Eye for emotion
For NFL Films, Super Bowl is 'Schwarzkopfian' effort
Updated: Wednesday January 24, 2001 2:58 AM
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) -- The first wave went in to set up the compound in mid-January. Now reinforcements are landing every day to supply and support the mission.
NFL Films handles the Super Bowl like the Army approaches a war zone.
"It's kind of Schwarzkopfian, in a way, moving against the desert," said Michele Valkov, spokeswoman for NFL Films, the National Football League's film and television company, which plans to shoot 25 miles of footage of Sunday's game and the spectacle surrounding it.
Fortunately for the 150 producers, cinematographers and technicians, ground zero isn't a Middle Eastern desert, but Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
While CBS will air the game in the United States, NFL Films will distribute it live to more than 200 countries.
They'll also produce features on the players, magazine and analysis programs, behind-the-scenes looks at game-week activities and highlights packages for cable networks and the Internet.
Outside the stadium, NFL Films has set up a "domestic compound" with nearly 40 production trailers and trucks. Crews will produce features and highlights here, and television affiliates from throughout the country will air their live Super Bowl reports from this compound.
During the game, NFL Films will have 28 cinematographers on and above the field -- including one in a helicopter -- to capture the action and emotion.
In typical NFL Films fashion, the camera operators won't be shooting only the plays on the field. They also will be on the lookout for outrageous fans, wacky mascots, splashing mud, dramatic shadows and outbreaks of emotion by the players and coaches.
Cameras will be in the end zone corner, filming in slow motion to capture close-ups of sweat dripping down players' faces or dirt falling from cleats.
They will be shooting from the top tier of the stadium to document every play for National Football League archives.
They'll rove the sidelines and benches for more drama.
From one end zone, they will film the game for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's two-story theater. At the other end zone, a crew will be set up just to film the player chosen by the Disney Co. to appear in the now-famous "You've just won the Super Bowl. What are you going to do next?" commercials.
"In one concentrated effort in a six-hour block, including the pregame and the couple weeks leading up to it, it's the biggest thing we produce," Valkov said last week in an interview at the company headquarters in this New Jersey suburb about 15 miles east of Philadelphia.
Perhaps one of the hardest jobs on game day goes to director Tripp Dixon, who is charged with making his way through the pandemonium on the field the second the game ends to find the player chosen to appear in the commercials for Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
"The athlete is at the pinnacle of his career technically, physically and emotionally, and he wants to get his hands on the trophy," Valkov said, "and Tripp is going, 'Can you say it one more time?'"
Dixon then makes a beeline for the editing trucks to produce the commercials and have them ready to air the next morning.
"They rely on NFL Films to get in there and get the goods," Valkov said.
Another crucial step comes just as the game ends. NFL Films president Steve Sabol -- one of only a handful of people to have attended every Super Bowl -- will join a few of the cameramen on a Lear jet to bring the 25 miles of footage back to the New Jersey studios so production can begin.
Employees will be waiting in the labs at 11:30 p.m. Sunday when Sabol and the others arrive to start editing immediately.
"No matter how exhausted everyone is, they're so eager to get their hands on the film to start producing stories," Valkov said.
"That's part of the fun of film," said Cory Laslocky, NFL Films spokesman. "You never know what you've got till it's developed."
All the film must then be logged according to what it contains. Loggers must answer 132 questions about each segment so producers can later retrieve film from the archives, based on what they're looking for.
For example, the loggers must indicate whether there is mud or snow in the shot, what jersey numbers are included, whether there are celebrities and whether it's shot from the ground or the air.
Production crews will then have 2 1/2 days to get the first program out.
"It's a massive undertaking," Laslocky said.
"The whole world will have seen the Super Bowl. They know who won," Valkov said. "It's our job to tell the emotional side."