Lincoln Financial Field Flies High With Sony HDC-4800 Cameras, Share Play
Philadelphia Eagles production department can tap into broadcast camera feeds
In 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles hoisted their first Lombardi trophy in franchise history with a victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. The team followed their win on the field with an unprecedented W in the offseason.
Before their title defense began, Lincoln Financial Field added a Ross Acuity production switcher and XPression graphics package. More importantly, it became the first venue to purchase and install two Sony HDC-4800 UHFR cameras and a PWS-4500 production server for permanent use during home games. In addition, Share Play capability in the Sony 4800 network allows cross-functionality between the in-house camera feeds and those of the broadcast networks.
Trusting the Process
In 2014, Lincoln Financial Field’s video-control room received a facelift with the help of Sony and Diversified. For live productions, a fleet of high-frame-rate (HFR) Sony PMW-F55 cameras were installed, but they came with certain challenges.
“We were among one of the first venues at that point in time to use 4K live [on the F55’s],” says Eric Long, VP, content and production, Philadelphia Eagles. “One of the things with the F55’s, [which are] not really meant for live production, is that there’s some stop loss when we [use] them with the lenses that we have.”
Because of budget constraints, the Eagles relied on existing gear. Sony brought the year-old HDC-4800 to the stadium to demo during a playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings last season.
“We came in here and did a demonstration [during the NFC Championship game], just to see if they could get the camera on the screen and what the quality difference would be versus an F55,” says Deon LeCointe, senior manager, IP production technology and sports solutions, Sony. “They wanted something that lived in a Sony ecosystem and could give them an ultra-mo replay option.”
After the successful demo, the production department moved to enhance its camera complement. “During this offseason after winning the Super Bowl, we talked about what things we could do in our control room to improve our show,” Long explains. “As we started to think about the future in terms of cameras, why not give [the 4800’s] a shot?”
A Camera Gives a Competitive Edge
On the production side, the 4K ultra-slo-mo licensing allows creative and cinematic shots that the Eagles could never accomplish before. “A lot of the directors and producers are really thinking outside the box,” says LeCointe. “Plays that they thought they could never catch with their standard studio-camera complement are now possible through the 4800.”
All aspects of the Eagles’ creative team are reaping the technological benefits. Pregame hype videos and other content on the in-venue videoboard are distributed in 1080p. For digital material on social media, the unused 4K footage can be allocated to initiatives that get fans excited during the week leading up to game time. “There’s been some really cool opportunities where we actually changed the shot to make it look different,” says Long. “It opens up a lot of worlds for us.”
On the playing field, the Eagles have a secret weapon. Although engaging highlights of Carson Wentz completing a pass through a tight window may dazzle fans, the 4800’s in low-end-zone positioning are paramount in an official review.
“For us, having a competitive edge is the most important thing by far,” says Long. “When it comes to a critical play and getting a look at a toe being out of bounds or the spot of the ball, what this camera brought to the table pushed us over the edge. We rely heavily on this stuff to give our coaching staff the best looks, so we can, hopefully, help them out.”
Share Play Integrates Additional Camera Feeds
The Share Play function not only gives Long and his crew alternate camera angles and footage, but also frees up space in the control room and enhances workflow in a hectic, fast-paced environment.
“The two 4800 cameras are connected via Share Play to a Sony PWS-4500 server, which means one operator [has] both angles in front of them and can go to the play as [needed],” says LeCointe. “There doesn’t have to be individual slo-mo operators for each camera. In fact, the PWS-4500 can support up to 12 devices connected via the Share Play technology, including the HDC-4800 and other PWS-4500 servers.”
In addition, Share Play permits access to the camera feeds used on the nationally televised broadcasts on NBC, Fox, and ESPN. With this ability at his disposal, Long has yet another feature in his arsenal for overturning questionable calls.
“It’s just more resources,” he points out. “When you talk competitive advantage, the TV angles are what determine whether or not plays get overturned. Now that we actually have those in that format, rather than the 1080p version of those feeds, I’m really excited for the possibilities.”
Leader in Tech Innovation
As the Eagles reach the tail end of their 2018 campaign, the 4800’s will be completing their first full season at Lincoln Financial Field. Sony expects these cameras to become more commonplace with increased use.
“I think it can and should be seen as a viable, everyday camera. We’re at a point where some people would say, ‘I could put this in a standard camera position to shoot an awards show, a fashion show, or any other live event,’” says LeCointe. “There are places outside of sports and outside of HFR that it could be seen as a real tool.”
For the Eagles, this project echoes the organization’s philosophy of staying ahead of the production curve. “In everything we do, we always want to be looking at the biggest opportunities in whatever emerging tech there is,” says Long. “Our ownership is very committed to supporting our department. We’re super fortunate in being less than five years removed from a major renovation and able to do the things we did this year.”