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NFL Films is a Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based company devoted to producing commercials, television programs, feature films, and documentaries on the National Football League, as well as other unrelated major events and awards shows. Founded as Blair Motion Pictures by Ed Sabol in 1962, and now run by his son Steve Sabol, it is currently owned by the League and produces most of its videotaped content except its live game coverage, which is handled separately by the individual networks.

Contents

Founding

Founder Ed Sabol was a World War II veteran who worked selling topcoats after returning back to the United States. In his spare time, he often used a motion picture camera, received as a wedding gift, to record his son Steve’s high school football games. Inspired by his own work, Sabol founded a small film company named Blair Motion Pictures, after his daughter. Sabol won the bidding for the rights to film the 1962 NFL championship game for $3,000, double the bid for the 1961 championship game. The film of that game impressed NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who asked the owners of the NFL to agree to buy out Sabol's company. Although the owners rejected Rozelle's proposal in 1964, they agreed a year later and renamed Sabol's company NFL Films. He received $12,000 in seed money from each of the league's 14 owners, and in return would shoot all NFL games and produce a highlight film for each team.[1][2]

Style

Much has been made of the NFL Films style, which follows certain patterns. Film is always used, one camera is dedicated entirely to slow motion shots, microphones are present on the sidelines and near the field to pick up both the sounds of the games as well as the talk on the sidelines, and narrators with deep, powerful, baritone voices are preferred. Narrators have included the late Harry Kalas and Scott Graham, both voices of the Philadelphia Phillies, and the famous John Facenda, the late WCAU-TV anchor called by some "The Voice of God." The style has been called tight on the spiral, a reference to the frequently-used slow-motion shot of the spinning football as it travels from the quarterback's hand to the receiver. NFL Films also dubs sound bites of local radio broadcasts over key plays, because radio announcers are typically more enthusiastic about their home teams than are network television broadcasters. In addition, NFL Films often uses multiple camera angles, muscular orchestral scores provided by Sam Spence, Dave Robidoux and Tom Hedden, and film of the players and coaches in the locker room after the game. With these techniques NFL Films turns football games into events that mimic ballet, opera, and epic battle stories.

Television programs

NFL Films produces the Greatest Moments series, which details classic games from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; the Lost Treasures series, which uses old NFL Films footage which had previously never been shown on television to give an inside and largely uncut look at football players, coaches, and referees; and NFL Films Presents, which shows games of today that NFL Films produces in their traditional, dramatic style. They appear on either ESPN or the NFL Network.

NFL Films also produces the NFL Game of the Week, which showcases a previous-week's game of the current season. ION Television has purchased the rights to air Game of the Week, Saturdays at 6PM ET beginning September 15, with the Giants-Cowboys game from September 9, 2007.[3] ESPN Classic has been known to air classic episodes of Game of the Week.

Among other television programs NFL Films is credited for producing include NFL Total Access and much of the NFL Network's programming output.[4]

NFL Films' game highlights were also a staple of HBO's Inside the NFL for its entire run; this will continue on that show's new network Showtime, in addition to having the company produce the show. NFL Films also produced for Showtime the five-part miniseries Full Color Football: The History of the American Football League, which aired in fall 2009 as part of the American Football League 50th anniversary celebration.

NFL Films is famous for producing an annual highlight film for each team every season. If a team had a good year the film often revels in each victory, while breezing through, or skipping altogether, losses during the season. Inversely, if a team suffered through a poor season, the highlights commonly attempt to still show the team in a good light, however difficult that may be. Losses and pitiful play is commonly, and conveniently, edited out, leaving only isolated moments of success, prompting the viewer to not always realize how bad the team might have actually been. Most films conclude by portraying teams optimistically for the upcoming season, whether founded or not.

The Sabols have used NFL Films to showcase their senses of humor, as in the Football Follies series. The Follies used blooper plays, outtakes and silly narration.

Success

Although NFL Films earns more than $50 million in revenue a year and is expanding at a double digit rate, compared to the $18 billion in revenue that the NFL earns from television alone, most consider this to be minor.[2] The real value of NFL Films is how it packages and sells the game and many credit it as a key reason that the NFL has become the most watched league in the United States.

In addition to covering the National Football League, NFL Films has also ventured into other unrelated documentary films, such as documenting the Munich Olympics massacre for one of NBC's Olympics telecasts, and serving as back-up film photography for other major events. It also produced the video for Journey's 1983 hit single "Faithfully".

NFL Films' distinctive style has been parodied in numerous commercials, particularly for the NFL's sponsors, including Sprint Nextel and Burger King.

NFL Films has won 97 Sports Emmys.[5]

Albums

  • The Power and the Glory: The Original Music & Voices of NFL Films (1998)
  • Autumn Thunder: 40 Years of NFL Films Music (2004)
  • NFL Country (1996)
  • Music from National Football League Films, LP NFL-1, circa 1970s.

Films

Lombardi is a biopic of former Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins coach Vince Lombardi, said to be starring Robert De Niro in the title role. NFL Films will be producing the film in conjunction with ESPN Films. It is set to debut before Super Bowl XLVI.[6]

NFL Films Lab

NFL Films operates its own in-house 16mm and 35mm Color Negative Processing Lab. This enables the film that is shot at each game to be rushed back to the Mt. Laurel facility and processed immediately so as to give the production team the maximum amount of time to produce its weekly shows.

Currently employing 12 full-time employess as well as several "seasonal" employees, the lab is open to the public for development needs. Clients include feature length and short films shot on location in Philadelphia as well as students at local universities.

The current lab is the third incarnation. The original lab was located in a building next to NFL Films original offices at 230 N 13th St in Philadelphia. The second lab was housed in the center of the NFL Films offices at 330 Fellowship Rd in Mt. Laurel, NJ. That entire one-story building has since been razed and replaced with a modern 4 story office building.

The third lab is located in the lobby of NFL Films current location in the Bishop's Gate industrial park in Mt. Laurel behind a 2-story glass wall. This allows visitors to the offices to see the inner workings of the entire processing lab. Those on morning tours can often watch as employees develop film for use in weekly shows.

NFL Films Lab is also in charge of the archiving and maintenance of the vault. Containing over 100 years of football footage, the vault houses all of the film that NFL Films has shot or acquired from other sources in its entire history. Currently, NFL Films is in the process of re-transferring all of its footage into HD format, although the original film will always be kept as it's likely to outlast tape medium in terms of degredation.

See also

References

  1. ^ NFL Films, Inc. , Father-Son Team Establishes Gold Standard For Sports Photography - CBS News
  2. ^ a b http://www.fortune.com/fortune/smallbusiness/managing/articles/0,15114,361371,00.html
  3. ^ ION Media Networks Secures Rights to Air 2007 Season of "NFL Game of the Week" Produced by NFL Films, Yahoo!, September 10, 2007
  4. ^ List of programs offered by NFL Films.
  5. ^ http://www.nfl.com/nflnetwork/story?id=09000d5d8080fe91&template=without-video&confirm=true
  6. ^ http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/hiestand-tv/2010-03-09-final-four-3D_N.htm

External links

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