NFL Films is a company devoted to producing commercials, television programs, feature films, and documentaries for and about the National Football League (NFL), as well as other unrelated major events and awards shows. Founded as Blair Motion Pictures by Ed Sabol in 1962, and run by his son Steve Sabol until his death, it is currently owned by the NFL and produces most of its videotaped content except its live game coverage, which is handled separately by the individual networks. NFL Films is based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.
|Predecessor||Blair Motion Pictures|
|Steve Sabol (1962–2012)|
John Facenda (1966–1984)
Harry Kalas (1975–2009)
|Parent||National Football League|
Founder Ed Sabol was a World War II veteran who worked selling topcoats after returning 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 called Blair Motion Pictures, named after his daughter Blair. Sabol won the bidding for the rights to film the 1962 NFL championship game for $5,000, 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 $20,000 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. As part of the AFL–NFL merger, NFL Films began covering the American Football League in 1968 under a newly established "AFL Films" division, which was simply the regular NFL Films crew wearing separate jackets to appease AFL loyalists.
On August 6, 2011, Ed Sabol was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a major contributor to the National Football League. Ed Sabol died on Monday, February 9, 2015, at his home in Arizona.
Much has been made of the Films style. Salon.com television critic Matt Zoller Seitz has called NFL Films "the greatest in-house P.R. machine in pro sports history . . . an outfit that could make even a tedius stalemate seem as momentous as the battle for the Alamo."
NFL Films productions follow certain patterns. Film is mostly 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 generally been from the Philadelphia metropolitan area, with well-known announcers such as Jefferson Kaye, Harry Kalas, John Facenda, Andy Musser, Jack Whitaker, William Woodson, and current announcer Scott Graham all having narrated NFL Films presentations at various points in time. J.K. Simmons was tapped to narrate the company's one-hour recap of the 16-0 regular season of the 2007 New England Patriots, while actor Burt Lancaster was tabbed for narrations during 1969. Burl Ives narrated the 1971 Washington Redskins highlight film.
Team-specific films such as year-in-review films have occasionally been narrated by broadcasters or personalities involved with the team in question. Examples include the 1985, 2000 and 2001 Oakland Raiders season reviews being narrated by actor and former Raiders player Carl Weathers. Former Giant Frank Gifford periodically narrated New York Giants season reviews (notably the company's throwback-themed 2013 season recap) until his death in 2015, and ex-Giants teammate Pat Summerall narrated highlight films for many teams until his death in 2013. New England Patriots play-by-play announcer Gil Santos narrated the year-in-review films of the 1974, 1976, and 1978 seasons, and New Orleans Saints films from their inception in 1967 through 1979 were narrated by Don Criqui, who called Saints games for the NFL on CBS in the team's early years, and radio announcers Al Wester and Wayne Mack.
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. This shot usually consists of showing the quarterback throwing the football, then the camera zooming in to focus on the spinning ball, then, as the ball starts to descend, the camera zooms out, showing the end result of the ball traveling into the receiver's hands. 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 (with an emphasis on close-up shots that often exaggerate the speed of the players in real time). The company's films also employ muscular orchestral scores from a wide variety of musicians, notably Sam Spence, Johnny Pearson (whose "Heavy Action" became the theme for Monday Night Football) Frank Rothman, Ralph Dollimore, Udi Harpaz, Malcolm Lockyer, Jan Stoeckart (under his varied stage names such as Jack Trombey), Peter Reno, Paul Lewis, Prameela Tomashek, Dave Robidoux and Tom Hedden. The company's use of KPM Musichouse tracks also notably included Syd Dale; tracks include "Malestrom" for the company's 1968 Minnesota Vikings season highlight reel and also the psychedelic-flavored jazz track "Artful Dodger" on the film recap of Super Bowl V, specifically during the montage which shows Johnny Unitas' 75-yard touchdown pass to John Mackey which was tipped in flight by Eddie Hinton and Mel Renfro before bounding to Mackey.
The company also makes prolific use of footage of 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. Among the company's most famous creations is the poem and accompanying music cue "The Autumn Wind", which have become official themes for the Oakland Raiders.
One of NFL Films' most popular series is Hard Knocks. With production run entirely from the field and the NFL Films facility, NFL Films and HBO are granted unprecedented, exclusive access to one NFL team as they go through training camp, leading up to the beginning of the season. Hard Knocks won consecutive Outstanding Edited Sports Series Emmys in 2009 & 2010.
NFL Films produces the Greatest Moments series, which details classic games from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s (decade); 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, an umbrella title for other NFL Films productions that do not neatly fit an existing series (Katie Nolan serves as the current host of NFL Films Presents).
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 produces an annual highlight film for each team every season, distributed by home video. 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, such as fumbles, dropped passes, deflected or bobbled passes, players slipping and falling, mascots, the quarterback lining up behind the guard instead of the center, and disorganization, and outtakes and silly narration.
The presence of NFL Films' cameras allowed for the preservation of video footage from many of the NFL's 1960s era games in an era when sports telecasts were either broadcast live without any recording or whose films and tapes were destroyed and recycled for later use, a practice that did not fully stop until 1978. Without the presence of NFL Films, there would be no surviving footage of several of the early Super Bowls. In comparison, other major leagues that lacked the film resources that the NFL had have archives missing all the way up through the 1970s, with much of the time before that preserved only by Canadian television broadcasters, though the National Hockey League struggled to find a national audience in the United States until after the 2004–05 NHL lockout and the National Basketball Association wasn't considered a major league until the Magic–Bird rivalry and the rise of Michael Jordan brought that league long-term stability in the 1980s. In Major League Baseball, the broadcasts of many World Series games prior to 1975 have been lost, and nearly all broadcasts of League Championship Series before 1979 are gone.
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. 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, including the Stanley Cup Finals (NHL Original Productions), the NBA Finals (NBA Entertainment) and the World Series (MLB Productions). It also produced the video for Journey's 1983 hit single "Faithfully". NFL Films also has worked with Volkswagen Group in producing Audi's Truth in 24 series about Audi's efforts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans using the signature style to package and sell the marque's efforts in France.
The company has also done films for major college football programs, such as Colorado State University; the company's 1977 film on CSU's football program used John Denver's song Rocky Mountain High as well as an instrumental cover of The Beatles' song Tell Me What You See, and noted alumni of the team who had gone on to NFL careers, such as Bill Larson of the Lions and Bill Kennedy of the Colts, Kevin McClain of the Rams, and Greg Stamrick of the Oilers.
Sam Spence was long involved in a controversial situation with the NFL regarding the rights to perform or use his music in any media outlets. In an interview, Spence reported he was convinced to sign a contract that relinquished all of the rights to his music to NFL Films under the promise that the League would return the document to him. He also claimed the NFL had previously falsely that his music had been unlawfully used in the porn film Deep Throat to coax him into signing away the rights to his music.
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.
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 at the NFL Films current location in the Bishop's Gate industrial park in Mt. Laurel behind a two-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 continuous 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 high-definition format, although the original film will always be kept as it's likely to outlast tape medium in terms of degradation.
DVD titles are available for purchase on iTunes.
A Football Life is a documentary series of 111 episodes, developed by NFL Films and aired on NFL Network that documents the lives of select National Football League players, coaches, owners, and teams. Friends, teammates, family members and other players and coaches associated with the subjects are interviewed.Bob DeLaney (sportscaster)
Robert Joseph DeLaney (born 1924 in Elmira, New York, died November 25, 2008 in Queens, New York) was an American sportscaster.
A 1942 graduate of Elmira Free Academy, DeLaney served in the United States Army in the Pacific theater during World War II. After returning to the States, he attended Syracuse University and worked with radio station WFBL in Syracuse. When the Boston Red Sox and Boston Braves decided to separate their radio coverage in 1951, Curt Gowdy, Tom Hussey and DeLaney were hired to call Red Sox games on WHDH. At the end of the 1954 season, DeLaney was hired to replace Ernie Harwell on New York Giants broadcasts. When the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, DeLaney was replaced by local announcer Lon Simmons.
After his stint with the Giants, DeLaney was hired as the announcer for live commercials for Atlantic Refining Company during New York Yankees games, a job he held for ten seasons. In April 1959, DeLaney became the announcer for John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.
After the election, DeLaney worked as a television sports host in New York City from 1962–1968 and called the Ivy League Football Game of the Week on radio from 1964–1968. During the 1970s he served as narrator for the NFL Films Game of the Week, a disc jockey at WFAS in White Plains, New York, and a freelance commercial voiceover artist.
He died on November 25, 2008 from complications of a stroke at St. John's Queens Hospital.EMI Production Music
EMI Production Music is a company that provides library music that was originally known as "KPM Musichouse"; formed by the merger of KPM (the initials of Keith-Prowse-Maurice, which was then a division of EMI) and Musichouse (a company that EMI acquired in 1997).Ed Sabol
Edwin Milton Sabol (September 11, 1916 – February 9, 2015) was an American filmmaker and the founder (with his son Steve Sabol, among others) of NFL Films. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011 as a contributor due to his works with NFL Films.Finding Giants
Finding Giants is a documentary series aired on NFL Network that documents the lives of New York Giants scouts, in the quest to find the next NFL star. The show offers, "an in-depth look at scouting and team building in today’s NFL and shows what it takes to find and draft the best players to fit an organization. Finding Giants will also give fans a unique look at the personal side of working in the NFL as scouts and their wives balance life on the road with family life at home." Finding Giants will also show film from inside the New York Giants draft room from the 2014 NFL Draft, when they selected; Odell Beckham Jr., Weston Richburg and Andre Williams (American football). It was the last project TV show thought of by NFL Films' Steve Sabol.Football Follies
Football Follies are collections of American football bloopers performed by National Football League players. Produced by NFL Films, these collections also spoof parts of popular culture. Mel Blanc joined in the fun in 1976 with The Son of Football Follies, and returned (in one of his final efforts) in 1989 for The Super Duper Football Follies. In addition, Jonathan Winters was featured in 1987's The NFL TV Follies, intended as a parody of the relationship between football and television.
The series of films currently airs on NFL Network, usually as filler programming when a live game is airing on another network (most commonly Sunday or Monday Night Football).Hard Knocks (TV series)
Hard Knocks is a reality sports documentary television series produced by NFL Films and HBO.
The show was first broadcast in 2001, and the current 2018 season is the thirteenth. Each season, it follows a National Football League (NFL) team through its training camp and covers the team's preparation for the upcoming football season.
The series shows the personal and professional lives of the players, coaches and staff, including their family life, position battles, and even inside jokes and pranks. It particularly focuses on rookies' adjustments to playing in the NFL, usually with emphasis on the team's most recent top draft pick. It usually also chooses to focus on undrafted and journeyman players who are attempting to make the team.
The NFL and HBO have called Hard Knocks "the first sports-based reality series" in television history.Harry Kalas
Harold Norbert Kalas (March 26, 1936 – April 13, 2009) was an American sportscaster, best known for his Ford C. Frick Award-winning role as lead play-by-play announcer for Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies, a position he held from 1971 until his death in 2009.
Kalas was also closely identified with the National Football League, serving as a voice-over narrator for NFL Films productions (a regular feature on Inside the NFL) and calling football games nationally for Westwood One radio.
Kalas collapsed in the Washington Nationals' broadcast booth on April 13, 2009, about an hour before a Phillies game was scheduled to begin against the Nationals, and died soon afterward.Inside the NFL
Inside the NFL is a weekly cable television sports show that focuses on the National Football League. It originally aired on HBO from 1977 through 2008. Following Super Bowl XLII, HBO announced that it would be dropping the program, and it was subsequently picked up by the Showtime network.
Each NFL season, the program airs from Week 1 of the regular season until the week after the Super Bowl. The show principally features highlights of the past week's games that were captured by NFL Films, in addition to commentary and analysis by the hosts, and occasional interviews with current and former NFL players and personnel.NFL's Greatest Games
NFL's Greatest Games is a series of television programs that air on NFL Network, ESPN and related networks. They are condensed versions of some of the most famous games in the history of the National Football League, using footage and sound captured by NFL Films, as well as original interviews. All installments produced before 2015 are 90 minutes in length, and are presented with a title in respect to the game being featured. Starting in 2015, new installments produced run for either 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or 90 minutes, and no longer have a title beyond the actual game itself that is featured.
The series began with Super Bowl III, the New York Jets' 16-7 upset of the Baltimore Colts. ESPN debuted the program in 1999, on the 30th anniversary of the original game. More telecasts followed in the ensuing months.
In 2007, NFL Network unveiled Super Bowl Classics, a version of this program using complete videotaped games.
The "NFL's Greatest Games" banner is also occasionally used for episodes of the 1970s public television series The Way It Was that covered classic NFL games prior to 1958.NFL Dream Season
NFL Dream Season was a TV show on ESPN in 1989 in which 20 all-time great NFL teams were pitted against each other using XOR Software's NFL Challenge, a computer football simulation program. NFL Films footage was used to create what appeared to be a "game" between the two teams. The 1978 Steelers beat the 1972 Dolphins to win the title. The following year, ESPN did a one-off show with the 1989 Super Bowl Champion 49ers against the '78 Steelers.NFL Films Game of the Week
The NFL Films Game of the Week, formerly known as the NFL Game of the Week, was a television program that aired from 1965 to 2007. The show presented one or two NFL games from the previous week compressed into a one-hour program.NFL Matchup
NFL Matchup is a National Football League (NFL) preview show that airs every week during the regular season and playoffs. In 2006, the official name was State Farm NFL Matchup; it has also been known as the "Edge NFL Matchup" or other variations based on the current sponsor. As of 2017 it is known simply as the "ESPN NFL Matchup", and it is produced by NFL Films.
During 2008-2009 NFL season, it aired every Sunday during the season on ESPN at 3:00am ET, then re-aired at 7:30am ET. As of 2017, it is aired on ESPN2 at 8:30AM ET on Saturday, then re-aired on Sundays at 4:00AM ET and 6:30AM ET on ESPN. For the 2018 season, it is shown on ESPN2 on Saturdays at 1:00AM, and still re-aired on ESPN at 4:00AM and 6:30AM on Sundays. Additional special airtimes take place during the playoffs and for other specially scheduled NFL games.NFL Replay
NFL Replay is a program that airs on the official television channel of the National Football League, NFL Network.
This is not to be confused with NFL Films Game of the Week, which aired on NFL Network each Friday night in 2006. That one-hour program, which only used footage from NFL Films, has been canceled by the network, but aired on ION Television in 2007.
Four of the week's games, as selected by network representatives, are rebroadcast in an edited format with the following schedule:
Game 1: Tuesday, 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. (early Wednesday)
Game 2: Tuesday, 9:30 p.m.
Game 3: Wednesday, 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. (early Thursday)
Game 4: Wednesday, 9:30 p.m.All times are Eastern.Sam Spence
Samuel Lloyd Spence (March 29, 1927 – February 6, 2016) was an American soundtrack composer best known for his work with NFL Films. His music has also been in the EA Sports Madden NFL football video games and many football-related commercials.Steve Sabol
Stephen Douglas Sabol (October 2, 1942 – September 18, 2012) was an American filmmaker. He was the president and one of the founders of NFL Films, along with his father Ed. He was also a widely exhibited visual artist.
Sabol was born in Moorestown, New Jersey and attended Colorado College, where he played football and was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. He was the subject of a humorous article about his self-promotion exploits in the November 22, 1965, issue of Sports Illustrated. He began working at NFL Films as a cameraman alongside his father Ed Sabol (1916–2015) after graduation. He started in the filming industry when his father got the rights to the 1962 NFL Championship Game, played in Yankee Stadium on December 30.
This company eventually grew into NFL Films, with Sabol serving mainly as a cameraman, editor, and writer in the 1960s and 1970s. When ESPN was founded 1979, they soon signed NFL Films as a production company and Sabol became an on-air personality in the 1980s. He won 35 Emmy Awards and had a documentary about him air on 60 Minutes. Sabol played a part in founding the NFL Network.
Sabol was the author of the poem "The Autumn Wind", later adopted by the Oakland Raiders as an unofficial anthem.The Autumn Wind
"The Autumn Wind" is a sports-themed poem written by former NFL Films President and co-founder Steve Sabol (son of founder Ed Sabol) describing the atmosphere of autumn weather, as it relates to pro football season. It is synonymous with the National Football League (NFL)'s Oakland Raiders, and is often heard blaring out of the speakers at Raider games. Narrated by John Facenda, this 1974 production has been dubbed "The Battle Hymn of the Raider Nation".The poem was first used for the team's official team yearbook film in 1974, of the same title, and also for NFL Films' hour-long recap of the 1974 season. Legend has it that when Raider owner and managing general partner Al Davis heard "The Autumn Wind" song for the first time, he remained silent for a second before telling then NFL Films President Ed Sabol that he loved it, and that "it epitomized everything that the Raiders stood for". It has been used on numerous official NFL Films audio album soundtracks, most notably The Power & The Glory LP, featuring Facenda narrating over it, as well as numerous other Sam Spence-composed and conducted NFL Films Orchestra tracks.The Timeline
The Timeline is a documentary series developed by NFL Films and airs on NFL Network that documents select events of the National Football League.
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