Wrestlemania Is Bigger Than Ever, Gets First Spidercam Coverage
Each year it seems, the gargantuan scale of WWE’s Wrestlemania has reached its apex and couldn’t possibly grow larger. And every year, it does just that.
Last weekend’s Wrestlemania 31 continued the streak, breaking the Levi’s Stadium attendance record with a gate of nearly 77,000 fans and becoming the highest-grossing event in WWE history at $12.6 million, not to mention a global audience of 1.3 million households. The in-venue and PPV-telecast productions were equally monstrous: WWE rolled in more than 80 semitrailer trucks to deliver its marquee annual event with signature flair.
“I think that people on the TV side of the business are amazed sometimes when they see this is all for one show,” says Duncan Leslie, SVP, event technical operations, WWE. “It looks like enough for a whole tour over the course of several events, but this is all for one night. And I don’t think there are any other shows around that have field-artillery pieces and a tank as part of the production.”
Spidercam Takes the Ring
WWE rolled out its dedicated NEP Red and Black mobile units to produce the show, deploying 26 Sony HDC-2500 cameras, an RF Steadicam, an aerial helicopter cam, and the first-ever appearance of the Spidercam on Wrestlemania.
“Spidercam enhanced so many aspects of the show because it could fly down and really show the size and scale of the event,” says Leslie. “It was interesting because we didn’t put it in the conventional fashion right over the 50-yard line, We only used the north-end-zone side over our stage, which is 80 ft. wide and 40 ft. deep. When you have a handheld camera, it’s hard to show just how massive it is. This was a tool that let us open up to the viewers and [illustrate the immensity] of the set.”
The WWE Network Effect
The tale of the tape goes beyond just the camera complement, however, which doubled from the average 13 for a Monday Night Raw show. WWE’s show included 145,000 ft. of copper and fiber cabling, 40 color-corrector stations, 62 channels of EVS replay, 500 radios in the field, seven generator trucks, and nine outbound transmission paths, including satellite connectivity to Washington state’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“Unlike other massive events, like the Super Bowl or World Series, there is no home and away or third-party broadcast,” says Leslie. “Our truck is the network conduit for the whole world; about 160 countries had access to our event. And the thing about Wrestlemania is that it is truly a marriage of technology and creativity. We are telling stories, but we are using extremely advanced technology to help do that.”
In addition to Red and Black, WWE rolled in NEP SS17 to produce the WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and used SS11 for various shows at the Santa Clara Convention Center, including SmackDown and Wrestlemania Today.
The growing role of the WWE Network also expanded the Wrestlemania show. In addition to the two-hour WrestleMania 31 Kickoff preshow (exclusive to WWE Network), the digital network delivered live hits from an announce desk at Levi’s Stadium in the six hours leading up to the preshow.
“We were much more aggressive in terms of WWE Network programming this year,” says Leslie. “We had a desk last year, but we were far more aggressive in utilizing it this year. That added a lot of additional content to produce and distribute.”
Levi’s Stadium Shines
The nearly 77,000 fans on hand at Wrestlemania were treated to a fully immersive event. WWE fully integrated Levi’s Stadium’s massive Daktronics videoboards and ribbon boards into its production and used the state-of-the-art in-venue WiFi network. However, because WWE’s primary cameras were located on the opposite side of the stadium from standard NFL positions, the production did not use the venue’s substantial broadcast infrastructure.
“It’s an extremely well-thought-out and technically potent environment,” says Leslie. “We only scratched the surface because we didn’t really utilize much of their broadcast I/O. Anytime there are in-house assets, we are going to integrate them because it is another opportunity for information and branding. So, in that regard, the broadcast side of Levi’s was very helpful, and we loved it.”