Backstage Tour of ESPN-U studios in Charlotte, NC

Here I am on the set of Sports Center with photo assistant David White. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/7.1, 1/100]

This past Tuesday, I called my friend James Dockery who will be helping teach the Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Romania, with Jeff Raymond and me, letting him know I was going to be near him the next day in Charlotte, NC.

The next thing I hear is an invitation to stop by for a tour of the ESPN studios in Charlotte. Charlotte is the home of ESPN U and a few other programs.

James Dockery is a coordinating editor for ESPN and is here finishing up some edits at the end of his shift. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/60]

James is showing David White what he is editing. The software they use primarily is Quantel IQ, customized for ESPN. They are editing off of servers live rather than downloading files, then editing them, and then uploading them. They are editing so quickly that replays show up seconds after the editor captured them with graphics.

[Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/7.1, 1/30]

One of the best things to learn editing from someone who works at a place like ESPN is they have created a digital workflow so that as one person leaves and the next editor comes behind them, they can pick up where the other editor stopped and finish a project. Now you cannot do this if you have your way of doing things.

One of the best things I learned from James Dockery was file structures. We learned in our workshop in Lisbon last year that you need first to create the folders for a project first before you even start working. So here is how we set up our project folder for our “Portugal Project.”

Create Project Folder

  • 01_Portugal Photo Files
  • 02_Portugal Video Files
  • 03_Portugal Audio Files
  • 04_Portugal Graphic Files
  • 05_Portugal Premier Edits [We were teaching using Adobe Premier]
  • 06_Portugal Scratch Disk
  • 07_ Portugal Output Render Files
  • 08_Portugal Preview Files

In the 05_Portugal Premier Edits folder, we created a new version each time we reopened the project to start. This way, if we had a problem, we could go back to an understanding and not have to recreate all the work we have done. The brackets were not part of the file name; just here to tell you what was in those edits.

05_Portugal Premier Edits [Inside the folder]

  • Portugal Edit_001 [Day 1]
  • Portugal Edit_001 [Day 2]
Here is the moving graphics edit suite at ESPN. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5, 1/125]
The other thing that James could advise on was your camera settings. Have all your cameras set the same way, so editing goes much smoother. ESPN broadcast in 720p. 
He recommended shooting everything in 720 60 FPS. The second choice was 720 30 FPS which depended on your camera’s capabilities.
David White had fun putting on Auburn’s helmet, his favorite football team–Go War Eagles! [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/7.1, 1/200] 
Seeing all the helmets reminded me that you could never have enough “B” roll. I can tell you from my experience, and so can James, that you cannot have enough “B” roll. So for those coming with us to Romania this summer, be prepared to hear this repeatedly. 
Here we are in one of the master control rooms for a live show. There is still another room behind me: the sound guy’s room. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/80]
This summer Jeff Raymond, James Dockery, and I will be teaching students how to create a video package that uses still images, video, audio, and graphics to help tell a story. 
There is still time to join us in Romania. Here is the link