ESPN launches ‘GameDay’ season with behind the scenes drone shot

ESPN started off its new season of “College GameDay” with a single-take drone shot that gave viewers a glimpse of the network’s Bristol, Connecticut, campus and the inner workings of the studio.

The “single take” shot started high above the campus, though this view was largely obstructed by the show logo that zoomed off-screen in time to see the craft fly through an open garage-style door of Digital Center 1, the naming convention the network uses to label its two primary studio facilities. 

ESPN operations, including non-broadcast spaces, are spread out across multiple buildings in the complex.

Continuing its journey, the drone zips by the door to Studio G and a jib parked in the hallway and through a studio door with a twirling red “on air” indicator light above it and a dimensional “GameDay” logo positioned outside the open door. 

“GameDay” originates from Studio F, which received an updated set in September 2021. In previous seasons, “GameDay” would travel to basketball arenas, similar to its football counterpart. 

The dark, non-camera facing parts of the set, including the backs of the seamless video walls created with arrays of LED panels are visible before the drone enters the studio proper through one of the “gaps” in the space that allow talent, crew and gear to move in and out while also providing plenty of shoot off space.

In this case, a black drape that’s presumably meant to help hide the backstage area from certain camera angles, has been pulled back to allow for a clear flight path. 

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The back of most sets tend to be darker, both to keep light from spilling into the studio and thanks to the black flame retardant many set fabricators apply to the back of set walls. Seamless LED panels are often black on the back as well. 

The drone ended by facing its camera toward this wall, shown here with an anchor desk moved into position for a less formal setup with branded and topical graphics on the panels behind the talent.

After entering the studio, the drone swings around to face a three screen video array that forms one of the set’s multipurpose venues.

James Hammond III directed the show and the drone was piloted by Mike Shea and Ryan Humble.

Set Design

ESPN Studio F

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Studio F has been used for numerous ESPN productions over the years, including serving as home to “SportsCenter” for years. Currently, the space is home to ESPN’s college football and basketball coverage along with the “NHL on ESPN.” 

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