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Teamwork In Action: “Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli,” ESPN and Omaha Productions

ESPN’s Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli, an innovative alternate presentation for Monday Night Football that features commentary from Super Bowl Champions Peyton and Eli Manning, continues to receive critical acclaim: Monday Night Mannings has been a big success for ESPN (apnews.com).

 

As the case with any “hit” presentation, it’s a total team effort, requiring effective collaboration and coordination among several crucial ESPN departments in conjunction with Omaha Productions. One of these groups is the ESPN Remote Operations team, led by Chris Calcinari [senior vice president] and Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli project lead Chris Strong [senior operations manager].

Strong, along with Shea Byram, [senior manager, remote production operations], work closely with ESPN’s Monday Night Football production team on all aspects of Peyton and Eli’s studios, with 10 employees on site at both locations. In addition to Strong and Byram, instrumental personnel in the project include Ed Placey [senior coordinating producer],  Lorenzo Lamadrid [coordinating director], Ryan Bastek [senior remote operations coordinator], Chris Watson [director, studio and remote lighting],  Rachel Busch and Jeremy Frankel [both managers, studio design and development], as well as Nick D’Angelo and Stephen Potvin [lighting specialists].

The Manning brothers’ families have also played an integral role, as Eli’s set-up is in his home and Peyton’s a short ride from his Denver residence. Allowing ESPN employees into their lives, and homes, on Mondays has added to the great camaraderie between ESPN, the Mannings and Omaha Productions.

Ahead of arguably the most-anticipated Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli of the season – the Nov. 22 matchup between the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants (8 ET, ESPN2 and ESPN+) – Strong discussed the triumphs and challenges of the popular telecast, which has become commonly referred to as the “ManningCast” from a remote operations perspective.

How do you evaluate the project so far and what has the process been like for the Remote Operations team
The ManningCast project has been an adrenaline rush to say the least. To say we went from 0-60 in a blink would be an understatement. Now that we are midseason and hitting a good stride is a great accomplishment for all of the teams involved. This project touches so many who are experts of their craft, including the Remote Operations unit, the Home Studio team, Production Operations, Studio and Remote Lighting, Studio Design and Development, Remote and Studio Production, our vendors and Omaha Productions. For the Remote Operations team, it’s been a lot of late nights and hours, dedicated to making sure we have everything in order so the show comes off without a hitch.

As the Remote Operations team has constructed the studios for Peyton and Eli, how have you continued to evaluate and make adjustments as the season has gone on? 
In working out the technical workflows and facilities for both studios, we needed to stick to what we could do now to make the timelines and then make adjustments as the show dictated and buildup the studio infrastructures. Each show we improve upon what we learned on the previous one. That could be a signal flow change for the talent, placement of video in their monitors walls or scenic adjustments or additional feeds.

What have been the most significant challenges on this project that the team has had to address? 
Aside from the hyper-condensed timeframe to pull this show off, I think the most challenging aspect of the ManningCast project is having talent in separate studios in different spots of the country with the production control room in a third location and the main Monday Night Football telecast is happening in a fourth location. Timing is key to everything, and making sure that Peyton and Eli see footage at the same time in order to react to it, while hearing each other in near real-time, is key. Our latest focus has been to work on getting the guests, who are at four more additional locations, into the same sync with our control room and studios, while hearing the brothers near real time in order to provide the smoothest dialogue and banter for the show.

What are you most proud of about this project? 
I am most proud of the collaboration and teamwork amongst all of the people on this project, including Omaha Productions. Without everyone working together, this wouldn’t have been possible and it definitely wouldn’t look and feel as big as it is. No project that Remote Operations works on can be done by one person and this is no exception. When people work together for a cause, there isn’t anything they can’t accomplish and this project shows that.

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