If you didn’t make it to the 2014 CrossFit Games this summer, there is a good chance you watched the coverage either online through ESPN or live on ESPN or ESPN2. Until you experience it firsthand, you can’t imagine how much behind-the-scenes planning it takes to make these broadcasts happen. An army of sound technicians, producers, directors, graphics, camerapeople, cable techs, grips, runners and organizers hammer out countless hours alongside a massive legion of volunteers in order for you to sit at your computer or television and see all the sights and sounds of the CrossFit Games. Over the years, the live broadcast coverage has evolved. From its dusty roots in Aromas, California, in 2007 to the documentary Every Second Counts to the CrossFit Games website to where we are now on ESPN prime time, the growth of CrossFit’s coverage has been developing and expanding much like the worldwide number and quality of its 10,000 affiliates.
One of the people who makes this happen is Emmy Award–winning director/producer/graphics guru Andy Brill. I sat down with Brill and talked a little about his story, how he got involved with CrossFit and what it takes bring the Games to life on the screen.
Part of the broadcast team
What is your background in sports television broadcasting?
I’ve been working in television since 1994. I started out in New York and met some people along the way doing any kind of work to learn the business. I was really lucky to meet some people who got me hooked up with big events like the Olympics and shows for ESPN and NBC. While I was working as a director and producer, I started to focus on graphics and it really became a thing for me. Graphics are the statistics or information that people see about a sport or the athletes when they watch a program. By being good at graphics, I was able to work on some Super Bowls, the NCAA Final Four [Basketball] Championships and other large events.
How did you start working with CrossFit and the Games?
My involvement with CrossFit was a happy accident. I worked with our coordinating producer, Joe Novello, on the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and he asked me to help with the televised webcast of the [CrossFit] Central East Regional in 2012. Joe asked if I’d ever heard of CrossFit, and honestly at the time I hadn’t. So I checked it out.
Compared with that first event you covered in 2012, what were the biggest changes to the 2014 CrossFit Games?
This was my third CrossFit Games. There’s no question that it has grown and is now being considered a legitimate sport and not just the “World’s Strongest Man” program like it was when it first started. There’s now an awareness of CrossFit that didn’t exist when I got that first phone call in 2012. When the CrossFit Games ended in 2012, a box had just opened a few minutes away from where I lived and I went there and ended up being its third official member to sign up. I decided to give this thing a try and I’ve been doing CrossFit ever since.
The way I view this competition now is that I understand the events and the movements because I get to do them myself. The other impact is that I am seeing more and more of the video production staff starting to do CrossFit and growing each year from being around the Games and watching the competition each year. More and more people on our staff (live video media) are checking it out, they’re trying it and they are finding they like to do it, too.
What goes into the Games broadcast?
The viewer turns on the TV and there’s the event, but the sheer volume of people required to build a television compound, set up cameras, build graphics, and plan and execute a large-scale television production is overwhelming. So many hours, days and weeks go into setting that event up.
What was your favorite part of the CrossFit Games coverage? Share your favorite moments in the comments on our Facebook page or on Twitter @JTolgrinder.
Stay on the grind.
Jamie Toland (JTol)