Live From Super Bowl XLVI: Inside NBC’s Big Plans

This is the first in a series of live reports from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where Super Bowl XLVI will take place this Sunday. Look for more reports over the weekend as we catch up with the networks and their service providers and go behind the scenes of all the happenings.

To outsiders, Indianapolis is known primarily for the Indianapolis 500 and, for those in the know, the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo Steakhouse, which proves that a landlocked city can serve up a quality seafood dish. After this weekend, it could become known as a host city for more than one Super Bowl, with a downtown area that has all the feeling and energy of an Olympic village. And, for broadcasters, the decision to locate all the events within walking distance of each other reduces some major headaches that have proved a challenge at nearly every Super Bowl.

From left: Tim DeKime, Ken Goss, and John Roche outside NEP ND3, the main production unit for the Super Bowl

For NBC Sports, which is at the center of all the Super Bowl broadcast activities, working with the city has been eased by a relationship with Alison Melangton, president/CEO of the Super Bowl Host Committee: Melangton has been a producer for NBC Olympics gymnastics coverage.

“This is a great town, and she has done so much to this city,” says Tim DeKime, director of NBC Sports football operations. “She has done an awesome job.”

And making it even easier? Andy Arnold, who previously handled stadium operations at Lucas Oil Stadium, is also on the committee, which means that someone on the inside knows what it takes to bring stadium and broadcast operations together.

“The committee was a good marriage of a lot of good people,” says John Roche, senior technical manager for NBC Sports and NEP.

With three days to go until the big game, the NBC Sports and NEP teams are focused on putting the finishing touches on a broadcast that could become the most-watched TV show in history. The main truck compound is located in the stadium, offering plenty of room for the trucks and making it easier for staff to get into the bowl and deal with any issues.

To date, issues have been few and far between.

Roche notes that the cabling and signal distribution infrastructure within Lucas Oil Stadium removed the need for laying down cables. “Everything is going extremely well, and a lot of that can be attributed to the infrastructure, as they have done a fantastic job putting [in] single-mode fiber, SMPTE cable, and audio cable, which cut down a massive install on our side.”

The only addition was a 72-strand fiber that had to be installed between the Convention Center and the compound so that Media Day and other press conference events could be connected directly to the NEP production units in the stadium. And broadcasts from Georgia Street, where the Super Bowl pregame coverage will begin, is connected via the city’s fiber infrastructure, with cameras muxed and the program switched from the stadium.

The crew at the core of the game production has plenty of experience with big shows. NBC broadcasts an NFL game every Sunday night during the regular season plus two playoff games. But the Super Bowl, says DeKime, is about 2½ times larger as the show jumps from 27 to 58 cameras when the pregame show is added to the mix. The various “off-the-field” events require 22 additional cameras, mostly Sony cameras outfitted with Canon lenses, to be added to the mix.

At kickoff, 40 cameras will be covering the action, primarily Sony HDC-1000 and HDC-1500 units, again coupled with Canon glass, including three 100x lenses and 19 86x lenses.

“The system that these guys created, Tim operationally and then John technically, we just expand on that philosophy,” says Ken Goss, SVP of remote operations, NBC Sports. “And that is what we see as the big success. They know how to do things on Sunday night, but then, they have had meetings here for 18 months, staying on top of things as we expanded with programs like Costas Tonight and SportsTalk.”

In terms of new technology during the big game, the crew at NBC says to watch for new super-slow-motion camera systems that couple a three-CMOS-sensor Ikegami camera head with an NAC Image Technology Hi-Motion II ultra-slow-motion camera on the back.

“The i-Movix camera is a one-chip unit, while the NAC/Ikegami is three-chip so we get additional flexibility and more range and depth when shooting at night,” says Roche. “We will still be shooting at 300 frames per second because there isn’t enough light to go 400, but, in a daylight situation, you could definitely go to 400 frames per second.”

One Hi-Motion II unit will be on each goal line, one on a sideline cart, and the fourth on the 50-yard line. The units are also brand spanking new, having arrived just days ago.

As for graphics, seven Chyron HyperX units are on-site, with five in use for pregame demands and two for the game. Graphics designers are also on-site, building graphics for the show.

Game operations will be handled out of NEP’s ND3 (A, B, C, and D units), ND4 (A, B, and C), and ESU unit; Football Night in America will operate out of SS24’s A and B and ST24 units).

The team will also have 72 EVS replay channels, recording on 18 machines. Each is set up to run four inputs and two outputs, and the Football Night in America team will also have 36 channels of input availability.

And audio? More than 115 mics will be in use to deliver a quality surround-sound experience to viewers around the globe.

With the technical infrastructure in place, it is time for NBC Sports to turn to rehearsals. Later today, two local high school teams will play the role of the New England Patriots and New York Giants in rehearsing team introductions, and NBC Sports production personnel have even worked with the coaching staffs to have the teams run plays out of the Patriots and Giants playbooks.

“With so many additional camera guys,” adds DeKime, “we have to get them accustomed to shooting isos.”

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