NFL Draft 2024: Van Wagner Powers Onsite Entertainment Experience for Record Crowds in Detroit

April 27, 2024

NFL Draft 2024: Van Wagner Powers Onsite Entertainment Experience for Record Crowds in Detroit featured image

The in-venue–show producer also handles efforts beyond the Draft Theater



With a record 275,000 fans in attendance for opening night in downtown Detroit, the NFL Draft is far more than just the “made-for-TV” event it once was. Over the years, the onsite NFL experience has become a true spectacle — with millions of pixels of LED boards and an entertainment show on par with the TV broadcast. To pull it all off year after year, the NFL leans heavily on its in-venue entertainment partner Van Wagner.

“This wonderful setup and canvas in Detroit has afforded our team the ability to showcase their talents,” says Van Wagner Productions President Bob Becker. “We have to make this show bigger and better every year, and they rose to the challenge. The planning and development process with Tim [Tubito, director, event presentation and content, NFL] is always a collaborative process. There is mutual respect on both sides, and this allows us all to do our best and deliver world-class events.”

Inside Van Wagner’s production-control room in Game Creek Video Encore


In addition to overseeing the onsite production of the Draft, Van Wagner also works closely with NFL Media and ESPN to create an overall operation that shares resources, video feeds, and infrastructure.

“Technical planning for the Draft is a full-team effort,” says Nate McCourt, director, technical operations, Van Wagner. “Our team, the ESPN/ABC team, and NFL Network team are constantly collaborating on ways to create efficiencies. We share a lot of fiber infrastructure across the Draft footprint. It’s a team effort to cable every square inch of the Draft footprint stretching over six city blocks in downtown Detroit.”


Live From Detroit: Van Wagner Adds Pool Feed to Its List of Responsibilities

This year, for the first time, in addition to its typical show-production duties, Van Wagner is also facilitating pool-feed coverage for key moments of the Draft on behalf of the NFL. This includes coverage of pre-Draft performances and ceremonies, as well as coverage of every selection announcement across all three days of the Draft. Coordinated with the NFL Broadcast team, ESPN/ABC, and NFL Network, the plan was developed to streamline the coverage of key moments of the Draft.

A DynamiCam 4-Point cable-cam system has been set up in the Green Room.


Six key cameras provide the pool-feed coverage: the main podium camera, an RF Steadicam in the Green Room, an RF Steadicam on the main stage, a DynamiCam 4-Point in the Green Room, a DynamiCam 4-Point in the theater, and the mirror cam in the player tunnel (a RED Komodo 6k behind a two-way mirror located at the “hat pedestal” in the walkway between the Green Room and the theater).

On the show-production side, Van Wagner has 14 cameras covering the Draft Theater, including four RF handhelds and one RF Sony HDC-P50 Steadicam from BSI and five robos from Fletcher (four Sony HDC-P50’s, sporting a mix of 40X and 14X lenses, and a Panasonic AW-UE150 PTZ system in the Green Room).

Game Creek Video Encore and PrimeOne Office serve house Van Wagner’s production in Detroit.


Both the in-venue and pool-feed productions are facilitated by Van Wagner’s production team in Game Creek Video Encore and PrimeOne Office mobile units (totaling four trucks). In addition to the dedicated cameras, feeds shared with NFL Network and the ESPN/ABC productions are in place and can be incorporated into the NFL Draft in-venue show.

On the comms side, SAV Entertainment is supporting the operation’s intercom, with 80 Riedel Bolero 1.9-GHz beltpacks and 50 panels deployed for the show.

Show and compound power is provided by CES Power via a redundant power system comprising four UPS systems and two twin-pack generators.

Van Wagner is responsible for the full NFL Draft front-of-house production in Detroit.


Centralized fiber distribution serves Van Wagner’s whole production, with more than 7 miles of fiber run across the site by the team.

Led by Jessica Lee, VP, studio operations, NFL Media, the NFL Network team oversees remote traffic for the Draft, including club Draft Room look-ins, ENG crews at prospects’ homes, and feeds from club watch parties across the country. All feeds come into the compound and are distributed to each group in the compound. Approximately 60 shared remote feeds come in, serving the event and other shares between the trucks.


Setting the Stage: 53 Million Pixels of LED Runs on Ross Video Gear

The 220-ft.-wide by 74-ft.-high main stage in the Draft Theater features 11 displays totaling a whopping 53+ million pixels of LED. The entire stage show is controlled via Ross Video’s Dashboard venue-control software.

“The project is supported by the Ross sports and live events team on both the creative and technical side,” notes McCourt. “The NFL/Van Wagner/Ross relationship continues to deliver world-class productions.”

The Draft Theater boasts nearly 54 million pixels of LED.


Ross Xpression Tessera drives pixel-accurate content to the 11 LED displays, and an XPression CG system is used for overlay graphics. Three 5RU Ross Ultrix routers and nine new Mosaic image processors running in both 3G and UHD formats are part of the overall LED-content–management system. OpenGear frames with Gator Toolbox cards convert video signals to 12G for signal processing.

The Dashboard software is used to control the picks and teams going to air, trigger lighting, and more. In addition, Ultritouch control and monitoring panels enable the main-show producer to easily call up graphics and change videoboard layouts.

Van Wagner’s creative team, led by Producer Brian Scott and Creative Director Aaron Fletcher, is responsible for taking the visual identity of the event developed by NFL Creative and bringing that to life on the Draft Theater canvas.

“It’s truly a collaborative process between the creative team at VW and the NFL to develop and deliver the 10 looks per team, along with several other specialty stage looks for other moments of the show,” says McCourt. “All in, around 400 unique looks will hit the screens over the three days of the Draft.”

The mirror cam comprises a RED Komodo 6k behind a two-way mirror at the “hat pedestal” in the walkway between the Green Room and the Draft Theater.


Other key members of the Van Wagner team are Producer Lindsay Anson, Operations Producer Cassidy Colpoys, and Technical Manager Cameron Epperson. A large Ross Video contingent  — led by Manager, Content and Workflow, Greg Kuh  — is also onsite to support the production.

Besides presenting last night’s show at Campus Martius Park to 275,000 fans, a single-day attendance record (police officials estimate the turnout at 400,000), Van Wagner has partnered with BitFire to distribute the Draft Theater show to 14 locations around the city of Detroit.

“This proved an invaluable asset,” says McCourt. “With the site reaching capacity Thursday evening over an hour before the start of the Draft, this allowed the NFL to extend the unique coverage that the fans onsite experience to a wider audience across the city.”

Kristian Hernandez contributed to this story.


To read SVG’s full article, click here.