When I was writing about the exciting adventures of Video Jason Campbell, I got to wondering exactly what the setup was in the JumboTron control room — how things worked, who worked them, and if we would ever see HD monitors at FedExField.
Before Sunday’s Giants game, I was able to find out.
The man in the tan shirt is Anthony Fanticola, since 2001 the director of production at the stadium. On gamedays, he runs a crew of about fifty people. “That includes video engineers, audio engineers, we use three of our own cameras,” he says. “Maybe a dozen people in the control room ‘horseshoe’ itself. We also do all the A/V on the club level … overall, once you count up all the grips, production assistants, everything, it’s about 50 people.”
He let me poke around the gleaming lights and flashing control panels of the control room, and helpfully answered my repeated questions of “What’s that?” The first thing he showed me was the computer that controls the Matrix Boards in the stadium, including the boards in “the end zones, sidelines, game in progress, out of town scores, the game clock. And it also routes the open captioning during the game.”
I looked at it. “It looks a little old school,” I said, confused.
Fanticola nodded. “The system was put in when the stadium was built, the Daktronics System. In newer stadiums, of course, there’s no more sixteen color boards. They’re LEDs, they’re fascia boards, and we’re in the process of evaluating new HD endzone boards and fascia boards for our fans’ enjoyment.”
The marching band has their own sound mixing board. “We have a guy who runs the audio for Pershing’s Own U.S. Army Band,” Fanticola told me, “and then he comes here when the stadium opens and runs this.”
The video monitor wall looked a bit more like what I had been picturing, and came as something of a relief after the computer running the Matrix Boards.
“This is our new video monitor wall,” Fanticola explained, “where all the different video inputs – the things that we have here as well as stuff coming from the production truck – get displayed. It’s brand new for this year, it’s color, it’s HD-compatible, it’s 16×9. Right now we’re all standard-def, but when we upgrade to HD, we won’t need to buy a new wall because it’s right there, ready to go.”
(Yes, that is, in fact, an Easy Button about to be pressed in that picture.)
Gameday is understandably busy for the entire crew.
“For 1:00 games, I’m usually here by 6:00 a.m.,” Fanticola said, “and we just start from that time on to put out any gameday fires as they flare up, or to tie up any loose ends, or to finish up anything from the night before – like adding music to the gameday playlist, including the stuff from Marcus.”
He continues, “The gameday staff crew call is 8:00 a.m., five hours before kickoff. We go over the game script, the P.A. script, we check it with marketing and make sure we have everything we need. We check to make sure we have all the videos we need from Larry Michael’s group – Brad Baker and Marc Dress and those guys. Everybody is in place and ready to go by 12:15 at the latest.”
So what’s the one thing that people don’t realize about this in-game production stuff?
“Well, once everything starts at 12:40, we’re essentially running a live show. We do it for 94,000 people in the stadium, ten games a year. And that 94,000 can be bigger than some TV markets in the country,” Fanticola points out.
“But it’s a live show, and things happen during a live show. Hopefully always good; sometimes you’ve just got to roll with the punches. You have to be flexible enough to say ‘That didn’t work, let’s just move on,’ or ‘Time’s getting short, let’s move this stuff, switch this,’ and think on your feet like that. At the end of the day, you look back and ask, ‘Did we educate the fans, did we entertain the fans, and did we inform the fans?’
“If we did those three things, I think we’ve had a good day.”