Behind The ScenesSportsCenter

The making of the Aaron Hernandez timeline piece for SportsCenter

The twists and turns of the week’s biggest news story – the arrest of former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez – required a dedicated team effort from ESPN’s news gathering unit.

After Hernandez’s Wednesday arraignment and the prosecuting attorney’s sharing of details, reporter Bob Holtzman had an idea of how to present the often confusing details to fans.

“Bob and I spoke Wednesday night and he had the idea of putting together a timeline of the night when the murder allegedly occurred,” said feature producer, Andy Lockett. “He wrote a draft script that night and early the next morning we sat in the courthouse parking lot and planned how we would visually tell the story.”

The result, seen above and throughout the past day on SportsCenter, is a multimedia, graphically-enhanced presentation that uses the prosecution’s account of what occurred the night of June 16 and in the early morning of June 17.

“For TV, we have to look for creative ways to tell the story with court documents,” said Lockett, who has been at ESPN since 2000 and mostly works with the Enterprise Reporting group. “It is such a complicated case and I thought the timeline was a really good idea to give viewers a slice of the bizarreness of everything that had allegedly happened.”

So, on Thursday morning, Lockett, Holtzman and a camera man began sequencing and shooting the images they would use to help illustrate the idea of motion (Holtzman in the car driving/speaking), time (six-and-a-half hours) and distance (more than 100 miles).

“I’m a big fan of reporter involvement, so the idea of Bob driving was something I’m glad we could do,” Lockett said.

Once everything was shot, the video was sent back to Bristol, Conn., where a team had already been gathering b-roll and preparing what could be done ahead of time. Associate producer Nick Aquilino ran point at the office to pull all the material together.

“My role was to execute Bob and Andy’s vision for the timeline, and get it on-air as quickly as possible,” said Aquilino, an eight-year ESPN veteran. “I spent the afternoon in constant contact with Andy, while also coordinating the graphics delivery from Nick Waligorski, a freelance animator we were working with.

“Once the graphics, video, and audio tracks were delivered to Bristol, I selected a few music cuts to fit the tone we were looking for, then quickly edited the piece,” he said. “We were able to turn it around quickly because we were all on the same page throughout the day. It’s always great communication and teamwork that makes the most difficult pieces, with ultra-tight turnarounds, seem almost effortless to get on the air.”

The multiple location collaboration, which runs a little more than two minutes, debuted Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET on SportsCenter. Lockett didn’t get to see the finished piece until he returned to his Foxborough, Mass. hotel after 8 p.m. last night.

“It was rewarding to see it in its final form,” he said. “It brought me back to my local news days – having to turn something around quickly. I’m used to having more time on the Outside the Lines pieces I work on. I think we gave the viewer a good sense – in a compelling way – of the sequence of events. It’s always interesting to be part of something that’s on the whole nation’s mind.”

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