Documenting the launch of a new stadium is a once in a lifetime experience, let alone a stadium in the heart of Silicon Valley. On Sunday, Scott Kegley, senior manager of digital and social media for the San Francisco 49ers, and his team, pulled out all the stops. They leveraged a host of innovative digital technologies and best practices to bring fans following on digital and social channels into Levi's® Stadium and onto the sidelines.
With a large cup of coffee in one hand and a tripod in the other, Scott reaches the top of the stadium. He stops for a moment to acknowledge that he's about to capture the first images of a historic day in 49ers history. He pulls out his iPhone 5S and places it into a futuristic looking black ball at the end of the tripod. The phone whirls to life, spinning in random but purposeful robotic patterns. "Thought we would start with Sphere because it's great way to show fans a 360-degree view of the stadium," says Scott as the app finishes calibrating an immersive panoramic image of the empty stadium. Moments later he posts the image on Twitter and 49ers.com.
Vine artists Ian Padgham and Charlie Love walk along the outside of the stadium and into the 49ers Museum. They immediately begin surveying creative possibilities, bouncing concepts and ideas off each other in no particular order. Ian and Charlie are the creative force behind the "Forty Viners," a ground-breaking social media video campaign developed exclusively for the team's Vine and Twitter accounts. Museum specialist Beth Atlas hands Ian Frank Gore's game-worn jersey from his milestone 10,000-yard rushing game the previous week against the Dallas Cowboys. Inspiration strikes quickly, and Ian takes out his iPhone. Thirty minutes later, he's recorded dozens of images that will be stitched together hours later into six seconds of Forty Viners art.
With the sun beating down in full force, Ian crosses the goal line cradling a teddy bear in one hand and dangling a 49ers helmet in the other. He scans background and lighting and settles on a spot just outside the back of the end zone. He slowly unzips his backpack in deep thought, then sets up his camera and laptop. He begins manipulating what will ultimately become a stop-frame animation Vine of the 49ers helmet eating a teddy bear "Hungry, Hungry Hippo-style" as Ian describes it. "Every week we want to do something the fans will enjoy. We want to get them excited for the game, but we also try having fun with it." After thirty minutes of frame-by-frame filming and a bit of editing, Ian calls Scott over to show him the rough cut. Scott cracks a smile, and decides this will be the feature Forty Viners piece leading into the game.
When it comes to gameday preparation the sports world is filled is with rituals and traditions. San Francisco's digital team is no exception. After nailing down the feature Vine piece for the game, Scott turns his attention to a long standing content piece for the 49ers Instagram account. "Fans always respond well to the picture of our helmet on the field so it's become a reoccurring theme. I always make time to take this shot wherever we're planning, but of course today is pretty unique." Mission accomplished.
After belting out a rehearsal of the national anthem and doing a quick interview, Pat Monahan (lead singer of* Train* and big 49ers fan) walks out to the 20-yard line, turns around, and holds up a blank piece of paper. An active Instagram and Twitter user who's never posed for a Vine video before due to his self proclaimed lack of patience, Pat stands transfixed as Ian snaps a series of photos while describing his vision for the video. "We want to play off the band name and show and infinite train of thought. Sort of an MC Esher picture-within-a-picture, kind of like the train keeps on going." Pat nods his head in mutual artistic appreciation. The mad scientists behind the FortyViners have struck again. Scott will release this piece of content on Twitter later in the day to help integrate game day production elements into the team's social-content strategy.
Content is starting to pile up so Scott, Ian and Charlie head across the field to the digital team offices. Walking into an air conditioned building after three hours in the glaring sun provides immediate relief. Ian and Charlie begin editing. Scott sits down at his deck, takes a deep breath and begins uploading photos. Some quick filtering, Photoshop, and post scheduling: The Gore jersey video is published to Vine and Twitter. Stylized photos are scheduled for Facebook and Instagram, and Ian and Charlie finish up the bear and Train vines. Laptops snap shut and the team heads back out to the field. Fans are starting to file in; you can feel game time coming closer.
Wearing a bright green vest and holding a Sony action cam strapped to the end of a three foot long steel rod, Ben Mayberry walks out of the tunnel and onto the field to shoot pregame warm-ups. As the head of 49ers graphics department and a life-long fan of the team, Ben is one of the best in the business at capturing the intensity of gameday. "We've spent the last two weeks developing custom Instagram filters and Infographics specifically for this game," Ben says. "I spent hours looking through past Instagram photos to see which filters our fans like the most. We then took those filters and made them even cooler". He smiles for a second, then darts off to shoot exclusive content that will be divided between the official 49ers official web site and social media channels.
High above the stadium in the game production control room Scott plugs his laptop into the jumbotron feed as Josh Decker and Tommy Lee from Tagboard anxiously wait for their technology to appear on the massive screen. Seconds later, a panel of fan-generated social media images aggregated around 49ers official hashtags are seamlessly curated and displayed on screen. Within minutes, fan images start pouring in by the hundreds, then by the thousands as fans strive to get their five seconds of instant social media fame.
Scott glances down at his watch. Fifteen minutes to kick-off. Without hesitation, he walks hurriedly towards the elevator with Ian closely behind. The two jump in, and the elevator descends to the tunnel below the stadium. The doors pop open to the sound of jeers - the Chicago Bears are being introduced. Scott breaks into a jog, hoping that Ian's keeping up, only a few minutes before the team run onto the field for the first regular season game at Levi's Stadium®. Scott and Ian make it outside the 49ers locker room seconds before the players walk out. Somehow, they manage to capture the moment.
2:40 Left in the First Half
"Let's try and shoot it in the suite after halftime," one of Snoop's managers says to Ian, Charlie, and Scott as they stand outside of Snoop's green room. Ian and Charlie have cooked up a few Forty Viner creative ideas for Snoop that they've been hoping to film. The crowd begins to roar. Scott barrels out through the tunnel onto the field. The 49ers have a first-and-goal on the Bears 8-yard line on the far side of the field. Scott sprints to the end zone, jumping over cables and dodging camera men. Right when he gets there, Frank Gore takes it into the end zone and Scott immediately posts his photo on Twitter.
Its controlled chaos in the tunnel as 49ers players are heading into their looker room while crew members are wheeling a full sound stage onto the field in several pieces. Scott weaves through traffic and manages to position himself perfectly to shoot a Vine of Snoop and Michael Crabtree saying a quick hello. Ben makes a hustles toward the stage, documenting Snoop's entrance and his legendary halftime performance. Ben records a great*Hyperlapse* video that's published on the 49ers Instagram account.
Start of the Second Half
Scott sprints towards the elevator. Time to do this all over again….
49ers fans, welcome to game day technology at Levi's Stadium!