MLS All-Star Game 2021: Fox Sports Spotlights League’s Summer Jewel With 4K HDR, Pitchside Megalodon
The production will also feature four super-slo-mos, Skycam
As 2021 heads towards the fall and winter, Major League Soccer is closing out the summer in Hollywood with its brightest stars. This year’s MLS All-Star Game at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles will be packed with high-end technology, including 4K HDR, a Megalodon patrolling the sidelines, more than 20 onfield microphones, and a Skycam.
“This year, we’ll be fully onsite with a lot of the folks that have been working on our Home Run Productions all year long,” says Kevin Callahan, VP, field operations and engineering, Fox Sports. “We’re really looking forward to producing this event.”
Cinematic Fútbol: Megalodon To Roam the Sidelines
Before the start of the 2021 MLS regular season, Fox Sports had expected to deploy the Megalodon for its schedule of televised matches. In April, the idea wasn’t on the table because of COVID-related rules prohibiting access to the sidelines. Since vaccinations within the league are increasing, Fox Sports is now able to use the shallow–depth-of-field camera for multiple applications with the help of connectivity from 3g Wireless.
“It’ll be used for live action,” Callahan explains, “but we’re still working with the league to get permission to be on the pitch for goals. Since [COVID-19] regulations are changing, that may be something that we won’t get an official ruling on until Wednesday.”
Despite the uncertainty of access to the grass for post-goal shots, the crew will be parked on the field before the referee’s whistle for content involving some of the players.
“We’ll be on the pitch for our pre-match interviews,” he adds. “It’ll be similar to NASCAR, where we’re able to get that really nice [close-up] effect.
Other Tools: Four Super-Slo-Mos, Onfield Mics Bring Match to Life
The 1080p HDR effort will feature not only the Megalodon but also four super-slow-motion cameras in the more than 15-camera complement. The four Sony HDC-5550’s will be dispersed throughout the venue: one behind the goal on the left-hand side of the pitch, one near the field at the halfway line, and two isos (one midlevel close to the main game camera, the other in a slash position). Each camera will have its own purpose in the broadcast, but the pair closest to the field will capture dynamic shots of action taking place in the 18-yard box and at the goal line. In addition, a single Skycam will cover angles from above the grass, and a helicopter will shoot aerials of the stadium and its surroundings.
Along with the cameras, more than 20 microphones will be placed above ground on the pitch and around the field’s perimeter to amplify the sounds of the action. As an added touch, a handful of players will be miked up during pregame (as in this interview with Walker Zimmerman during warmups for the 2019 MLS All-Star Game).
Prior to the star-studded match, Fox Sports will also broadcast the 2021 MLS All-Star Skills Challenge from Banc of California Stadium. In the third edition of this event, which debuted in 2018, eight MLS participants and eight from Liga MX will go head-to-head to see who is better at the game’s fundamentals. Representing the MLS: Orlando City SC’s Nani, FC Dallas’s Ricardo Pepi, Inter Miami’s Rodolfo Pizarro, LAFC’s Diego Ross, Seattle Sounders’ Raul Ruidiaz, Columbus Crew’s Lucas Zelarayán, Philadelphia Union’s Andre Blake, and New England Revolution’s Matt Turner. The Liga MX contingent: Toluca’s Alexis Canelo and Rubens Sambueza, Monterrey’s Rodrigo Funes Mori, Cruz Azul’s Orbelín Pineda and Jonathan Rodríguez, Santos Laguna’s Diego Valdés, Pumas UNAM’s Alfredo Talavera, and Tigres UANL’s Nahuel Guzmán. The two-hour competition comprises five challenges: shooting, touch, cross and volley, passing, and crossbar.
The league will produce it, providing Fox Sports with a video feed to distribute, but the broadcaster will provide multiple high-frame-rate cameras and Skycam for the event. Unlike the main event on Wednesday night, this presentation does not have to follow FIFA rules since it’s not an officially sanctioned contest. This means that numerous participants will be wearing microphones and that special POV cameras will highlight other areas of the pitch to give viewers more access.
Bank of California Compound: Team To Follow COVID Rules in Game Creek Trucks
Like the Megalodon, Game Creek Video’s Encore mobile unit has racked up lots of travel miles over the past three months. Prior to last Saturday’s Manny Pacquiao–Yordenis Ugás bout in Las Vegas, it was deployed by the broadcaster for MLB at Field of Dreams on Aug. 12 and the 2021 NFL Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 5. Now parked in the television compound, Encore houses the full onsite crew in designated spaces.
With the unfortunate surge in COVID-19, safety protocols have been increased to curb the potential spread of the virus. In accordance with local and state guidelines, as well as company-wide mandates, all personnel are required to wear a face mask at all times (both inside and outside mobile units), and social distancing is strictly enforced.
“We’re being conscious of our spacing,” notes Callahan. “In all of our in-person events, we’re including air purification in each of our mobile units.”238030
Showcasing the Game’s Best: All-Star Game Returns After Cancellation in 2020
Fans certainly missed the MLS All-Star Game in the ever-changing 2020 schedule, but, now that it’s back, supporters of all 27 teams are very much looking forward to this tentpole event on both the league’s and Fox Sports’ calendar. On the broadcasting side, Callahan and his staff are also eager to work together and televise this game for those unable to join them on the West Coast.
“I think it’ll be great to have the passion of the fans back in the stands at the jewel event of MLS’s summer,” he says. “We’re going to make sure that the fans that can’t come to Southern California can experience [the match] as if they were there.”
The festivities begin with tonight’s MLS All-Star Skills Challenge at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, followed by Wednesday night’s MLS All-Star Game at 9 p.m. on FS1.