By Richie Zyontz
FOX NFL Lead Producer
Editor’s note: Richie Zyontz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and has been the principal producer for the past 20 seasons. He has over 40 years of league experience and has produced six Super Bowls. During the 2022 NFL season, he will provide a glimpse as FOX’s new NFL #1 team makes its way to Super Bowl LVII.
INGLEWOOD, California – Some people work in offices. others in their homes. Our workplace every Sunday is the inside of a truck.
It’s not a pickup or U-Haul, it’s a tractor trailer. But unlike the semi-trucks you see hauling furniture or veggies down every freeway, our truck hauls millions of dollars in broadcast equipment.
The FOX Sports production can be converted into a mobile television studio in just a few hours. (Photo courtesy of Richie Zyontz)
Our driver team usually arrives on Friday morning. You park the trucks either outside the stadium or in a designated loading dock area inside next to the pitch.
Three to four hours are enough to convert our large system into a mobile television studio.
The first thing you notice in our truck is the 20-foot-wide monitor wall, the many workstations with dozens of switches, knobs, and speakers, and the futuristic board that sits in front of our Technical Director, Colby Bourgeois. Prying eyes might also notice the refrigerator, coffee maker, and unhealthy snacks that are a staple of our industry.
Director Rich Russo sits in front of a wall of television monitors and follows the action coming from the stadium’s 20 cameras. (Photo courtesy of Richie Zyontz)
All those TV screens…
The monitor wall is strategically placed to accommodate the producer and director’s vision.
Director Rich Russo focuses on the monitors showing the output from his 20 cameras. You will be identified by cameraman number and name. These numbers are not chosen randomly, but logically based on their position on the field.
As a producer, I look at the 15 playback monitors, which are labeled with letters or colors. To make us smart, some are identified with Greek letters like delta and gamma. For Super Bowls, we’re expanding into geography with machines called Utah, Idaho, and Montana. (My request for Uzbekistan never got off the ground.)
Also, both Russo and I keep an eye on the monitors the graphics are displayed on. That’s exactly what the eyes do – I’ll save my ears for another week.
A footnote on life in the truck: Along with unhealthy foods, nicknames are another industry focus. Enter our truck and you’ll hear names like Mookie, Gibby, Drano, Buzz, Chevy, Schlo, and Crash. And trust me, they all enjoy a good snack.
Cameraman Andy Mitchell provides all the action from position #9 during Sunday’s game between the Niners and Rams at SoFi Stadium. (Photo courtesy of Richie Zyontz)
Camera 9 and videotape 0
Andy Mitchell has spent 25 years capturing outstanding images from his Low End Zone #9 camera position. Throughout this time, Lars Pacheco recorded and played back Andy’s recordings from his playback device, labeled 0.
Mitchell’s low-end zone position is perfect for providing crisp shots of the action. (Photo courtesy of Richie Zyontz)
Andy, a perpetually upbeat Philadelphian (can you imagine?), has a cinematographer’s eye for tight, dramatic images. Watching a reel of the best footage from Andy’s career can take hours.
Lars, a San Franciscan who recently relocated to Ohio, has excellent instincts and judgment – someone I trust completely. Their work ethic and commitment is outstanding. All they lack are nicknames.
Mitchell and Replay Operator Lars Pacheco have worked together for 25 years. (Photo courtesy of Richie Zyontz)
A great day for pictures
Division games are special. The Rams and the 49ers don’t like each other. Hostility increased before the game, with some scrums continuing throughout the game.
Niners dominate in LA
Christian McCaffrey rushed for 183 yards and three touchdowns in the 49ers’ win over rival Rams.
This intensity upgrades a broadcast. Mitchell and our entire camera crew documented the seething atmosphere on the field and on the sidelines.
In a game of many stars, one shone brightest.
As tempers flared everywhere, newly acquired San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey kept his cool and stole the show by becoming the first player since 2005 to record a rushing, passing and receiving TD in the same game.
“Every time you get into the end zone, it’s fun!”
Christian McCaffrey speaks with Erin Andrews after becoming the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson to score TDs as a passer, receiver and runner.
Our field cameras provided dynamic, crisp images of McCaffrey all afternoon. His all-around performance helped San Francisco to a 31-14 win.
Now our drivers will saddle up the big teams and head to Detroit next week for another divisional match between the Packers and Lions.
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