The main control center of the video room, which feeds footage to the whole building at a rapid pace, has nearly double the editing stations of One Buccaneer Place
The video room at the now-defunct One Buccaneer Place may have been small – to put it mildly – but it was efficient. A coach or a player could walk into that slim and cluttered rectangle, request a specific piece of videotape footage and within seconds be watching it on one of the room's many monitors.
But if a visitor wanted to, say, burn a reel of footage to DVD? Well, that was another matter. Listen to the audio on a network broadcast tape? Now, hold on, this could take a minute. If the wrong combination of machines was already in use, a simple request could actually be a rather complicated matter in the video room at One Buc Place.
NFL video men aren't in the business of saying no to player or coach requests, however, so the necessary steps would be taken to fulfill them. Often, that meant some poor soul on the video staff would have to venture behind the racks of machines to plug and unplug a variety of connections, even if it meant turning sideways to slide along the back wall, stepping over wires, ducking under shelves and hoping not to run across one of the building's fabled rats.
The whole room may have been cramped, but this area behind the racks was even worse. The Apollo 13 crew had more room to maneuver.
These days, if Dave Levy, the Bucs' 18-year video director, wants to get at a wire at the back of the racks, he simply strolls around to the other side and takes a look. No longer are the racks of machines wedged up against two of the four video room walls; in fact, there's enough room behind this particular set up for a broad walkway and desks for all three of Levy's assistants.
Of course, there's also little reason for such maneuvers now. Everything in the Buccaneers' current video department, located across a broad swath of the second floor of the team's brand new facility, is wired for ease and efficiency. There's no longer a need for jury-rigged solutions as every likely request was planned for in advance.
"In the old place, if we wanted to make a DVD of a game from a certain machine, we had to go back and pull some cables out and put them in," said Levy. "It's like I was a manual switcher, a manual router. Now we have a new SDI router and the whole system is completely digital. At the touch of a button, we can go from one machine to any other machine in the system. Before, we had to go back there and manually move wires around and trip over them all the time."
Levy's long tenure at One Buccaneer Place gave him plenty of time to understand the building's limitations. Experience allowed him to overcome those limitations, but it also gave him a vivid vision of the way things should be. When the Buccaneers began planning this new facility, Levy knew exactly what to do. The team's ownership, the Glazers, made sure he had the resources to do it all.
"The owners have afforded me everything that I thought was essential to doing our job," said Levy, who also toured several other top-notch video departments around the NFL during the planning stages. "You learn where difficulties arise when you have to work around limitations. You know what you would like if those limitations were removed, and how you would like it to work. That experience absolutely played a role in how we designed this place, and I can't say enough about the support the owners gave us in that endeavor."
Levy admits he could have continued to get the job done at One Buccaneer Place, particularly with the new and added equipment ownership had provided over the last few years. But he looks around now at the huge, multi-room, expertly-equipped space now at his disposal and smiles. He has trouble finding the right words for the difference.
"It's unbelievable," said Levy. "I don't even know what to say. It's incredible. I never thought there could be something this nice, this perfect for what we need to do. Seriously, half the time I don't even know what to say."
He knows what to do with his new resources, though. Unlike some of the new inhabitants of the state-of-the-art facility, Levy and his crew knew exactly what they were walking into when the place officially opened for business this week. This wasn't a player gaping at the gigantic new weight room or a team physician marveling at the overstocked rehab room. The team's video pros have spent weeks setting up their area so that they could hit the ground running when the team returned from training camp. They really had no choice.
The results are impressive. In the main video area, which is raised a foot or so from the rest of the second floor to allow for intricate cabling under the floor, a long, three-sided deck of editing machines forms the central control area. Here, five editing stations (there were three at One Buc) allow for the rapid cut-up of game and practice footage. Every play in practice or a game is categorized and entered into the system, where it is instantly available to coaches and players all across the building.
In the video room at One Buc Place, this control center was surrounded by shelves holding hundreds of tapes, the main library for any footage a coach might want to view or combine into a highlight reel. In the new facility, there is a separate room for storage of current footage, as well as the department's servers. There is also a another separate room, located just across the hall, that holds 22 long shelves to be used for storage of tapes from many years past. Levy is a stoic type, but it's clear that this room thrills him.
"Before, if Coach Gruden wanted a tape from 2002 we had to sort through 15 boxes to find the tape that he wanted," he said. "Now we can just go look on the shelves, which are organized meticulously and arranged by year, and go grab what he needs."
Off the main video floor is a fourth room, and it doesn't take a cynic to notice that this room is about the exact same size and shape as the department's lone room back at One Buccaneer Place. This room has a shelf running around the circumference of the room, on which is arranged various clumps of equipment. This room, this doppelganger for where the video team used to perform all of its work, is solely for the purpose of such side projects as printing labels, repairing equipment and stripping cable.
At One Buc, all these activities went on inside that little rectangle, wherever a piece of real estate could be found.
"We had the smallest area in the NFL," said Levy. We probably had the least amount of equipment. We didn't have a lot to work with. Over the last few years, we have gotten some more equipment. The owners have done a lot of good things for us and provided a lot more equipment to use for the coaches and the scouts. But moving in here is just tremendous. It's going to make a big difference in how we can service the coaches and the scouts."
The video room at One Buc, as cramped as it was, proved to be a popular hangout for a couple of the team's veterans during lunch and other down times. Often, if you wanted to speak with Levy, who kept his desk at the back of the room, you had to work your way through a maze of chairs and legs. Some people were eating, some were trying to get work done, some were hanging out and watching the room's televisions.
In the new facility, Levy has his own spacious office separate from all the rooms already described, with a beautiful view of a lake across Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He also has plenty of space within the video room proper to comfortably handle as many players who want to hang out. There is seemingly room to burn, certainly room to breathe. Levy certainly enjoys that change, but claims it's not the most important feature of his new work environment.
"It's not the space, it's the equipment that you have, how you can work with the equipment," he said. "They've given us the tools in this facility to allow us to efficiently use everything that we have. We can work a lot more efficiently than we ever could have imagined working in One Buc Place."
Levy admits that his crew had staked out a dozen or so other bits of territory around One Buc Place and its surrounding trailers. But it was a two-foot space here, a half of a trailer there. For years, they had a storage closet right in the middle of the hallway where lunch and dinner were always served. Rats were definitely spotted in that closet.
In other words, they made do.
Now they've made it to the top.
"This is what it's supposed to look like," said Levy. "What we were in before, you were embarrassed to bring people in there and say, 'This is where I work.' They'd start laughing at you. This is the way it's supposed to be…and actually a little nicer than that."