Scanlan, ESPN ready for World Cup

Tim Scanlan, ESPN/ABC senior coordinating producer usually spends his summers making the network’s telecasts of America’s pastime look sharp. But beginning Friday he’ll have an additional assignment: making the world’s pastime look sharp during 64 World Cup telecasts.

“We’ll have a minimum of 22 cameras for each game in the first round and that will grow to 32 for the second round,” he says. Along with the complement of camera feeds provided by the World Cup Host Broadcaster Services ESPN will have its own ENG and SNG units covering events in and around the stadiums as well as commentator cameras and other speciality units.

“We’ll be using more cameras than we use on the MLB games we broadcast on ESPN Monday through Wednesday but not as many as we use on a Sunday Night telecast,” he says.

Covering a soccer match is obviously very different from covering a baseball game but for Scanlan the biggest difference is the lack of absolute control that he and his crew exercise during a Sunday night MLB telecast. “Here I have to work with World Cup partners that are servicing the World Feed,” he says.

All of the cameras are HD, including goal cameras, two steadicams used to cover near kicks, and jib cameras. Other camera positions include offside cameras on the 18-yard line, a tight hero camera, a reverse camera, and a camera in the middle of the field that swivels like a turret for near action and the quick transition game. Handheld cameras will also be located near the benches and sidelines.

ESPN will also be able to tap into its other world-wide resources to enhance U.S. coverage. Topping the list? Working with ESPN Brazil. “They have a much smaller production team but they have great access to what is basically the New York Yankees of World Cup soccer,” says Scanlan.

The ESPN production will also cross the Atlantic, with graphics and tape elements played out of ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT. “A new element will be our ‘ShotTracker’ which is a graphic that will tracks the number of shots and where the shots have come from on the field,” says Scanlan.

Scanlan himself will also head back to the states. After the early rounds get underway he’ll come back to handle some baseball telecasts and then it’s back over to Germany for the quarterfinals and semi-finals.

For Scanlan and his crew the biggest challenge will be getting U.S. viewers who are unfamiliar with the sport and its personalities engaged in the event when there aren’t timeouts to provide natural breaks to discuss the finer points of the game.

“A goal can come in from 50 yards and if you miss out on the set-up play you’re in trouble,” says Scanlan. “We’ll need to pick and choose what we want to weave into the broadcast so we can humanize the game and tell stories that enhance the knowledge of the game.”