CBS' New Game Plan for Super Bowl Sunday

RELATED: CBS Sports Seconds That Game Day Emotion
Supersizing Replays in Ultra HD

Super Bowl productions always attempt to offer a fine balance between wowing the viewer with the best possible visuals while delivering a perfectly produced game with tried-and-true technologies. In other words: a solid game plan with a few trick plays thrown in.

Viewers will see both of these at work during CBS Sports’ production of Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, which will feature some breakthroughs in live sports production while relying on a seasoned production crew and many of the same HD technologies it used in the 2010 game.

“This production will be a nice hybrid,†says George Hoover, CTO of NEP Broadcasting, which is providing the game truck and several other mobile units for CBS Sports in New Orleans. “[During] the game, guys like to stick with the tried and true, but Ken [Aagaard, executive VP of engineering, operations and production services, CBS Sports] likes to use big events like the Super Bowl to introduce some new technologies†to better cover the game.

The biggest breakthrough this year will be the use of six 4K, or Ultra HD, cameras in a new replay system. It will allow producers to zoom in on images and provide viewers with a much clearer view of whether a player stayed inbounds or an official made the right call (See “Supersizing Replays in Ultra HD,â€).

“We don’t see 4K as a gimmick,†Aagaard says. “This is real technology that can significantly enhance the broadcast on key plays in an event like the Super Bowl, where you are going to bring on everything you can to make it work.â€

Other notable tech developments include the launch of an entirely new animation and inserts package during the Super Bowl. The Evertz Mosaic System will allow viewers to see multiple synced-up replays at the same time and some firsts in its online stream of the game. (For more on Super Bowl streaming, see “CBS Sports Seconds That Game Day Emotion,â€.)

From Aagaard’s perspective, however, “the biggest difference is all the programming we are doing the week prior to the Super Bowl,†he says. “We are basically taking over Jackson Square [in New Orleans], where we have built five sets, and we are producing programming from all the different entities that CBS has at the Super Bowl: The Talk, CBS This Morning and CBS Sports Network. It is very ambitious and is a significant difference from last time around.†(For more, see Programming Strategy.)

For all that coverage, CBS is using a number of truck vendors, including NEP, F&F, All Mobile Video, Bexel, Game Creek Video, BSI Production, PACSAT and Encompass, notes John McCrae, executive director, field operations at CBS Sports.

Many other trucks will also be in the city that week to support ESPN, Fox Sports, the NFL Network, DirecTV, broadcast stations, international broadcasters and news organizations. “If you don’t have one of your trucks in New Orleans that week, there is something wrong with [you],†Aagaard quips.

For the game, the center of the action will be NEP’s Supershooters SS24 truck. It was CBS’ game-day truck during the 2012 NFL season and was used by CBS in 2010 during its last Super Bowl production.

“With the addition of some cameras and more replay devices, it is pretty much con! gured the same way as the week-in and week-out game coverage,†NEP’s Hoover says.

The SS24, which has 53-foot double-expando trailers, is one of NEP’s largest mobile units and has one of the largest control rooms available in the industry. It is equipped with a Sony MVS-8000 switcher, Calrec Alpha audio console, Grass Valley routing and Sony VTRs. Avid will supply Pro Tools, Unity and other products for editing and managing files.

The production will use graphics systems from Vizrt. The new animation package is being produced as a joint partnership between Click 3X and Big Studios, notes Marla Schmettau, director of graphics at CBS Sports.

EVS is supplying a variety of servers and producers for the replays.

“Evertz is doing the 4K replays, but the regular bread-and-butter broadcast replay and network is all EVS,†Aagaard says. “It is the backbone of what we do. The beauty of the system is that everything talks to each other and it works across all the trucks, from the pre-game to the game and even the half-time trucks. It is all networked together in a way that everyone can find what they need.â€

Overall about 60 cameras, including six 4K cameras, will be used to cover the game, Aagaard notes. Sony is supplying the bulk of the HD cameras, including the HDC-1500s. Canon lenses will be used on the HD cameras while the For-A 4K cameras are equipped with Fujinon lenses. Fletcher will supply five Ikegami/NAC Hi-Motion II cameras capable of shooting 300 to 500 frames per second in 1080i HD.

Several companies are working on the sets at locations around the city and in the Superdome, including Jack Morton, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Showman and a local company, the Solomon Group, which Aagaard singled out for particular praise. “They have been really a lifesaver in getting everything done in New Orleans,†he says.

Aagaard adds that New Orleans is a “perfect place for an event like the Super Bowl, where you can walk to everything†and he complimented the city on being so responsive to CBS Sports’ needs. “New Orleans is really in a rebuild mode and has this can-do attitude that is very infectious and exciting to work with,†he says.

But having everything so centrally located also creates “traffic and logistic problems that the NFL and the city have been working on for years,†he says. “We have to move talent from Jackson Square to the Dome on Super Bowl Sunday. But I know they will make it work.â€

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