Tech Partners Help Keep Big Game Show On Track In COVID Era
The COVID pandemic has given new meaning to the term the best-designed plans, but CBS Sports and its technology partners who are central to the production of Super Bowl LV are proof that one of the world’s greatest televised sporting events can innovate, grow and evolve.
“Before the pandemic, we had a very different plan from the one where we landed”, explains Patty Power, Executive Vice President, Operations and Engineering, CBS Sports.
A Super Bowl compound is always great, but social distancing has made it even bigger. The CBS Domestic Complex houses 19 production trucks and trailers. According to Mike Francis, Vice President, Engineering and Remote Planning, CBS Sports, the compound is essentially double the size of what was expected.
âIt’s definitely a big complex with a lot more facilities to connect,â he adds. âAnd then we have to make sure that everything is available everywhere. When it spread, we had a lot more to do on that side. “
NEP Supershooter SSCBS is the main exhibition and game truck; Supershooter 4 is the release of the strip.
âWe have Game Creek Encore running our studio shows,â adds Francis. âSprinkled around the compound for tech and social distancing, we’ve got F&F GTX19, GTX20, Game Creek B1 for robotics and all the support trucks that go with them. “
A large flypack deployment was also built by NEP Bexel for distribution, transmission, routing and monitoring. And THUMBWAR is on hand for media management and remote editing.
âWe will also be performing remote editing in the cloud with Avid and Microsoft Azure,â says Francis. “CBS Vice President, Post-production, Ed Coleman will use it to provide a lot of the postproducts that we will be using.
As for the on-site sets, Filmwerks and Jack Morton Worldwide collaborated on the decor of the hall, which will be located in the opposite corner of the pirate ship.
âJack Morton totally wowed him,â says Power. “It looks very nice.”
There will also be an outdoor setting at the south end of the stadium as well as several stand-up locations in the stadium and behind the outdoor setting.
Camera coverage in an almost empty stadium
Throughout the year, CBS took advantage of the lack of fans to bring a new take on camera angles and coverage. This look reaches new heights this Sunday with over 120 cameras deployed.
“I think we did a really good job integrating our environment and conditions with fewer fans in the stadium and with LED tape on the lower bowl,” says Jason Cohen, Vice President, Remote Technical Operations, CBS Sports. âWe have mounted cameras to make the viewer look different from the game. Also, we are just trying to make the game bigger and more daring.
Many innovations will be presented. Most notably, the Trolley Cam point-to-point wired camera system will complement two Skycams and a Flycam.
âIt’s from JibTek,â Cohen explains. âBasically what he does is run the length of the field from one end of the touchline to the other, and it’s about 10 to 15 feet above the second or the third row of stands.
âThe beauty of it is its speed,â he continues. âIt can go up to 65 mph. I doubt even Tyreek Hill can outrun him. If we get the game right and someone walks down the sideline, we can stick with them stride after stride. I think it will be a pretty dynamic vision.
If there has been a technological history in NFL coverage this year, it’s the use of cameras capable of shooting shallow depth of field on the field during warm-ups and after key games.
âEveryone has talked about it and is thrilled with it,â Cohen says. âObviously we’re going to continue what we’ve been doing since the start of the playoffs, which is to use the Sony Venice camera on a Steadicam. “
A potential late addition to the show will be the use of a Sony Alpha One camera on one of the MÅVI portable platforms that captured the shallow depth of field shots that garnered a lot of attention on social media.
âThe operator was blown away by the freshness and speed of the autofocus,â says Cohen. “He said it was amazing because he was literally touching a screen to select the subject he wanted him to focus on and be instantly locked in focus.”
The side-mounted Steadicam rigs will also be complemented by traditional HD cameras, three of which will have Canon’s CJ20ex5B wearable lens. These lenses are known for their 20X zoom and wide angle.
âIt was a great success with our mobile operators,â adds Francis.
He’s also excited to see what kind of shots the two Sony HDC-8300 8K camera systems with Canon 7 Ã 10.7 lenses will capture for zoom analysis.
âThey’ll shoot down the sidelines at a low angle against HDC-4800 4K systems,â he explains. âThey’re shooting at 120 fps, and we’re hoping to get that 800% zoom to reveal something that couldn’t be seen from an HD angle. And we have a very robust deployment of high frame rate 4K cameras across all sidelines, goal lines and end lines. “
Francis also notes the Movie Bird, a 53-footer. Telescopic boom which will be located at the top of the south hall. âIt will be above the main hall and give us great shots of the interior bowl and can easily point in the other direction and see everything that is going on outside the south side entrance. It will be a unique perspective that we haven’t been able to do before.
Cohen adds that the Movie Bird’s camera is one of 12 with enhanced capabilities. Both SMT and N-Cam will play pivotal roles in the open augmented reality show, which was put together with help from Silver Spoon.
âThe specialty AR graphics generated in an Unreal Engine will be stunning this year,â he says, âas we enjoy the Super Bowl theme, which is sea, sand and siege.â
Francis adds, “With the Sony Venice cameras and the Movie Bird crane, we’re bringing a bit of Hollywood to the Super Bowl this year, and it’s awesome.”
Remote work flow
CBS PGA Coverage has defined a model for remote network workflows, intended to minimize on-site personnel. This continues this weekend with some of the team working remotely from the CBS Broadcast Center in New York.
âWe have a lot of EVS, graphics, AD and BA, all contributing to the before, after and half time show from our broadcast center,â says Francis. âWe have many paths between EVS and the media networks. “
A Nickelodeon production team will also operate remotely from All Mobile Video in New York City and create ‘Nick-ified’ pre-game and highlight packages that will be distributed via social media and integrated into the CBS broadcast. .
“It’s gonna be all the bells and whistles that people loved [in the Saints-Bears Wild Card game], like SpongeBob SquarePants between goalposts and mud cannons after touchdowns, âCohen explains. âWe send them five signals: our show as well as a bunch of angles that have the augmented reality capabilities of slime. Their editors will recreate our show with their cameras dedicated to augmented reality to create highlights and more lively looks. “
Francis says the EVS network has been extended to AMV so that Nickelodeon can pull clips from the EVS servers at Raymond James Stadium.
CBS will work with NFL and NFL Films on the use of crowd mixing and prerecorded audio balancing with on-site fans (around 25,000). Plus, Francis says, COVID protocols have had an impact throughout the year (in almost every sport) when it comes to things like interviews or ceremonies.
âIt was an extra challenge for the guys,â he adds, âbut they did a great job. “
Since last March, there haven’t been many sporting events with multiple vendors on-site, and Power notes that they have all been supporting partners. âWe’ve had so many last minute changes this year – not necessarily the Super Bowl but regular season schedule changes – and they rolled with it. We certainly rely on them, their focus and their expertise.