Comcast SportsNet Takes Fans Behind the Lens

Few sports fans are aware of what it takes to broadcast a sporting event on television, but, after this Sunday, fans of the Washington Capitals will know a whole lot more about Comcast SportsNet’s behind-the-scenes efforts. Capitals: Behind the Lens is a 30-minute feature that lifts the curtain on a live broadcast of a Capitals game. Produced by the CSN production team, the feature will give both Capitals fans and the casual viewer an understanding of what it takes to put a hockey game on the air night after night.

“I thought it would be a cool thing to see,” says Frank Crisafulli, executive producer of Behind the Lens. “I thought it would make some great programming for Caps fans heading into the playoffs and even into next season. You watch [left wing] Alexander Ovechkin out on the ice all the time, but what about the people that show him to you every single night? I thought it was a great opportunity to show people just how talented the people are that work at our station.”

Focusing on the people and the preparation that is part of every production of a Washington Capitals game, the program was filmed over five games played at the Verizon Center following the Olympic break.

“That really worked out well,” Crisafulli says. “I think it would have been very difficult to shoot everything in one game.”

From Wake-Up to Whistle
The behind-the-scenes tour, guided by host Russ Thaler, brings fans inside the HD mobile-production truck, onto the director’s shoulder, into the chair of the technical director, into the audio room, out onto the glass to set up the robotic cameras, into the announcers booth, and everywhere else the production team can be found on game day. The show covers the entire game day, from morning until the game clock hits zero.

“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t just going to highlight two or three people, that it wasn’t just going to be about the producer, director, or talent,” Crisafulli explains. “Our plan was to give fans a feel for what everybody in these broadcasts must do for the show to work.”

Even individuals who work in television, he says, will appreciate watching the director calling for different camera angles after a goal is scored. “The viewer has watched that a thousand times, but it is amazing how many things have to be done in such a short period of time to get that goal on the air.”

Stories Behind the Story
Other highlights include pre-game chats with the announcers, where viewers see that it can take upwards of two hours to create a 30-second show open, and an inside look at the robotic cameras, how they work, and who operates them.

“One of the robotic-camera operators used to sell popcorn at USAir Arena just to be able to watch the games,” Crisafulli says. “And now he’s hooking up and running the camera that catches some of the most unbelievable goals with that ice-level look.”

A Team of All-Stars
On the Comcast SportsNet team featured in the show are play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati, analyst Craig Laughlin, reporter Al Koken, executive producer/game director Bill Bell, and producer Steve Farrell.

“Steve really lives this,” Crisafulli says. “He’ll start building his rundown the night before, and he comes in early in the morning with his entire game plan. That’s before everybody comes in to set up the truck, including the camera operators, engineers, and graphics people. This really is a well-oiled machine, and we wanted to show not just the truck and the equipment, but all the people, some of their stories, and how much they love to do what they do.”

The show was produced by CSN’s Colvin Underwood and will re-air several times throughout April and May. The debut, Sunday April 11 at 7 p.m., coincides with the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.