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A Look at the Pens Video Staff's Emmy-Winning Work

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

This past weekend, the Penguins video staff won two Emmy awards at the 32nd Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards Gala in Philadelphia.

The Penguins won the “Sports Program Series” category for In The Room, the team-produced monthly show that offers fans a unique behind-the-scenes look at Penguins hockey throughout the season. The Penguins’ video staff also won the “Graphic Arts, Animation” category for the Battlefield game-open video, which was featured at CONSOL Energy Center in the second half of the 2013-14 season.

“This is a unique and talented group,” said Rod Murray, Senior Director of Production and Game Entertainment. “They’re creative and passionate about their projects, they work their butts off, and they have a lot of fun coming up with new ideas. It’s fun to come to the arena every day with this kind of environment, and it’s great to see their efforts recognized.”

Here’s an in-depth look at what went into their award-winning work...

“I broke all my teeth again. ALL of them again,” said Pascal Dupuis from the Penguins bench during their game against Boston on Oct. 30, 2013.

“How many of them are loose? I don’t want you to swallow them,” asked head athletic trainer Chris Stewart.

“Every one. I just put them back,” Dupuis replied.

“Ok. Did you pull the one out? Is it on a post? Do you want to take it out so you don’t swallow it?” said Stewart.

Dupuis reached into his mouth, casually yanked out the offending tooth and deposited it into Stewart’s gloved hand.

“Alright. I’ll need another one now,” Dupuis said.

The reason that whole magnificent exchange was recorded was because Dupuis happened to be wearing a microphone for In the Room, the team-produced monthly show that offers fans a unique behind-the-scenes look at Penguins hockey throughout the season.

That means there was a camera isolated on him, which was able to catch every second of Dupuis playing dentist on himself after taking a high stick to the mouth. Fans absolutely loved it, and it was one of producer Leo McCafferty’s favorite moments from the show’s Emmy Award-winning season.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” McCafferty said. “To be recognized by our peers not just in the sports industry, but in all of television as having a program worthy of an Emmy is a great feeling. It’s nice to know all that hard work and time we put into it is appreciated by not only fans, but colleagues.

“To further that, we have a lot of people that work on the show in-house, but there are only a handful of people who are fully dedicated to the show at all times. A lot of the other programs that are out there either have outside production companies or freelance people, and budgets that are astronomical. So the fact that we are able to do this all in-house and entirely with people who are employed by the Penguins is a testament to the organization believing in us and giving us the freedom to operate and put the best quality of work out there. It’s an honor to be recognized.”

In the Room debuted the season after the Penguins were featured on HBO Sports’ 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic, a four-episode, all-access series leading up to the New Year’s Day game at Heinz Field on Jan. 1, 2011.

“It started with the vision of (Penguins president and CEO) David Morehouse, when he realized that 24-7 was something that the fans really enjoyed,” said McCafferty, who previously worked for NFL Films. “It really gave fans inside access and a look at a team they normally don’t get, and he had the idea to do that in-house, which is when I came aboard. When we started off, it was good, but it definitely could improve. And so the fact that they believed in me and believed in the program allowed me to devote a few more resources to it and hire a few more people.”

Those involved in the production of In the Room were McCafferty, Jon Otte, Bruce Meyers, Stephen Finerty, Zach Tyke, Michael Davenport, Meghan McManimon and Mark Cottington.

Last year, In the Room produced seven episodes during the regular season and playoffs. They begin the process by mapping out each month, which includes setting up sit-down interviews, determining which players are going to get mic’d and figuring out the logistics of off-ice shoots.

The staff then shoots a ton of footage over the first two weeks. They gather as much as they can when the team’s at home, including those planned mic’d up segments and interviews. Then on the road, a producer starts filming from the second the team boards the plane until they touch down back in Pittsburgh. They gather scenics; B-roll of players getting on and off the bus, at the arena, in the locker room and preparing for games; interviews; and much more.

During the third week, McCafferty and his two In the Room producers compile all of those hours of footage and spend a lot of time editing it. And finally, the fourth week is spent editing the show down to the finished product and going through the approval process with hockey ops and the communications staff.

“It’s a team effort,” McCafferty said. “It’s a lot of people that put in a lot of time and hard work. It’s a great collaboration and I’m really glad we won in the category we did, because it represents the work of everyone and not just a few individuals who (are dedicated to In the Room). It’s really a team win.

“Jon Otte has been a tremendous asset, as are Mark, Meghan and Mike and all the people who travel and get stuff on the road, which is just phenomenal for us. The fact they’ve helped us and let us grow and have more people that contribute to the show really has made a huge difference.”

McCafferty and the rest of the crew are already hard at work preparing for the first episode of this upcoming 2014-15 season.

“It’s been awesome for me to see it go from where it started to where we are now, and I think we’re just continuing to get better,” he said. “We’re one week into camp and we’ve already had an interview with ‘Sid’ in his car and walked in with coach on the first day of camp. We’ve just already gotten a ton of stuff that makes me excited about where we’re headed.”

Downtown Pittsburgh is referred to as the Golden Triangle, which is formed by where the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers converge in the center of the county. In a nod to the city, the Penguins’ logo features the skating bird framed by an actual golden triangle.

Motion graphics designer Padriac Driscoll had that in mind when he started researching ideas for the game entertainment department’s post-Olympic video open, which was played in the arena prior to games starting this past February and going through the playoffs.

“I had seen a title sequence for a conference in Amsterdam done by a guy in California,” Driscoll explained. “They had an LED triangle that was a similar structure, but they used it to create this infinity vortex kind of thing. I saw the shape and thought that would be a cool thing we could use. If we turned it on its side, it would look just like the triangle on our logo. I thought that would be an interesting vehicle as more of a construct of our logo and a means to which to kind of play with light and reflections and symmetry and balance, things like that.

“We deal with the same imagery all the time – sticks, skates, pucks, players – so it seemed like a unique way to try and to present that in a fresh way. That was kind of the approach.”

Driscoll already had a song in mind, which was Rami’s ‘Warsaw Theme’ featured in the videogame Battlefield 4. He began sharing his ideas and concepts with Penguins director of event presentation Bill Wareham, who worked with Mitsubishi to get a custom-built LED triangle constructed.

It was a custom-built tunnel made up of inward-facing LED panels, mounted on a steel frame and controlled through a laptop. Driscoll would design and render the animations before playing them back on the laptop, which would pass the signal through triggering the LED lights. They set the contraption up in the studio adjacent to the video production offices, where players like Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped by to stick their heads in the triangular opening.

“When the players came, I had preprogrammed a series of patterns and colors, and had several cameras set up around the triangle,” Driscoll said. “They stuck their heads in and we recorded everything. A key part to the video is also how the lights reflected off of the helmets, skates, and even mirrors we stuck in or next to the triangle tunnel.”

“This was a whole new thing. It posed an interesting challenge working with an interior triangle in such a small shape like that. It was just so tiny that you had to kind of think very simply and approach things in ways we never had to think about them before. That was kind of a challenge, but we got some really cool shots out of it and were able to get some dazzling results. I think the overall look and feel was definitely what we wanted.”

Driscoll and senior motion graphics designer Aaron Spiegel then worked together to take what they got and produce both a video for the big board and graphics for the narrow LED strips spanning the length of the arena. And while the LED triangle was the driving force and inspiration, there was also a lot more that went into it in terms of editing and adding graphics and animations to player highlights.

After putting in months of hard work and long nights to conceptualize and produce what ended up being a two-minute video, it was gratifying to see their finished product received so well by fans in the arena – and then by Emmy committee at the awards this past weekend. Their golden triangle theme resulted in golden statuettes.

“It was crazy,” Driscoll said. “We always strive to do the best we can with these things, and it was one of my personal goals for me coming here as an employee of the Penguins, over the next couple of years, to create award-winning level work. So to come in here and do that during the first season is unexpected. It is cool.”

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