Control Room ready for game action
After position checks, pregame is spent with everyone getting ready for game action.

On any given Husker football game day, just shy of 90,000 Nebraska fans converge upon Memorial Stadium to watch the Huskers take the field. Most fans show up within the hour or so before kickoff. The most devoted show up a couple of hours early.

But they are by no means the first people at the stadium.

With the exception of security staff, that honor belongs to the staff members, like myself, who work at HuskerVision.

Not surprisingly, it takes a lot to put together the big screen shows that fans look to during every home football game to keep them engaged and offer instant replay after each play.

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Waking up at 4:30 a.m. is an unfortunate consequence of 11 a.m. kickoffs.

More than once, friends, family and even total strangers have asked what it’s like to work for HuskerVision and what goes into a typical game day production. Regardless of the game time, work for me begins at least five hours before kickoff. For the Huskers’ game against Wisconsin on Nov. 16, 2019, my day began at before dawn.

4:30 a.m. — Wake up

I tend to get up an hour and a half before I need to be anywhere, simply because I’d rather be a couple of minutes early than show up late, especially when a Husker football game is the event in question. Some of my coworkers like to cut it close and wake up less than an hour before our crew call time, others wake up two or more hours early.

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The west side of Memorial Stadium pictured at 6:00 .a.m.

6:00 a.m. — Setup crew call

Our first task for the HuskerVision football crew is split into two separate groups. A select few of us are designated to be on the setup crew, and we get the privilege of showing up five hours before kickoff. The rest of the crew gets to sleep in and doesn’t need to show up until four hours before kickoff.

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The HuskerVision control room prior to setup.

6-7:00 a.m. — Set up

For the hour before the rest of the crew gets there, those of us on the setup crew are tasked with bringing equipment to its position and getting everything turned on and prepared for our production.

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One page of the spreadsheet detailing how everything needs to be routed for the football game.

Personally, I’m the lead instant replay operator. I’m the person responsible for the instant replay shown on the screen after every single play. During the game, I’m looking at between six and 10 different camera angles at a time, so my task during the setup hour is to make sure that all camera angles and audio sources are routed properly so that we can make sure there are no hiccups during game play.

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The entire crew runs through the script ahead of every game.

7:00 a.m. — Script meeting

Four hours before kickoff, the rest of the crew arrives and we have our full crew script meeting. As unpredictable as a football game might seem, from a production standpoint everything is scripted down to the second. For example, for the Wisconsin game, we scripted the Tunnel Walk video to play at exactly seven seconds past 10:55 a.m., with exactly 5:53 remaining on the pregame countdown clock. Everything is scripted like that so we can make sure that our timing aligns perfectly with kickoff and game play. The whole crew needs to be aware of when exactly each thing is happening, so we run through the entire game plan and make sure everyone is on the same page.

7:30 a.m. — Position checks

Immediately following the script meeting, everyone on the 25-person crew heads to their positions. We need to make sure everything works properly, so one-by-one our director goes through every position, making sure everything is working properly, from our replays to our wireless camera signals to running through a full mock Tunnel Walk. This can take less than 45 minutes, or depending on if something isn’t working, it can take multiple hours. Because of that, we schedule the rest of the pregame to ensure everything is going smoothly and that we have time to fix any issues.

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We all head to our separate positions, whether that’s a camera or an EVS Instant Replay system (pictured).

10:00 a.m. — Everyone to positions

Our first on-screen task usually occurs at or around one hour before kickoff, so everyone is back in their positions with 60 minutes left on the pregame clock. During this time, we might have some on-field presentations, or we might just be shooting warmups. All of it is building toward our first significant event which is the marching band performance, the national anthem and the flyover. In this case, we had three Blackhawk helicopters conducting the flyover. We follow that up with our projected starting lineups, and then the screen goes black until the Tunnel Walk.

10:55:07 a.m. — Tunnel Walk

As scripted, we roll the Tunnel Walk video on time and following the video, we go to live shots of the team in the tunnel. Following the team’s run out on to the field, we show the coin toss live on the screen and follow that up with some crowd shots of fans to get everyone hyped up before the kickoff.

11:08 a.m. — Game action

There’s a very clear difference in the way we operate pregame and the way things run during the game. Everything pregame and during breaks is very specifically scripted. During the game, we need to be prepared for anything, so as soon as the teams are lined up, our director comes on the headset and says, “Alright everybody. Good pregame, we’re into game action now.” That just lets everybody know that pregame is done and it’s time to focus on the action on the field.

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After position checks, pregame is spent with everyone getting ready for game action.

From that point, everyone gets into a smooth rhythm of shooting each play, cutting to me for a replay, and pretty quickly getting into the next play with the quick pace of the Huskers’ offense. We do a drive summary after each scoring drive and have every timeout or media break scripted very precisely so there’s never any question as to what is going on. All of this is also constantly being communicated and reiterated to everyone via headset. As a whole, constant communication is arguably the most important aspect of the job as one failure to communicate can cause a significant error in front of nearly 90,000 people.

Postgame — Clean up and press conferences

Following the final whistle, everyone has specific duties. Most of the crew is tasked with tearing down our cameras and equipment and bringing it inside. Personally, I’m tasked with monitoring and clipping the press conferences so we can get them onto as quickly as possible. This can sometimes take up to an hour and a half after the game ends.

As a whole, game day is an undeniably long day of work, sometimes clocking upwards of 10 hours on a single game day. On the day of the Wisconsin game, we also had a volleyball game against Iowa later that night, so I got to come back a couple of hours later to do it all over again. That day, I clocked about 17 hours of work.

Many people see game day as a fun day to tailgate, socialize and watch a game. While we do get to watch the game, those of us at HuskerVision are certainly more focused on work and completing the job at hand. With 90,000 people viewing your work live as it happens, there’s little to no room for error.

Zach Markon is in his final year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he will graduate in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Journalism. He is pursuing double majors of both Broadcast Production as well as Sports Media & Communication. Following graduation, he is looking to start his career at a university, producing digital content for an athletic department.