Live From Super Bowl LII: U.S. Bank Stadium Ready To Put on the Video Show It Was Built For
1st & Ten line makes Super Bowl videoboard debut in epic Van Wagner/SMG presentation
Since the first beam went up on this massive structure in Downtown Minneapolis, U.S. Bank Stadium has been building to this moment. Super Bowl LII is here, and an all-star team from Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment Productions, stadium manager SMG, and the Minnesota Vikings is ready to put on a Super Bowl videoboard production for the ages.
When 66,000-plus pack into the sparkling bowl, they’ll be treated to quite a few in-venue firsts on those boards, including the Super Bowl debut of SMT’s Yellow 1st & 10 line, a completely new Super Bowl LII graphics package, and an expanded arsenal of camera angles.
“Every Super Bowl, we’re tasked with moving the needle,” says Bob Becker, EVP, Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment (VWSE) Productions, which has designed the videoboard. “What can we do differently this Super Bowl that we haven’t done in the past? That’s our constant challenge. This is my 23rd [Super Bowl], and, every year, it gets bigger and bigger and bigger. When it’s over, you say, ‘Wow, what a great job,’ and then you start stressing about next year and wonder, ‘Well, how do we top that?’ That’s how I feel about that: you’ve got to always up your game.”
The stadium’s crown jewels are a pair of Daktronics video displays behind the end zones that measure 68 x 120 ft. and 50 x 88 ft., respectively. This year, for the first time at a Super Bowl, those boards will feature a full complement of the Yellow 1st & 10 line. SMG and the Vikings had a standing relationship with North Carolina-based SMT throughout the season, offering the yellow line encoded on their 50-yard-line camera. For the Super Bowl, they chose to expand it to include the other main cameras at each of the 20-yard lines. SMT’s Ben Grafchik will be sitting at the front of the control room, calling up specialty data-driven graphics, tickers, and data feeds for the control-room crew to call up as they desire.
Those advanced graphics are part of a completely fresh graphics package that Van Wagner has developed for this game. It’s the classic hard work done by the company: build a season’s worth of graphics to be used on a single night. Also, not only does Van Wagner come in and take over the U.S. Bank Stadium control room, but its team has basically torn it apart, pulling out gear and replacing it with specialty systems in order to take the videoboard show to that next level.
“It’s not because it’s not good,” says Becker, “but that’s how we make it bigger and better. Sometimes, you’ve got to bring technology in to make it bigger and better. And, to these guys’ credit, they have not only been there from Day One for us but have been open to allowing us to tear apart their room and integrate these new things. And it happens a lot that they go, Hey, you know something, I’d love to use that for a Vikings season next year. So there’s benefit on both sides.”
One of the vendors that has gone above and beyond for the control room is Evertz. The company has provided a crosspoint card for redundancy and the EQX router while also supplementing with some spare input cards, output cards, and frame syncs.
It’s a challenging effort to make temporary alterations to the control room, but SMG and the Vikings have welcomed the opportunity to expand with open arms.
“There’s a reason I took this job,” says Justin Lange, broadcast operations coordinator for U.S. Bank Stadium, SMG. “This is a prestigious event, and this is big for this city, the Vikings, and for us as a company. It’s been a great experience. It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase what we can do with this room, what we can do with these boards. The sightlines are great in this facility. The boards are great, the IPTV system is expansive, and we’re just excited to showcase what we have to offer as a facility.”
Normally, the control room features both Evertz IPX and baseband routing, an 8M/E Ross Acuity switcher with 4M/E and 2M/E control panels to cut secondary shows, and Ross XPression graphics systems. The all-EVS room houses a wide range of EVS products, including three 12-channel 1080p replay servers, one 4K replay server, IPDirector, Epsio Zoom, and MultiReview.
For the Super Bowl, the control room will have more cameras to choose from than it has ever had before. A total of 18 in-house cameras deployed throughout the bowl (which is more than the normal eight for a Vikings game), including four RF handhelds, an RF Steadicam, and two robotics.
The crew is also an impressive sight to behold. Nearly 100 people are working on the videoboard show in the combined efforts between Van Wagner, SMG, and the Vikings. There’s also a handful of editors across the street in the 1010 Building (where many broadcasters have set up auxiliary offices) cutting highlight packages and team-specific content.
“This is the biggest event in the world,” says Becker, “and we and the NFL mean to acknowledge that. We’re willing to do what needs to be done to put on the biggest event in the world.