did not make it any easier. I knew I was going to have to mimic the camera movement to get the field to make it look believable. I also ended up using about eight different layers of video blended together to create the final result. Because this is something I had never done and as far as I know none of our editors had done, it was challenging. It was a fun challenge to come up with something we thought maybe wasn’t possible before, but as it turns out is most definitely possible.

How did you decide on which plays to include?
JF: I picked out plays that would work best in having LeBron play three different positions: running back, quarterback and receiver. For the running back plays, we used one of him barreling through two defenders, fumbling and getting it back for a lay-in and a play with a nice spin move. For quarterback, we used four of his assists, adding telestrations of LeBron “looking off” defenders and “routes” run by his other teammates before the passes. And for receiver, we used an alley-oop where, like a receiver, LeBron caught the pass at its highest point and dunked it.

ICYMI: Highlights from the past week on Front Row

Mike Greenberg’s debut novel, All You Could Ask For was released earlier this week. Greenberg discussed how he was feeling before the release and the memories he had of his friend, Heidi Armitage, for whom he wrote the book.

• Country music star Kenny Chesney dropped by Gruden’s QB Camp a few weeks ago to see Jon Gruden while in town to kick off his “No Shoes Nation Tour.” Chesney and Gruden went over some of the country star’s past performances for critiquing.

• ESPN President John Skipper and several network executives were in Mexico City last week for the groundbreaking of new ESPN facilities that will be home to the entire ESPN Mexico staff.

• The firing of Rutgers coach Mike Rice comes on the heels of Outside the Lines’ Tuesday report that included footage never before seen publicly of Rice verbally and physically abusing players. Here’s the background on how the story came together.

Row of Four
Our favorites from across ESPN over the past week

• From espnW by Stacy Greenberg: Remembering Heidi: ‘You would have loved her, too’

• Injured Louisville guard Kevin Ware presents the Top 10 List on Late Show with David Letterman

• From Grantland by Jay Caspian Kang: The End and Don King: The crumbling of an American icon

• Enjoy an array of photos in this gallery from ESPN Images

Grammy Award-winning recording artist will.i.am will join Mike Breen and analyst Jeff Van Gundy during a portion of the ABC Sunday Showcase broadcast of the Lakers vs. Clippers at 3:30 p.m. on April 7. The popular Hip Hop artist has teamed with ESPN to produce a special open for the 2013 NBA Playoffs to the tune of his hit single #thatPOWER. During the broadcast, viewers will get a sneak peek at a portion of the open, which debuts in its entirety on Saturday, April 20.
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