The Full Sail University Sports Lab Powered By ESPN opened on our campus in 2010, kicking off a unique collaboration between Full Sail and the sports entertainment giant. The room is both a learning facility for students, as well as a live production space where ESPN crews can produce content for their television programming and other media outlets.
Recently the Sports Lab held a shoot for a 2012 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) virtual preview. The segment is part of ESPN’s popular College GameDay show, and featured host Desmond Howard providing a rundown of the upcoming game, as well as a recap of past highlights. The production ran for five days, and was developed with the help of Computer Animation graduate Jason Black and Digital Arts & Design graduate Erik McGrew, who are concept developers for the network.
The grads joined ESPN’s College GameDay in the summer of 2011, where the majority of their work has seen them utilizing Brainstorm, a proprietary software program that lets them digitally manipulate live game footage, and is used by the network for a variety of applications.
“The short answer is that Brainstorm is a real-time graphics rendering engine that allows us to do motion tracking over a broadcast,” Jason says. “It’s almost like a video game engine, and you can get really deep with it and make some pretty cool content.”
“What we’re doing with it for this project is helping with an interface where the host can use a touch screen to move players around,” Erik adds. “The technology is like something out of Star Trek, and it’s pretty surreal to be working on this shoot in the Sports Lab, because I actually used to have my motion capture projects in [that room] back when I was a student.”
Jason and Erik got hired specifically to learn Brainstorm, and were tipped to the opportunity by Full Sail’s Career Development department when the network came looking for ideal candidates. After an intense two-week training period, they joined the College Gameday team, and have spent this year’s season traveling the country to featured games, where they handle the camera-tracking and program virtual graphics into shots during a live show.
“My friends all think I’m in the broadcast truck getting to watch the game, but there’s so many other things going on,” Erik says. “For every single shot we’re cranking out notes, recording positional numbers, x, y z, values – and it’s all live. There’s a crazy amount of work, but I think the cool part for me is there’s people who have been here for years who are coming to us to ask about certain problems, which is an awesome feeling.”
After wrapping the BCS preview shoot on campus the grads are heading back out on the road to cover the remaining college football season, which will include a stop at the BCS game in New Orleans on January 9. Another perk of the job – they’ll also be helping out during ESPN’s coverage of the Rose Bowl and Super Bowl. Being able to say you’re a part of the biggest football games of the year would be an envious position for anyone to be in, and the grads explained that they’ve enjoyed being able to become a part of these annual traditions, as well as the ESPN family.
“We really lucked out with these jobs,” Jason says. “I’m really proud to be a part of ESPN, and the people here have all just been fantastic to work with. We had to spend Thanksgiving away from our families this year, and they cooked a meal for everyone. People that had been on the show for 20 years were telling stories of past seasons, and we got to be a part of that. There really is a close feeling with this group.”
“This just shows that you have no idea what can happen to you, I honestly can’t believe I’m here right now,” Erik says. “You don’t realize how big football is until you’re out there at these games each week, and it’s been cool to be a part of that. I look back to where I was six months ago, just starting the whole Brainstorm training program, and I feel like we’re not even the same people.”