ESPN is constantly seeking new and innovative ways to evolve sports coverage, especially within its NFL presentation.
Through the years, the company has introduced revolutionary ideas like the virtual 1st and Ten line, but, more frequently, it is the subtle additions that advance the ball forward and give fans a closer look at the game.
That’s exactly what Monday Night Football’s HeroCam is doing this fall by showing the unique perspective of some of the game’s top players, using GoPro® point of view (POV) camera technology.
Tonight, ESPN’s MNF telecast – New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons (8:25 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN) – will feature a HeroCam segment with All-Pro Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, who demonstrates his ability to beat press coverage, run a slant route and make a sideline catch.
An ESPN crew filmed the segments with White at the Falcons’ practice facility this summer. They will air Monday night pre-kickoff and again at some point during the telecast.
MNF did similar videos with wide receivers A.J. Green (Bengals) and Wes Welker (Broncos) in previous games this season, and the ESPN production crew has even more HeroCam segments in the works for the remainder of the schedule.
The idea surfaced this summer during a MNF brainstorming session with Producer Jay Rothman, Director Chip Dean and other members of the production crew. Dean saw a GoPro® exhibit at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention and thought the cameras could be applied to MNF.
“These cameras have been used with great success in extreme sports like X Games, Red Bull and surfing, so we felt there was an opportunity to integrate these same point of view cameras into mainstream sports, and specifically on MNF,” Rothman said.
In July, Rothman and crew conducted a test, mounting POV cameras on the helmets of 22 high school football players at Carrollwood Day School in Tampa – the high school where Jon Gruden has helped as an assistant coach (see video below). The crew liked what they saw and eventually introduced HeroCam with the Green segment on MNF in Week 2.
“We hope fans like it and we hope to create some buzz with players and teams around the league as we try to elevate the stars of the game and their unique skill sets,” Rothman said. “We just sent A.J. Green the video we did with him; he said he liked it so much he shared it with his grandfather.”
Gruden specifically identifies the HeroCam drills that ESPN shoots with players, knowing these types of key plays or movements are likely to be part of MNF games.
In addition to working with the players, Dean utilizes GoPro® cams for specialty shots of the MNF production trucks, stadium exteriors, players walking out of the tunnel and even in scenic city shots coming back from commercials during MNF telecasts. One was even used to show a pot of chili in a famous Cincinnati restaurant.
“Working with these point of view cameras, we are just scratching the surface with the types of things we can do,” Rothman said. “Hopefully we can continue to break new ground.”