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NFL Films, Incorporated
Sport Subjects covered:
American football
Year Founded:
1962 as Blair Pictures, Inc.
name changed to present name in 1964
Company Information
Ed Sabol, 1962-present
Mount Laurel, New Jersey, U.S.
Parent Company
National Football Leauge (NFL)
Key People
Steve Sabol (CEO and Vice-President)

NFL Films is a Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based company devoted to producing commercials, television programs, feature films, and documentaries on subjects centered around and produced for the National Football League, as well as other unrelated major events and awards shows. Founded as Blair Motion Pictures by Ed Sabol in 1962, and now run by his son Steve Sabol, it is currently owned by the League and produces most of its videotaped content except its live game coverage, which is handled separately by the individual networks.


Founder Ed Sabol was a World War II veteran who worked selling topcoats after returning to the U.S . 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 named Blair Motion Pictures, named after his daughter. Sabol won the bidding for the rights to film the 1962 NFL championship game for $4,000, 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.[1][2]

On August 6, 2011, Ed Sabol was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of fame as a major contributor to the National Football League.


Much has been made of the Films style. television critic Matt Zoller Seitz has called NFL Films "the greatest in-house public relations machine in pro sports history... an outfit that could make even a tedious stalemate seem as momentous as the "Battle for the Alamo."[3]

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 included the late Harry Kalas and Scott Graham, both voices of the Philadelphia Phillies, and the famous John Facenda, the late WCAU-TV anchor called by some "The Voice of God." J.K. Simmons was tabbed 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. Team-specific films such as year-in-review films have occasionally been narrated by broadcasters involved with the team in question, such as the 2001 Oakland Raiders season review being narrated by actor and former Raiders receiver Carl Weathers while Frank Gifford has periodically narrated New York Giants season reviews.

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. 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), muscular orchestral scores usually provided by Sam Spence, Dave Robidoux and Tom Hedden]] (the company also made use of KPM Musichouse tracks, such as those of 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), and film of the 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.

Television programs

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, which shows games of today that NFL Films produces in their traditional, dramatic style. They appear on either ESPN or the NFL Network.

NFL Films also produces the NFL Game of the Week, which showcases a previous-week's game of the current season. ION Television has purchased the rights to air Game of the Week, Saturdays at 6PM ET beginning September 15, with the Giants-Cowboys game from September 9, 2007.[4] ESPN Classic has been known to air classic episodes of Game of the Week.

Among other television programs NFL Films is credited for producing include NFL Total Access and much of the NFL Network's programming output.[5]

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 is famous for producing an annual highlight film for each team every season. 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. 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.


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.[2] 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. It also produced the video for Journey's 1983 hit single "Faithfully".

NFL Films' distinctive style has been parodied in numerous commercials, particularly for the NFL's sponsors, including Sprint Nextel and Burger King.

NFL Films has won 107 Sports Emmys.[6]


  • The Power and the Glory: The Original Music & Voices of NFL Films (1998)
  • Autumn Thunder: 40 Years of NFL Films Music (2004)
  • NFL Country (1996)
  • Music from National Football League Films, LP NFL-1, c. 1970s.


NFL Films Lab

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 2-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 HD format, although the original film will always be kept as it's likely to outlast tape medium in terms of degradation.

Much of the NFL Films archive has been publicly posted on Hulu and DVD titles are available for purchase on iTunes.

See also


External links

Template:National Football League on television and radio

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