CFP National Championship 2022: ESPN Plans Unprecedented Goal-Line Coverage With Four POVs Shooting Down at Pylons
More than 100 cameras — 89 on game duty — are positioned to capture all of the action
If football is a game of inches, then broadcasting football is, at times, a game of pixels.
In an era when close plays are dissected frame-by-4K frame, a broadcaster can seemingly have all the resources it could need to cover the action and still not have a definitive angle on a season-defining call.
At tonight’s 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship, ESPN hopes to have eliminated one potentially huge blind spot by capitalizing on the unique architecture of the game’s host venue.
ESPN engineering and operations teams have rigged four Sony HDC-P1 POV cameras into the rafters of Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium to shoot directly down at the top of each goal-line pylon camera, providing an unprecedented look at a critical portion of the field. If a player were to extend the ball toward the goal line while being pushed out of bounds, ESPN cameras should have the angle needed to determine whether the ball did, in fact, get over the top of the pylon.
“We’re just fortunate with the nature of the roof at Lucas Oil Stadium that we’re in position to get the perfect straight-down [shot] over the top of the pylon,” says Ed Placey, senior coordinating producer, Event and Studio Production Group, ESPN. “We just feel we’re loaded to cover any sort of unusual circumstance as it relates to replay reviews or just strange happenings in the game that our massive array of cameras haven’t quite caught [in the past].”
It’s a textbook example of a resource that may very well never see air but, if a play in the game calls for it, could be a monumentally important angle for the front bench — and the officiating crew — to call upon.
Few football venues in the U.S. offer the opportunity to put cameras in this location. For one, you need a roof. Even then, not many domed stadiums offer ceiling areas that crews can safely access to position cameras.
Given these POVs, the cameras within the pylons themselves, the Sony 4800 robotic cameras on each sideline shooting directly along each goal line (4K at 8x slo-mo), and the two Skycams, ESPN has covered virtually all its bases relative to scoring plays.
A perfect example of this would have been useful was in Super Bowl LIV when, with just under three minutes to go, Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams scored a go-ahead touchdown on a play in which he stepped out of bounds while extending the ball over the pylon. Even though Fox Sports had deployed a wealth of camera resources, including cameras on the goal line and in the pylon itself, there wasn’t one single angle that clearly showed whether the ball went over the pylon in bounds.
“Fans are going to be able to enjoy multiple angles to get [the goal line] covered,” says ESPN Director, Remote Production Operations, John LaChance. “The overall volume that you see when you get to a championship level [is amazing]. ESPN has put a lot of effort in here to make sure that the fans at home are going to be entertained. We’re utilizing all of the tech toys at our disposal.”
Camera Plan Stars Unique Collection of High-Resolution, Aerial Units
Those POV cameras are, of course, just a small piece of a comprehensive camera map that ESPN operations has laid out to cover this year’s Championship. More than 100 cameras are deployed in and around the building, with 89 of them dedicated to coverage of the game — as a source for the main game broadcast or as a feed for one of the night’s many viewing options through ESPN’s MegaCast.
In total, the game broadcast will feature 16 super-slow-motion cameras (mostly Sony 4300’s), four 4K sources (including the Skycam, whose feed will be carried as a 4K MegaCast viewing option on selected providers), 10 RF cameras (including the near- and far-sideline “Line to Gain” PylonCams), an RF shallow–depth-of-field rig on a three-axis gimbal, two Skycams, a fixed-wing aerial (the Goodyear Blimp), a Virtual jib, and a live drone (flying outside the building for exterior beauty shots coming in and out of break).
The complement includes 18 hard cameras, seven of which are shooting standard game coverage and 11 having SSMO capability. There are four RF handhelds (Sony 2500’s), an RF Steadicam, multiple robotics sprinkled throughout the venue (including a Panasonic AW-UE150 4K PTZ), and three 4K cameras positioned in the upper reaches of the stadium and stitched together to produce the “All Everything Cam” (or the “All 22”).
In addition, 10 PylonCams, containing a combined total of 28 lenses, are positioned on the front and back corners of both end zones and the line-to-gain pylons that move along the sideline during play thanks to RF connectivity.
As for the two Skycams, one is rigged higher than the other. The lower one will be used in the MegaCast’s SkyCast offering and is outfitted with a Sony P1 to shoot in 4K. That 4K feed will also be used in the MegaCast offering and will be the only angle from which the broadcast can be viewed in 4K at home (and only by Comcast, DirecTV YouTube TV, and Verizon subscribers). The higher Skycam is equipped with a Sony P50, will be shooting at 1080p and will be called on largely for replay angles when needed.