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NBC Plans Run to Super Bowl Glory

NFL fans are already hungry for seconds, no doubt hoping that the Super Bowl XLVI rematch between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots on Feb. 5 will have all the excitement of their legendary 2008 game. Meanwhile, NBC Sports will be concentrating on some important digital firsts, while also sticking to some battle-tested production plans for gameday coverage.

The game will mark the first time that the Super Bowl will be streamed, an event that is sure to be watched closely by NBC’s competitors, both for its impact on ratings and the Internet’s ability to handle such a hugely popular event.

“It is a first in the industry,” noted Eric Black, director of digital operations for NBC Sports & Olympics. “We are very interested to see what it does online and in terms of tablet delivery.”

On the broadcast side, enhancements will be more additive than ground-breaking, with NBC using some newer camera technologies and providing much more coverage from venues around the game’s Indianapolis location.

“We will be using newer XMO [ultra-slow-motion camera] technology, an overhead robotic camera, and both sideline carts will have two cameras,” Drew Esocoff, director of the Super Bowl production, said via email. “Overall our coverage is similar to Tampa,” he said, citing the 2009 game, the last time the network televised the Super Bowl.

Like the Tampa game, NEP will once again be supplying all the technical facilities for NBC, and the production will be overseen by several people involved in that 2009 production.

Toward that end, trucks started parking at the stadium in Indianapolis on Jan. 23 so that the network could produce the first feeds for NBC’s pregame and halftime coverage of the Pro Bowl, which aired Jan. 29 from Honolulu.

More substantial coverage begins on Jan. 30, when NBC Sports produces its daily NBC Sports Talk show from the NFL media center at the J.W. Marriott hotel. NBC has also built a set at the Indianapolis Repertory Theater, where Bob Costas will host his Costas Tonight: Live From the Super Bowl show for NBC Sports Network on Feb. 2. Overall, NBC will have sets in six locations around the stadium and the city.

“We have not done anything of this magnitude in past Super Bowls, so we are putting extra time into our schedule to make sure everything is technically flawless,” explained Tim DeKime, director of sports operations at NBC Sports.

Pregame Chills

One potential major challenge that technology can’t overcome will be the weather. “This will be the first time we’ve had a Super Bowl in a cold climate,” DeKime noted. “Even the golf carts have to be covered.”

Among the many trucks and facilities NEP is supplying, the ND-3 A, B and C mobile units and the ND-4 A, B, C and D units will be used for game coverage.

NEP’s SS-24 A, B and C units will be used at the media center for the NBC Sports Talk operation. The SS-16 will be used for the coverage out of the Indianapolis Repertory Theater, notes John Roche, senior technical manager for NEP and NBC Sports.

Overall, NBC will be deploying some 29 vehicles and about seven satellite uplink trucks in Indianapolis.

Inside the stadium, NBC is also building a post-production facility with five Avid and two Final Cut Pro suites.

The network will use 17 cameras for the pregame programming and around 40 for the game, up slightly from the 35 used in Tampa three years ago. The 2012 game cameras will include nine smaller handheld-type cameras—of which three will be on robotic arms—and four ultraslow motion cameras.

Many of the other game cameras will be Sony’s HDC 1000s and HDC 1500s combined with a wide array of Canon lenses, notes Roche.

At presstime NBC was also considering using four new ultra-slow-motion cameras from NEC and Ikegami. “We’ve done some comparisons with our current cameras and the picture was considerably better,” explains DeKime. “We don’t want to take any chances, but if we like what we see in the first few days [of preparation] we will substitute those.”

The Productivity Game

Although NBC will be working out of several venues in Indianapolis, its production crew head counts will remain fairly constant. Overall, the network expects to have about 475 production, technical, administration and support personnel in Indianapolis, about the same as in Tampa, with around 140 people covering the game and more than 100 working on the pregame.

The Super Bowl crews represent a significant expansion over the typical head counts on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, which tends to utilize around 75 production staffers. But the network has seen some significant improvements in workflows since its Tampa production that have allowed it to cover many more venues without attendant staff increases.

“Over the years, the improvements with EVS networking and graphics units with the Chyron HyperXs had made everything so much easier as far as workflows go,” said Roche.

Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis is also one of the newest in the NFL, with a state-of-the-art HD facility, said Forrest Lucas, founder, president and CEO of Lucas Oil Products.

“The stadium has got the latest of everything,” Lucas said, adding that the company will also be bringing a number of advertisers and multichannel operators to the game to promote its recently acquired MAVTV cable channel.

That new infrastructure will dramatically reduce the prep work needed for game day. “In contrast to Tampa, where we had to bring in a pretty large crew to run fiber to every location, this stadium is very well-connected and that will save us a lot of heavy lifting,” said DeKime.

NBC will also be relying on improved connectivity offered by Level 3, which will be using the JPEG 2000 format to transport the feed out of the stadium back to NBC.

“We have been investing more and more in the underlying Level 3 fiber infrastructure so that we will be able to deliver the signal all the way from the venue back to NBC master control on our own fiber infrastructure,” noted Derek Anderson, senior director of product management in the content and media department of Level 3, which is now in its 23rd year of supplying transmission services at the big game.