More Slow-Mos Than Ever, Two New IP-based Trucks, and a 5.1 Audio Workflow Highlight New Season of NFL on Fox
Fox elevating the production tools available on broadcasts of all sizes
While the news of Fox Sports producing this year’s Thursday Night Football package in 4K UHD has stolen industry headlines, don’t sleep on Fox’s Sunday afternoon games that are getting significant technological and operational overhauls of their own in 2019.
With the addition of more super-slow-motion cameras and Skycams across the network’s portfolio, one of Fox’s big goals this year is to reshuffle the way it looks at the “production level” of its games. No longer is it as simple as an “A” game (typically reserved for the late Sunday afternoon window) or “B” games (most of the early afternoon start times).
This season, some of the very best “A” games throughout the year are being referred to as “Diamond” games and are receiving playoff-level upgrades to their gear lists. Also, many games typically categorized as “B” games are being flooded with enhancements that just a handful of years ago may have been reserved for Super Bowl-level shows.
“What we are doing this year is trying to certainly treat the big games as big games, but also understand that the rest of the games that we have are no less big to a lot of audiences,” says Mike Davies, SVP, technical and field operations for Fox Sports. “We’ve been piling on an awful lot of resources to those games as well.”
Across the entire package, there will be at least four super-slow-motion cameras and a Skycam on every game. “A” games could see as many as eight super-slo-mos. Those “Diamond” games that were spoken of will be getting a special audio unit where Fox will partner with NFL Films in an attempt to create a truly immersive, even cinema-like sound experience.
Most shows will also feature a wireless SteadiCam and, later this season, the network plans to begin using wireless pylon cameras for the first time. Having the yellow 1st and Ten line (from SMT) on the main game camera and the Skycam are virtually “must-haves” on every NFL game, in the eyes of Davies.
The operations behind this season’s NFL on Fox includes two brand new trucks (both of which are IP) and a deeper commitment to audio in 5.1 by integrating it into more levels of the production, like postproduction and isolated cameras.
Game Creek Bravo will work the broadcasts directed and produced by Artie Kempner and Pete Macheska. That unit will be loaded up with the Grass Valley K-Frame X production switcher (which boasts the largest I/O footprint in the industry) along with Sony HDC-3500 and HDC-5500 cameras. Fox is also working with Mobile TV Group for the first time in its NFL package with the addition of MTVG’s 46FLEX. That truck will work with the crew headed up by the producer-director tandem of Barry Landis and Jeremy Green.
With Game Creek Encore graduating to become the primary mobile truck working the Thursday Night Football package, Game Creek Glory will take the helm of powering the Game of the Week show that anchors Fox’s Sunday coverage at approximately 4:00 p.m. ET. Fox will also continue to work with the rest of its fleet of 3G trucks, which include NEP’s SS22 and SS32 and Corplex Iridium.
More on the audio front will see Fox more thoroughly expand its 5.1 workflow. That will now include postproduced pieces and used in the delivery of isolated camera feeds back to the mothership in Los Angeles. According to Davies, all of that will be multi-channel audio.
Fox is also growing its file-based workflow to allow for the quick movement of assets back and forth between the truck on site and the broadcast center in L.A. for all games on the calendar.