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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Pat Sullivan looks over a white board where clients' events are scheduled at Game Creek Video of Hudson, which services television networks with production trucks at large events and sports.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Aboard the truck "Justice," Mike Francis of Game Creek Video in Hudson, turns on dozens of monitors as engineers continue to build the television production trailer that will travel to pro sports games and large televised events.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    This is the sound booth aboard the Game Creek Video truck "Justice."
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    This is the replay booth of the Game Creek Video truck "Justice."
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Looking over the exterior audio connections, Pat Sullivan gives a tour of the production truck "Justice" at his company, Game Creek Video of Hudson, which services television networks at large events and sports.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    This support truck accompanies a production trailer at events. Engineers inside will produce graphics for television shows and sporting events.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Game Creek Video truck drivers often bring back memorabilia from events to hang in the shop.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Pat Sullivan looks over a white board where clients' events are scheduled at Game Creek Video of Hudson, which services television networks with production trucks at large events and sports.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From Super Bowl to World Series, Hudson company covers it

At almost every mainstream sporting event across the country, Hudson leaves a footprint.

From the Super Bowl to the World Series to the NBA Finals to the Masters, the Hudson-based company Game Creek Video is there with one or more of its top-notch video production trucks.

The work doesn’t stop at sports, either. Game Creek Video will also send out trucks for Oprah Winfrey, a Rolling Stones concert or high-profile political debates.

In fact, Game Creek Video is the largest independently owned mobile production company in the United States. And it’s nearly hidden off Executive Drive in Hudson.

The private company provides remote production trucks to a huge number of corporate clients, including ESPN, CBS, ABC, NBC, HBO, The YES Network, and FOX Sports.

“We’re doing stuff every day that’s seen by millions of people,” said company President Pat Sullivan, whose background includes an eight-year stint as general manager of the New England Patriots from 1983-91.

Sullivan, 58, lives in Newton, Mass., but makes the quick trip to Hudson each week to manage Game Creek Video’s daily operations.

Most of the company’s business is handled in Hudson, including transportation and travel arrangements for crews and trucks.

The main meeting area in the office has 12 large white boards, one for every month of the year, and each has a black grid of lines to separate the month’s days. Every day is littered with colors and magnets that represent assignments for certain trucks.

Sullivan pointed out seven events in different cities on the schedule for Thursday, Aug. 11, including NFL preseason games in Foxborough, Mass., and Philadelphia, Major League Baseball games in New York City and Baltimore, and Little League World Series baseball games in Bristol, Conn., and Waco, Texas.

“We sometimes won’t see a truck for nine to 12 months,” he said, due to the extensive travel schedule.

The busiest time of year is fall, when Game Creek has trucks at dozens of events every week.

The schedule can change on the fly, too, especially during college football season, Sullivan said.

“It all depends what teams are hot,” he said.

The nature of off-site video production allows employees to live all over the country, Sullivan said. Of Game Creek Video’s 75 employees, just 16 work in Hudson and live nearby.

“We have drivers in Washington state, engineers in Vegas,” he said.

Sullivan started the company in 1993 after he bought two production trucks from a “struggling business” in Youngstown, Ohio.

Since then, Game Creek has grown “organically,” Sullivan said, expanding on its own without buying out smaller companies along the way.

“It’s been a great learning experience,” he said.

Game Creek Video first moved to Windham, and then to Amherst, but “quickly outgrew” both facilities and has been settled in Hudson for nine years, Sullivan said.

“New Hampshire is a great place to do business,” he said. “It’s a business-friendly state.”

Sullivan declined to talk specifics surrounding the company’s finances, but one online site estimated Game Creek Video’s annual sales at $3.2 million.

Whatever the figures, the company’s success shows in a walk through the place.

Huge banners advertising ESPN, CBS Sports and FOX are strung up in the warehouse. Framed photos of famous sporting events or newspaper front pages line the walls of the building.

Even the lobby’s “reading material” features game programs from World Series games or Super Bowls.

“Our clients are substantive companies,” Sullivan said, which allows for big contracts and enough money to keep Game Creek’s trucks updated with modern equipment and in great condition.

In all, Game Creek Video has 28 trucks, of which 13 are production trucks. The others are support units, or smaller trucks used to accompany the big production trailers and carry most of the equipment.

Each truck has its own quirky name – words like “Clipper,” “Freedom,” “Larkspur” and “Patriot” – and each has different specific equipment and functions.

The production trucks are built in about four months, Sullivan said, including about four weeks for the installation of wiring alone.

Game Creek’s “Justice” truck has about 170,000 feet of cable hooked up inside.

Equipment is a huge part of a truck’s load, including many cameras and extra wiring. At the 2011 Super Bowl, the Game Creek truck had about 40 cameras in use. At events like horse racing, skiing or golf, the trucks might need as much as 100,000 feet of extra cable.

The trucks log about 70,000 miles a year, Sullivan said, and they each weigh about 30 or 40 tons.

The production crews are usually provided either by the specific client producing the event or by local technicians for small-time games, Sullivan said.

As technology continues to evolve, there’s not a huge effect on keeping the trucks up to date. Most of the changing technology affects the “guts” of the equipment, Sullivan said, but not necessarily the hardware.

Still, the trucks are undeniably a slice of tech-geek heaven.

Each truck is different, but in “Justice” there’s a “virtual wall” with about 30 small monitors stacked together and an enormous number of buttons to press that changes setting for each.

On the truck’s opposite side, producers can change all technical aspects of the video – complex effects like color balancing – from inside the truck, sometimes as far as two or three miles away from the person using the camera.

“The cameraman only needs to pan, focus and zoom,” Sullivan said. “Everything else is done in here.”

“Justice” also has an audio production room where one person sits in front of a giant array of switches and makes the event come alive from an audio perspective, Sullivan said.

“If you come in here during a game, it’s sort of like watching a guy play the piano,” he said.

Even with all the equipment and personnel inside, the trucks are made to handle the brunt of the work calmly and quickly.

“For what’s going on and the speed people have to work, it’s relatively calm,” Sullivan said. “There’s no yelling or screaming. I hope that says the trucks are working well.”

With a rare, thriving business in a tough economy, Sullivan knows he’s found a lasting, successful niche in Game Creek Video.

“It’s a cool business,” he said. “I feel like I’m the luckiest guy on Earth.”

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out Kittle (@Telegraph_CamK) on Twitter.