San Francisco 49ers Partner With Sony To Build NFL’s Most Technologically Advanced Stadium
With a little help from Sir Paul McCartney, San Francisco closed down Candlestick Park last month, ending the NFL venue’s storied run after more than five decades. Forty miles south, the San Francisco 49ers have a new address.
Say hello to Levi’s Stadium.
Located in Santa Clara, the $1.2 billion, 68,500-seat stadium officially opened its doors on Aug. 2, with a Major League Soccer match between the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders. Speaking with SVG just prior to that game, San Francisco 49ers VP/Executive Producer Robert Alberino Jr. reflected on the project’s final stretch.
“The biggest challenge is sort of getting everybody pulling in the same direction, understanding the cadence of the actual equipment,” said Alberino. “We’ve done training on all of the equipment and all the pieces from my area, so that’s been really super valuable. There’s also a heck of a lot of talent in the Bay Area, so being able to put these toys in their hands is a huge plus. Getting all these things to sort of act in concert is really our main focus, but, technologically, we feel like we’re really sound, like we’re ready to do a game right now.”
After two preseason games, the San Francisco 49ers continue to prep for their home opener on Sept. 14 against the Chicago Bears.
Levi’s Stadium will be ready.
Sony Steps Up Throughout the Stadium
In order to build the most technologically advanced stadium to date, the 49ers partnered with Sony Electronics. Sony led the design and installation of the stadium’s entire video-production system, including the video-control room, large-scale LED displays, LCD displays, and IPTV system.
“Sony’s role in this project with us was to lock arms specifically on making the statement that we were the most technological stadium — certainly in the NFL, if not in professional sports,” says Alberino. “They came in and made suggestions specifically on gear that could accomplish that mission.”
The video-control room, located in the suite tower in the northwest corner of the stadium, is actually a two-room configuration that Alberino calls the “front bench” and “back bench.” The “front bench” seats those who require a view of the field, including Alberino, videoboard operators, public-address announcers, in-game DJ, and scorekeepers. The “back bench,” situated across the hallway, houses the gear.
Working in conjunction with technology consultant WJHW and systems integrator Diversified Systems, Sony and the 49ers designed a video-control room featuring a Sony MVS7000 production switcher, Evertz EQX router, two two-channel ChyronHego graphics engines, and three Click Effects CrossFire systems.
The 49ers added four Evertz DreamCatcher replay servers and six Sony PMWF55 4K cameras. Although the team plans to produce its in-game show in HD this season, the combination of DreamCatcher servers and F55s is a foundation for future 4K acquisition and delivery.
The majority of the in-game cameras will shoot in 1080p, but the 49ers will designate a few to shoot and record raw footage for archive and eventual playback when the building transitions to 4K.
“Our goal is to have some 4K footage in the can,” explained Alberino, “so, when we do flip the switch, we will have some 4K footage to work with to build those elements and be ahead of the curve.”
In addition to the F55s, the 49ers installed six POV cameras — a combination of Sony and Canon units — around the stadium, including the postgame-interview room, outside the locker room, on each scoreboard, on the reverse 50-yard line, and in the control room. Not to mention, more than 200 security cameras situated throughout the stadium, team workout facility, entrances, parking areas, and retail spaces.
Sony will also drive the fan experience in the 49ers Museum, installing 84-in. 4K BRAVIA LCD displays, a professional 4K projector, and 3LCD laser-light-source business projectors.
“It’s been quite an exciting project,” said Chris Sullivan, national sales manager, Sony. “We’re obviously excited about it because of where they are, being based in Silicon Valley. This is a long-term relationship, so this is just the beginning. We’re bringing in 4K, but it’s a multiyear deal that what you see today is just going to get better. We’re going to be introducing new technology in year one and in year two and just continue to develop.”
Daktronics Plays Its Part
Daktronics, working with Sony and the 49ers, installed 13HD LED videoboards in the north and south end zones measuring 48 ft. high x 200 ft. wide and 48 ft. high x 142 ft. wide, respectively. A 3.5- x 1,650-ft. 13HD ribbon display will wrap around the seating fascia.
“Daktronics has been our long-term partner through many installations that we can point to,” said Sullivan. “After we exited the Jumbotron business years ago, we started this collaboration with Daktronics, so, from the very beginning, we would work on putting meetings together, deciding collaboratively [on] the best-size product [and] pixel pitch. … We have expertise still in-house on large-screen video displays, so it was a total collaborative effort deciding which is the proper technology and the right area.”
Daktronics is providing its Show Control system as well as its latest technological innovation: digital audio mesh. Digital audio mesh comprises freeform LED elements mounted over the stadium’s speaker system — 48 ft. high x 58 ft. wide — that allow sound to pass through.
Sony installed more than 2,200 LCD displays around the venue, ranging from 40 in. to 85 in. and supported by the company’s IPTV system. A mobile app will provide fans with various camera angles and video replays, supported by the venue’s robust WiFi network.
“Every ounce of content that is being put on those boards is being created by in-house people at the 49ers,” said Alberino. “I always joke [that] it’s arts and crafts for 70,000 people that we get to show off. … Of course, it all starts on the ground. It starts with editors and shooters using all these great products, but the [result] I think comes across as well as the products that we’re using to get them there. I think that’s a really fun piece to it.”