Behind The ScenesNFL

ESPN Creative Services’ motion graphics designers are ‘reinventing the game’ on Monday Night Football

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The expression “third time’s a charm” is fairly common, but is there any truth to it? Minnesotans sure hope so.

Tonight on Monday Night Football (8:25 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN), Josh Freeman – the third starting quarterback for the Vikings this season – will make his Minnesota debut at MetLife Stadium against the host New York Giants. The Vikings’ journey from Christian Ponder to Matt Cassel to Freeman is the key storyline that play-by-play voice Mike Tirico will examine in MNF‘s new 30-second animated package, “Reinventing the Game,” which airs pre-kickoff each week.

“Reinventing The Game” highlights a major topic in the MNF game, combining Tirico’s words with eye-popping animations developed by ESPN’s Creative Services group. In addition to the Vikings’ quarterback storyline tonight, coach Chip Kelly’s transition to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Denver Broncos’ signing of Wes Welker and Andrew Luck’s rise to stardom with the Indianapolis Colts have also been explored in the segment this season.

The project starts on Wednesday or Thursday in preparation for each game when Tirico sends Dale Harney and Steven Jase, designers in ESPN’s Motion Graphics unit, a script, which he records on his cell phone.

Reviewing the audio line by line, Harney and Jase work to match illustrations with Tirico’s words, paying careful attention to the pace at which he speaks.

“If he sits on a sentence for five seconds, then we can’t create the Sistine Chapel, but if he sits on it for 10 seconds, we can get kind of close,” Jase explains.

On Fridays, Harney and Jase send their first draft to ESPN’s MNF production team to ensure all the statistics are accurate. Over the weekend, the 30-second segment is finalized and music is added.

Since it launched in early September, Harney and Jase have received positive feedback from family, colleagues and even people they have never met.

“Somebody tweeted that it looked like Fraser Davidson’s work,” Harney noted, referencing the acclaimed motion designer who works on comedian Bill Maher’s animations. “I thought that was a good compliment.”

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