CBS Sports Coverage of Super Bowl XLVII Set to Innovate
Months of preparation by CBS Sports, and a wide variety of partners, comes together for tonight’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII from the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Among the technical highlights? A new look for CBS Sports graphic animations and inserts, the expanded use of Heyeperzoom, a 4K system that allows for 1080i images to be extracted for ultra-clear zooms into an image, and the use of Evertz Mosaic, a system that allows up to six camera angles to be synced and played back on a split screen to viewers at the push of a single button. But the biggest accomplishment is simply the collective effort by hundreds of CBS Sports staffers, freelancers, and technology partners.
CBS has a core team of 25 staffers that are leading the massive team that, in many ways, embodies the spirit found amongst production personnel at an Olympics but on a domestic level.
“Our vendors all work well together and they mix and match equipment,” says Ken Aagaard, CBS Sports, engineering, operations, and production. “We’ve never seen a big event where they aren’t all working well together.”
From the beginning of pre-game coverage viewers will notice a new look for CBS Sports as all of its inserts and animations have undergone a complete redesign. Reality Check and Cake Studios worked together on the insert elements while Big Studios in Toronto and Click 3X Entertainment in New York worked on the animation packages. Vizrt, Adobe Aftereffects, and Maxon Cinema 4D are among the tools that played a big part in the rebranding.
Marla Schmettau, CBS Sports, director of graphics, says that the inserts will be noticeably bolder, bigger and more prominent while the animations will visually convey things like the force of impact that is such a part of sports.
“We had a couple of key goals, including having a more cohesive feel for the animations as they lead into the insert,” she says. “It has come together very well.”
The game broadcast will be produced out of NEP SS24’s A, B, and C units, marking the third Super Bowl for the unit that has continued to refresh its technical infrastructure to remain at the top of its game. Tape release, always a massive effort when 50 cameras are involved, takes place out of NEP SS22 while F&F Productions’ GTX16 A and B unit handle the pre-game show, Bexel’s BBS1 handles the pre-game editing, and then NEP Denali steps up for the halftime show.
An example of the ways the vendors work together is on display in what is arguably the biggest technology innovation of the year: the use of six For-A FT-ONE 4K cameras and the still-to-be-officially released Evertz Dreamcatcher replay system. Fujinon 4K 75×400 prime lenses in the F&F GTX16 unit are being used for a part of the production that will take place in NEP’s ST27 production unit.
“This will be like when we tipped our toe into HD and I think we will see more and more 4K [used in productions],” says Aagaard.
The project began in September with a test during an Indianapolis Colts game. CBS and NEP then gave both For-A and Evertz lists of ways to improve the respective technologies and both companies responded.
“When we started it took six fibers to get the [12 Gbps] signals back from one For-A camera and now we only need three, so that is pretty cool,” says Goldfeder. “They also made the camera waterproof and weather resistant.”
The camera also operates in a much more “broadcast” centric way than other cameras currently on the market, including the ability to be shaded much like a regular HD camera.
“They really saved us,” says Aagaard of For-A’s technical team. “This gives them the opportunity to slide into a market they have historically not been involved with.”
Evertz, meanwhile, improved the graphical user interface and made it much more intuitive for replay operators. “Their programmers are really good and understand TV and video,” adds Goldfeder.
The six For-A cameras are primarily positioned to capture images on the goal line and along the sidelines as the best case scenario for use of the cameras would involve checking whether or not a player caught a ball and their feet landed in bounds or out of bounds. By zooming in and maintaining full HD resolution quality a definitive look is almost guaranteed.
When CBS Sports was drawing up the camera positions one hope was that they would be able to replace at least one of the super-slow motion cameras with the 4K camera. In the end the two cameras on the goal lines will operate in a dual-purpose mode for both 4K and super-slow motion replays.
Other high-speed cameras in use include Sony units and the Ikegami/NAC Imaging camera that made its debut at last year’s Super Bowl, produced by NBC Sports.
All told 50 cameras will be in use tonight.
“You add a lot of cameras on the side of the field and have an two overhead robotic cameras in the dome itself and this is also the first time we will use a dual sideline cart at the Super Bowl,” says Aagaard of a single cart that has two cameramen operated in it, one high that isolates on the quarterback and a lower position with the NAC camera. “We introduced the dual sideline cart in October to give the cameramen a chance to get used to a different way to operate as they will be sitting rather than standing.”
Getting as many of those 50 cameras on air as possible will fall on the shoulders of Producer Lance Barrow and Director Mike Arnold. So while a budding director starting out on a low-level college football game may be trying to make 8 cameras look like 20 the challenge at the Super Bowl is the inverse: making 50 cameras look like 20.
One new tool that will most likely make it to air a few times tonight will be the Evertz Mosaic. The system will be connected to six cameras and deliver a split screen view of those different camera angles. With two brothers coaching against each other in tonight’s game there is a great chance the system will be used to split the screen into three vertical slices with a coach on each side of the screen and a shot from the Skycam in the middle
Mike Arnold, who will direct the game for CBS Sports, says that 80% of the time there will be a camera on each coach. “We also can use [Mosaic] for a split screen of the quarterback and the receiver,” he says.
Vince Silvestri, Evertz, VP of Software Systems, says the Mosaic system solves a fundamental problem for football viewers: the need to remember the previous angle when showing the next replay.
As for audio, this season the NFL provided audio from microphones on both the offensive center and a guard so tonight’s game will feature a lot of QB chatter. The defensive side of the ball, however, still requires parabolic dishes and 10 of them will be in use tonight.
“[Baltimore Ravens linebacker] Ray Lewis is very vocal and we pick up a lot of him with parabs,” says Aagaard. The challenge then becomes making sure that if Barrow calls for a shot of Lewis that the captured audio makes it to air as well.
“We feel good about our sound and we have paid a lot of attention to it and feel it is in a pretty good place,” adds Aagaard.