I had the best day on Wednesday. I went with some friends to the headquarters of the NFL Films in Mt Laurel, New Jersey. Upon arriving, we saw a non-descriptive building in the middle of an office complex. Little did we know what magic was contained within those walls.
Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted and ushered to a 100-seat movie theatre to watch a 2008 season highlight film. There is nothing better to get you pumped for this tour then watching on a huge screen with amazing sound the best plays of 2008, including Santonio Holmes’ tip-toe catch to win last year’s Super Bowl.
We then learned that the entire building was built special for NFL Films and that it is essentially a movie studio with all phases of production under one roof. From editing, colorization, special effects, music, etc, they do it all under one roof. For instance, we toured an acoustically-designed space where up to a 70-piece orchestra can perform the original music composed for NFL Films’ productions (see right).
Adding to the luster of the tour was the multitude of football-related art, posters and photographs displayed throughout the hallways. You’ve never seen so many Emmy awards in one place. It was a like a museum of football art and memorabilia. We were able to peak into Steve Sabol‘s office and even see some of his original artwork. Yes, in addition to his other talents, Steve is a gifted artist. Right outside Steve’s office is an area called the Boardroom. It is a alcove with shelves of old football games, unique footballs, antique football toys, etc, etc. To the right is just one small sampling.
We were then treated with a tour of the “vault”. The core of this shrine to football. In the vault you can find the original film recordings of every NFL game in their collection plus much more. It is kept cool to preserve the film and is huge. Interestingly, the one troublesome issue is that the vault is quickly filling up. They are running out of space and haven’t yet decided what to do about it. It seems like they have room for 2 or 3 more seasons but, after that, they’ll have to make a change of some type.
We then went to the Telecine area where the films are finalized. Examples of this process include adding a smidgen of blue to an overcast sky, and replacing a poor sounding tackle with a better sounding one from their audio library of stock sounds. There is a machine in this area that “polishes” the film during its final processing which costs $1.6 million (see photo to right). Actually, they have 6 such machines! Their facility is so complete and sophisticated that they actually do production and editing work for other companies.
We also saw the marketing area where deals are made to license clips from NFL games. Apparently, on game day plus 3 days, NFL clips are considered “news” and there are available for free. After that three-day period, however, you need to pay NFL Films for the right to a clip. Ten minutes could cost you roughly $20,000. The really cool thing is that each play is categorized allowing a user to essentially “Google” anything they want. You want Walter Payton running to the right on a snowy day, just enter the data and presto you have the clips you want to see.
For an NFL fan like me, it was a great day but it was about to get better. Just when we thought we had seen it all, we were taken to the set of Inside The NFL and who greets us with a big smile? Warren Sapp. He joked around with us for a while and signed some autographs. We were placed in the back and, then, in comes Phil Simms, Cris Collinsworth and James Brown. We were able to watch them tape for about an hour and while they was great, the colloquy in between was even better. They shared stories, busted on each other and just had a lot of fun. My favorite story was when Phil Simms reminded Warren Sapp about the time that Sapp lost his diamond earring during warm-ups and how Phil spent his pre-game time searching for it. I told Cris after the taping that the behind the scenes stuff was better than the show, and he said “everyone says that”.
If the NFL Films crew wasn’t gracious enough, we were giving all types of NFL Films swag on the way out including NFL Films apparel, DVDs and an overnight bag. We all left with huge smiles on our faces knowing that we’d never forget this special day.
To see more photos from this magical day, check out my Facebook page, and to learn how I was able to score this great opportunity, visit my web site and complete a Contact Us form requesting the NFL Films tour info.