Fox Sports To Produce MLS Cup in 1080p HDR, Distribute in UHD; Flag Cams Added in All Four Corners
The Crew-Sounders matchup is Fox’s biggest MLS production of the year
An MLS season unlike any other comes to a close on Saturday with the MLS Cup, and Fox Sports is looking to go out on a high note. It will roll out its largest MLS production of the season and, for the first time, will produce the game in 1080p/HDR, upconverting it to UHD for distribution to viewers. In addition, Fox Sports will deploy HD corner-flag cams in all four corners of the field for the first time (having previously deployed them in two).
The Fox Team has been working tirelessly to get ready for the MLS Cup,” says Kevin Callahan, VP, Field Operations and Engineering, Fox Sports. “It’s the last major championship to be awarded this season, and we’re proud to showcase it. It’s really good to see all different areas of Fox Sports coming together – Operations, Tech, EHS, Security, HR – all working as one to put on a quality production, and most importantly, a safe and healthy one.”
While Fox’s regular-season MLS productions are typically Home-Run Productions (HRP), with the crew located remotely, this weekend’s MLS Cup operation will be fully onsite at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, OH. Game Creek Video’s Yogi (A & B) mobile production unit will be on hand along with GCV Robo One to produce the Seattle Sounders–Columbus Crew matchup.
There was a change for the Western Cup Final [and MLS Cup] going back to in-venue productions, but the team has weathered it well,” says Callahan. “FOX’s MLS coverage has grown throughout the season. It’s been an interesting year – from Nashville SC’s first home match, through the MLS Is Back tournament, then moving to a full HRP with announcers in different locations after the five-month break. We’ve managed to adapt to what is needed to bring the sport to the fans.
Fox will deploy 17 manned cameras (all Sony HDC-4300’s), bringing the total camera complement to 31, up from seven for the regular-season productions. Additional specialty cameras — roving RF MōVI, Skycam system, and jib — will join the netcams that Fox has used all season. Five of the Sony HD-4300’s will be running in 6X super-slo-mo.
Most notably, Fox will deploy corner-flag cams in all four corners for the first time, and all will be HD, providing unique looks at corner kicks or action near the flags. The corner-flag cameras, which Fox debuted at the 2018 MLS Cup, are similar to pylon cameras used for NFL coverage, with miniature camera systems embedded in the flags and lenses exposed through a small hole in the side of the pole. The cameras are fibered directly through the flagpole, out the base, to the truck.
In addition to the crowd noise from the 1,500 fans who will be permitted inside the stadium on Saturday, Fox is planning to use SonoFans artificial crowd noise to augment the sound of the fans in the stands.
“We have found that field-effects audio is significantly better, and we have been using Sonofans to add a sense of normalcy to the viewer,” says Callahan. “We’ve found that the absence of crowd noise on an event is much more jarring than enhanced crowd noise.”
On the health-and-safety front, Fox Sports is following its regular protocols, including rapid tests onsite and UV-C sanitization on a regular basis. All personnel have to maintain social distance and wear masks/facial coverings at all time. Fox is also using function groups to limit contact as much as possible, and the MLS is using its tiered credentialing system to ensure that players, personnel, and production crew remain separated whenever possible.