Like Little Richard sings, ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning Creative Services team is going to “rip it up” and “shake it up” this NFL season, showcasing innovative and inspiring designs across Monday Night Football telecasts, the Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown pregame shows and more.
Front Row spoke with ESPN creative director Lucas Nickerson about what’s new and noteworthy in 2020. Highlights include:
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL “TUNNELVISION”
Prior to the Monday Night Football Chiefs-Ravens showdown (Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN), ESPN’s new pre-kickoff hype song – “Rip It Up (Feat. Butcher Brown)” by Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame artist Little Richard – will give way to a virtual world underneath the field. Akin to passing through a stadium tunnel and up several flights in an elevator, fans will take a fast-paced journey to the field of play where virtual team names and the MNF shield set the stage for the night’s matchup.
To achieve this tunnel effect, Nickerson, senior manager of motion graphics design Charlie Collin and team collaborated with Girraphic Studio. MNF director Jimmy Platt and director of Motion Graphics Scott Lodge refined the final execution in Las Vegas last Monday (see video above).
“The trick is that we start with a computer-generated camera, and then the camera’s tracking data transfers to the real-life camera, SkyCam, once we’ve traveled up to that field level,” Nickerson explains. “Early ideas from designers John Siciliano and Jamal Wynn sparked the concept.”
STARS ALIGN IN NYC SKYLINE FOR SUNDAY NFL COUNTDOWN
When fans tune into Sunday NFL Countdown (10 a.m. ET, ESPN), they’ll be greeted by NFL stars in the streets of New York.
Nickerson, Jeremy Anderson, Marissa Mangino, Adam Schaub, and Rabia AlGhani produced and directed the show open to welcome in everyone. It doesn’t matter where they’re watching from or which team they root for.
“The popular football anthem ‘We Ready,’ devised by Countdown producer Chad Minutillo three seasons ago, remains our theme song to kick off the three-hour Sunday pregame show,” Nickerson notes. “It’s a good mantra to showcase storyline visuals and leave an impression of Sunday NFL Countdown all over the city.”
HOW ESPN ALIGNS THE STARS’ VISUALS FOR SUNDAY NFL COUNTDOWN
Outside of Countdown’s new rooftop studio in New York City’s Seaport District, images of Tom Brady and more NFL stars blanket buildings. To achieve this effect, Nickerson credits Two Fresh Creative for rotoscope/tracking details. He said the goal was to achieve “an organic, realistic touch.”
DISTINCTIVE LOOKS: SUNDAY NFL COUNTDOWN
Also, you might have noticed while Sunday NFL Countdown’s visuals reflect the morning light . . .
DISTINCTIVE LOOKS: MONDAY NFL COUNTDOWN
Monday Night Countdown (6 p.m. ET, ESPN) visuals – as seen above – allow producer Greg Shapiro and director Steve Zawilinski to create a prime-time presentation.
ONE-STOP INFORMATION SHOPPING: SUNDAY NFL COUNTDOWN
Sunday NFL Countdown also features a news and information bar to keep fans up-to-date with breaking news, current weather conditions, injury information, game picks and what’s coming up in the show.
Thanks to the great work by ESPN’s Brian Girardin, Adam Konyndyk, Erica Vittal, Ben Bieglecki and the rest of the technology and design teams, Countdown coordinating producer Matthew Garrett and director Rob Bentley can utilize this multi-functional topic bar as they would an LED display.
Recognized earlier this year for Live Graphic Design and Post-Produced Graphic Design, ESPN’s Creative Services team has earned Sports Emmy Awards for four consecutive years.