Live From Super Bowl LVI: On Eve of Big Game NBC Sports Talks Unique Efforts, Tech Advances

It may be Super Bowl LVI but for the team at NBC Sports it feels much bigger (if that is possible) as there is not only the game and all of the requisite pre-game programming and additional sets but also arguably the best wrap-around programming ever for a Super Bowl: the Winter Olympics.

(l-to-r) Keith Kice, Craig Bernstein, John Roche, and Ken Goss at Super Bowl LVI.

“We say it every year, but the scope of Super Bowl is massive, and it seems to grow every year,” says Craig Bernstein, NBC Sports VP, Remote Technical Operations and Engineering. “Especially with the addition of pre-game and the locations that they’re at as well as the Olympics which will be on five hours before us and five hours after us.”


It’s been four years since NBC Sports last had a Super Bowl as it swapped Super Bowls with CBS Sports so that it could have a Super Bowl that aligned with a Winter Olympics. In those four years much has changed but one thing hasn’t: the production team for Super Bowl LVI is coming off another year where it has produced the nation’s highest rated TV show, Sunday Night Football. And that show has nearly 60 cameras every week so, needless to say, the team is well versed in big shows like the Super Bowl.

“Super Bowl LVI enables us to highlight the cutting-edge technologies that we use to enhance the viewers experience which we also show on a weekly basis during the SNF season,” says Ken Goss, EVP, studio/remote operations planning, NBC Sports. “We have a talented and experienced team here where our focus is to deliver an exceptional and technically sound broadcast.”

Tim DeKime, NBC Sports, VP of sports operations, says it’s been a pretty good few weeks of set up at SoFi.

“We put so many resources into SNF that it’s not a big push to go to a Super Bowl as far as equipment goes,” he says. “We will have a different graphics look and that is something we usually do at a Super Bowl: roll out a new graphics look.”

The biggest difference between the Super Bowl and a regular season Sunday Night Football game is the addition of a massive pre-game programming slate that brings in a whole new set of challenges. The Super Bowl is also an NBC Universal “Symphony” event where they use every channel and platform to promote it.

“Pierre Moosa who is director of the pre-game show has done an unbelievable job getting all the NBC entities lined up, like Access Hollywood, the Premier League, Telemundo, Regional Sports Nets, and NBC News,” says DeKime

As for the game itself, Super Bowl LVI Producer Fred Gaudelli says he typically relies on around 40 cameras to call the show but Keith Kice, NBC Sports, senior director, technical operations says the goal is to give Gaudelli and Super Bowl LVI Director Drew Esocoff everything they need to ensure they have all the angles.

“The biggest thing we add to the game production are some specialty angles that can cover different parts of the field and we want to make sure all parts of the field are covered,” he says. “If there’s ever a controversy like toes in or out and things like that we can make sure we have it covered.”

Topping the list this year are 4K cameras mounted on the goal posts that will shoot the backlines and extra cameras on the goal line. Core technology includes all Canon lenses (including a couple of 122x lenses and then a mix of Sony HDC-5500 and HDC-3500 cameras for primary coverage. Sony HDC-4800 cameras will allow for high-frame-rate HD cut outs while Sony HDC-4300 cameras will offer high-frame-rate replays without cutout capabilities.

“We add another dozen cameras besides pylons compared to Sunday Night Football,” he adds. “But they do a great job every week already and the goal is to deliver a great game to the people at home. And that’s how we always plan for this.”

Another new addition is a Steadicam that will be outfitted with AR graphics capabilities. It was tested successfully all week and now part of the game coverage.

NEP’s ND1 at Super Bowl LVI will be at the center of NBC’s production.

“It’s a Steadicam running an NCAM on it for location, telemetry, and placement of the AR graphics so they are perfect,” says Kice. “And especially with the thought of doing something with the Infinity screen we wanted to make sure the placements are precise.”

Augmented reality graphics have been a bit part of the SNF package for a few seasons now so the new addition is all about giving the production team what they need to tell the story.

“We provide the technology and they just put it to work,” adds Kice.

While that AR Steadicam will be obvious to viewers a big improvement that won’t be is a 10 Gbps EVS XNET-Via network that is replacing SDI and will connect 33 EVS servers, according to Craig Bernstein.

“In the past we’ve been challenged to share clips between pregame and game,” says Bernstein. “And as this compound has expanded there’s been more of a need to move files across the compound and the XNET-Via solution works really well. So, we installed it in NEP’s ND1 truck at the beginning of Sunday night this year, put it through its paces and now we’ve made it the largest XNET-Via Network that has been operated to this point. And it’s working very well.”

The 33 EVS replay servers are spread across NEP’s ND1, ND7, and Supershooter 5. ND1 and is the core production truck in the compound which is located inside the stadium while the rest of the domestic and international compounds are outside. ND7 and Supershooter 5 are also located inside the stadium.

NEP has been playing a big role in all the proceedings and John Roche, NEP Broadcast Services technical manager for Sunday Night Football and Super Bowl LVI says that the biggest logistical challenge early on was losing a day and a half during move in because the Los Angeles Rams hosted the NFC Championship Game.
“That took some time away from us so just getting the trucks in here was a challenge,” he says. “But with all the support NEP has supplied, whether it is the guys being fantastic with problems and all of the equipment they’ve supplied they already thought things through. And in case of emergencies, they’ve supplied everything that we need and more.”

Tim DeKime credits BaAM, the Toronto-based support company that the NFL works with for stepping up after losing a day of set-up.

“They basically are one-stop shopping for securing our trailers, golf carts, scissor lifts, furniture, etc. and they were really pushed back so a big shout out to them as well as Aggreko who does our power,” he adds.

All of the efforts have seen a TV compound that has grown in size and complexity. Bernstein says that as the compound has grown efforts to protect the compound grow as well.

“We tried to root out for hours as many single points of failure as possible. We created disaster recovery scenarios and that isn’t a trivial thing, especially with a compound of this size,” he says. “That’s been a lot of work with an impressive result. On the transmission side we have three separate trucks from three separate vendors and backed up on fiber, satellite, and bonded cellular.”

ARCTEK Satellite Productions handled all of the transmission needs for NBC and were in the host TV compound all week long.

To The Lake (and Beyond)

NBC Sports will also be all over Los Angeles this weekend. There is a set at the Santa Monica pier with a full Newbert flypack while a set at Universal Studios has a smaller Newbert flypack. And Dale Earnhardt and Rutledge Wood have been taping pieces all around town and will also do a live hit from Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

(l-to-r) Craig Bernstein, Tom Popple, and Ken Goss on the Lake Set during its Beijing set up look.

Tom Popple, NBC Sports, VP of studio operations, is on site and overseeing all the sets which include the aforementioned locations as well as a Lake Set outside the stadium and standup locations inside the stadium.

“It’s just a huge undertaking,” says Popple as NBC Universal has brought all of its properties to the game in an effort to maximize exposure and increase awareness.

Viewers have already had a look at one of the jewels of NBC’s Super Bowl LVI coverage: the Lake Set which since Friday night has been home to Super Bowl and Olympic host Mike Tirico. Located across the lake next from SoFi Stadium it offers a dramatic shot of the entire stadium and, when the sun sets, dramatic change in color and light.

“It’s a beautiful venue and being brand new it has a lot of new fiber,” he says. “At other stadiums we need to run our own fiber and here it’s just a 3,000 foot run.”

NBC Sports and Telemundo have Lake Sets that are side by side at Super Bowl LVI.

The Lake Set has two looks, one for the Olympics and one for the Super Bowl. Each features a different desk designed by Chris Runnells of Innovative Show Design who has been doing all of NBC’s work since 2009. The Super Bowl desk, for example, reflects the curves and design of SoFi Stadium and mirrors the desk inside.

Also at the Lake Set is Supershooter 18 which feeds the regionals and handles Premier League for Telemundo which has a Lake Set as well. Supershooter 3 is also on site and the set even has a monitor with nine feeds so Tirico can keep on top of all the action in the sports world.

There is also a JitaCam camera crane with Ross augmented reality capabilities on next to the Lake Set and a Boat Cam that is a Sony P1 package with a Canon CJ20ex5 lens on it that has been modified by removing the rocker and shaving off some weight. The Boat Cam can rotate 360 degrees and hit speeds of six or seven knots, depending on payload.

A Super Bowl is always a major team effort that takes multiple months, says DeKime.

“A special shout out to Keith Kice and John Roche as they have been planning this for a year and a half in advance and as you get closer there is more planning and planning and planning,” says DeKime. “And I think they’ve just done a fantastic job.”

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