Live from Super Bowl XLIX: NBC Sports Settles in for the Big Game
Super Bowl XLIX later today will wrap up three years of planning by the team at NBC Sports and NEP, its primary production partner on the event. It also wraps up a very busy couple of weeks that saw the production team work around another big football game last weekend (the Pro Bowl) as well as the natural turf field that slides into and out of the stadium. So for the next 13 hours it all comes down to execution.
“Everything worked out because of the planning,” says John Roche, NEP, technical manager. “The big issue was the field moving in and out of the stadium but with a lot of pre-planning we were able build and get everything ready.”
Ken Goss, NBC Sports, SVP, remote operations and production planning, says the operations team, headed up by Tim DeKime, NBC Sports, director of operations and Roche, showed its experience has today’s game will be the third time they worked together for a Super Bowl.
“Our core team remains intact,” he says.
That core team has been busy not only planning the game production but also the facilities for all of the programming this past week. For example, the NBC Sports network, Comcast SportsNet, and other NBC entities like “The Today Show,” “Access Hollywood,” and local TV stations have broadcast from “Super Bowl Central” a fan fest area in downtown Phoenix. NBC Sports constructed two studios, a small football field, some standup locations, and a manned RF camera from AVS located high above the location. NEP’s ND6 production unit is at the center of the productions from that location with the exception of live reports that are dropped into NHL and English Premier League studio programming. Those shows originate out of the Stamford, CT studios and during those segments the camera signals are muxed back to Stamford and cut there
“The RF camera gives a nice beauty shot of the whole area and it’s a manned camera so they can zoom in,” says Rich Assenzio, NBC Sports, director of technical and remote operations who called Super Bowl Central home. “And the main set has enough space for three cameras and a jib so it gives a really good look.”
Today’s pre-game activities shift into overdrive today on a set located outside of the stadium on what is called the “great lawn.” NBC Sports host Bob Costas will begin the pre-game programming from that set at in the morning before moving into a two-story set located inside the stadium later in the day.
In recent years Super Bowl pre-game and half-time studio sets have marched down right down to the side of the field but the NBC Sports set will provide a more expansive view from the mezzanine level. And it also has a second story that will give NBC Sports analyst Tony Dungy a place to offer analysis of plays like he does when “Football Night in America” broadcasts from the Stamford, CT studios during the regular season.
“The double decker set really paid off for us,” says Tom Popple, NBC Sports, vice president, studio operations. “We wanted to bring the studio show out here with all the creature comforts everyone is used as they are essential.”
Popple says the set was designed to be similar in look and feel to the set back in Stamford so there will be plenty of warm wood surfaces as well similar Laird LED displays with a pitch of 2.5 mm and 1.9 mm respectively.
“We want it to be warmer and have a synergy with the set in Stamford so it is not too jarring from what people are used to seeing,” he adds. “So we worked together with the league and Populous to make sure everyone was happy.”
Throughout the afternoon viewers will be treated to the sights, sounds, and celebrities that are all part of the Super Bowl experience thanks to the use of 26 Sony cameras with Canon lenses. But at 4:30 local time all attention will shift to the game and NBC Sports will be on top of all the action with 45 cameras, including plenty of Sony cameras, Grass Valley’s LDX HS cameras with up to six-times slow motion recording, and five iMovix 4K cameras tied to Evertz DreamCatcher systems. Those systems will be operated out of “Dreamland” or, as it is more commonly known, NEP’s ND4 B-unit. NEP’s ND1 unit, which has been used all season for Sunday Night Football, will be the main production unit for the game. Other providers include BS, is on hand for wireless audio, and AVS who will handle the wireless video systems.
“It’s really about the real estate needed for more people as there are more cameras, more replay, and more graphics units,” says Roche.
Goss says that the NBC trucks were in place on January 19, the Monday before the Pro Bowl game that was broadcast on ESPN out of NEP’s EN1 that is located about a five-minute walk from the NBC trucks and is in use for the NFL’s world feed.
“We are all parked and powered in two-and-a-half hours,” says Goss.
It’s been a long road of planning but the payoff, as usual with a Super Bowl, promises to be huge. And before the team at NBC Sports knows it they will be waking up with visions of Super Bowl LII, set for Minneapolis, MN, in 2018, dancing in their heads. One thing the team already knows is that NEP’s ND1 will once again be at the center of that production. The question will be what other technology dreams will become reality between now and then.
But for the next 24 hours all eyes are on University of Phoenix stadium.