The people who operate the different types of cameras on ESPN’s Monday Night Football all have unique roles similar to the specialized equipment they use.
In the case of MNF steadicam operator Phil Jacques, that is especially true.
Jacques — who will be on the field for tonight’s New York Jets versus Tennessee Titans game (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) — is the person fans often see running alongside the players with a 40-pound camera attached to his body. The perspective his steadicam offers provides fans with arguably the most intimate in-game look at NFL players.
A seven-year veteran of MNF, Jacques will finish out the Monday Night schedule this week before moving onto the 2013 Rose Bowl and other assignments. Already this year, Jacques has also covered College GameDay (basketball), the NFL Draft, the MLB Home Run Derby and Major League Soccer.
In the video above, Jacques explains how the steadicam set-up works. Below, he answers more questions about his experiences.
Describe your job on Monday Night Football?
My job is to cover on-the-field shots. The league allows us on the field with a steadicam to cover scoring plays and other shots when the play clock and game clock are stopped. I spend the entire game looking at down, distance and time on the clock and scenarios for each team, and I try to do my best to judge what may or may not happen. I am moving constantly for the three hours of the game.
Editor’s note:The video above is an edited version of a longer feature produced for employees. The copy originally posted Sunday should have reflected that. Front Row regrets the error.
What’s it like to operate a camera on the SportsCenter set or edit the highlight of a big game?
In May, ESPN’s Production Operations demonstrated those things and more at an “expo” that allowed employees in Bristol to learn how things operate.
They learned how to operate a SteadiCam and Jib camera, edit a highlight, run a commercial break and what goes on in a live SportsCenter control room. They also learned how Prod Ops transforms sets, “mic’s” our on-air talent and creates those stunning effects that can be seen throughout our many studio shows.
The video above gives you an overview of the hard work, dedication and teamwork 500 ESPN employees pour into Production Operations everyday.
According to an entry on the Museum of Broadcast Communications website, the invention of the Steadicam 35 years ago was revolutionary: “Without the gravity-bound lock of traditional camera supports (e.g. a tripod), Steadicam relied on the operator’s physical skills to move nimbly through sets. Operators likened the task to the demands of ballet or long distance running.”
Does that make Randy French the Baryshnikov of ESPN’s College GameDay?
The 2008 University of Arizona grad is in his first year operating the Steadicam for GameDay, dancing through campus crowds while harnessed in the 50-pound apparatus. In the midst of his fourth year at ESPN, French has operated a Steadicam since February 2009.
He gives Front Row an idea of what the experience is like in the video above and interview below.
FR: What is a Steadicam? What are its advantages, disadvantages?
French: To put it simply, a Steadicam is a stabilizer and a shock absorber that we as the operator strap to our body with use of a harness. This allows for a very smooth shot despite the fact that we could be moving quickly or on uneven surfaces. Steadicams are extremely versatile and can achieve shots that no other camera rig can, however they are very heavy and take a physical toll on the operator.
FR: How much does it weigh and how do you keep yourself in condition to operate it? continue reading…