ESPN’s Monday Night Football is a weekly national primetime showcase for the competing NFL teams, as well as the MNF host city. Tonight, when quarterback Andrew Luck makes his MNF debut for the Indianapolis Colts against the Chargers (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN), the spotlight will be on San Diego.
In between tackles and touchdowns, fans will enjoy a few glimpses of Southern California through aerials and other scenic shots. These elements will be part of the second and fourth quarter “billboards” and several “bumps” coming back from commercials. While these images are just a fraction of the overall telecast, ESPN’s production crew regularly puts great thought and effort into capturing the flavor of each city.
Under the direction of MNF director Chip Dean, a core group of five people is responsible for this work. Shooter/scenic producers Allen Powers, Joel McKee and Barry Butcher research each city in advance, along with assistant Scott Van Tassell. They pitch their ideas to Dean during a weekly call before eventually determining two or three concepts to pursue.
“We look for the most compelling imagery or the most unique elements specific to each city,” says Powers, who along with McKee, has worked on ESPN’s NFL coverage since the company started televising games in 1987. “We also consider timely events, and elements that will help viewers travel with us and connect with each city.”
In advance of the game, they spend two to three days shooting the local sites in a “plausibly live” atmosphere to match the exact time the images might appear on the MNF telecast, taking into account local weather conditions and other factors (Note: Aerial shots are filmed in real-time during the game). Once the shoots are complete, editor Jim Dove edits the video to be used in the telecast.
San Diego is a favorite destination for the ESPN crew. Powers and McKee have worked with Marv Miles, a former president of the San Diego Woodies Car Club, for years. This weekend, they shot some old classic cars — a 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster, palm trees and sunsets while cruising the strip with Miles in nearby La Jolla. The telecast will also include shots of the USS Midway aircraft carrier docked in downtown San Diego.
Every NFL city has its own distinct character and landmarks, from the world-renowned cuisine of New Orleans to the skyscrapers of New York City. Regardless of where the show travels, people everywhere get excited to showcase their cities on this national stage.
“Generations of Americans have grown up with Monday Night Football,” says Powers. “It is such a lasting icon that the response we get from city to city is remarkable. We are very appreciative of the community cooperation we get everywhere we go.”