NFL Films In Regular Season Form for HBO Pre-Season Series

By Andrew Lippe

HBO is taking fans behind the scenes of training camp with their series, “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Kansas City Chiefs,” but the real hard knocks are editing down nearly 200 hours of video every week. “We receive 180 hours of film per week at the Kansas City training camp,” said Ken Rodgers, lead producer of the Hard Knocks series at NFL Films. “All that footage has to be cut down into a 55-minute show.”

NFL Films documents the show in High Definition videotape as well as film, shooting 90 rolls of 16 mm film per episode. NFL Films has a deal with DHL, a courier service that ships the videotapes directly to Mt. Laurel, N.J. Nothing is edited at the training camp facility as everything is edited in the NFL Films studio.

This year’s series has given viewers a more in depth look at the rigors of training camp. Mike Greenwood NFL Films remote operations producer says the practice footage is filmed using four Sony F900 HD cameras. The practice footage was filmed at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and is now currently at the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex the Chiefs training facility located in Kansas City.

During practice three handheld cameras are located on the sidelines. Five robotic Sony BRC-H700 cameras are installed in meetings rooms and locker rooms to hear Coach Herman Edwards and his staff makes team decisions. Additional robotic cameras are positioned at the 50-yard line and end zone. They also use a camera from an elevated position to shoot players and coaches wearing microphones.

Before it airs on HBO, NFL Films must do a lot of sculpting and editing to make the show fit the time slot allotted. Rodgers noted that Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films said that digesting all this material is like a giant snake swallowing a pig. “It doesn’t look like it can be digested but it can be,” says Rodgers.

NFL Films has a staff of 100 working on the Chiefs project with 15 producers in charge of editing the training practice footage. NFL Films uses Avid Composers to edit footage. Rodgers oversees the team of producers whose job it is to break down clips into individual segments. For example a clip called “88 and 11 discuss 82” would mean the clip was Tight End Tony Gonzalez talking with QB Damon Huard and discussing new wide receiver Dwyane Bowe. This is the most efficient way possible for NFL Films to recall the specific shots they want from the hours of film that they have. After each producer has logged the clips it is up to producer Keith Cossrow to decide in what order the segments air in based on their level of importance.

There is an extremely close turnaround when the footage is repackaged for HBO especially when there is breaking news story. When Chiefs’ running back Larry Johnson ended his holdout last Tuesday the production team was there and NFL Films received the footage from training camp at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning. After getting the footage, the NFL Films studio needed to work frantically to edit the material so it could appear on Wednesday’s night’s telecast.

“It is as busy as Times Square on a Saturday afternoon,” adds Rodgers.