Live From Super Bowl LVI: Pliant Keeps Everyone Connected With Comprehensive Comms Infrastructure
Super Bowl LVI was setting records on the production side even before the kickoff. For instance, core production entity NEP Group deployed 27 trailers at SoFi Stadium between NBC and the NFL Films, what NEP U.S. Broadcast Services President Glen Levine says was, “Probably one of the largest Super Bowls we’ve done.” That includes ND1 and ND7 as the primary production hub for its Super Bowl game and pre/postgame coverage, Supershooter 3 at the Lake Set, and Supershooter 9 and ST9 for the Super Bowl world feed. It’s just as crowded on the comms side.
“There is more wireless here than anybody’s ever assembled,” says Gary Rosen, VP of Global Sales at Pliant Technologies, whose CrewCom intercom system is providing the backbone for comms at Super Bowl LVI. “We’re talking about everything from the Skycams to monitors for the talent, to all the people that are using our crew communications. It’s just an unbelievable amount of RF for every application you can imagine. And on top of that, everybody considers this the most challenging RF environment you can imagine.”
He estimates that there are as many as 80 workers using wireless intercoms, with spectrum spread across the 2.4 GHz and 900-MHz ranges, to accommodate the large number of users and the fact that the security-heavy event is an incredibly dense RF environment. In addition, there are production staff are using wired intercoms, as well.
Rosen says the intercom infrastructure is divided between what are essentially three distinct shows within the overall broadcast: the NBC production, NFL Network’s own production, and NBC Sports’ pre- and post-game shows along with other production elements during the game other than the halftime music event — “pretty much everything that is not the actual play-by-play during the play game,” he says. And all of them have to be closely coordinated and synchronized over fiber because of how much wireless intercom is being used because of the wide range of locations within the SoFi campus.
“We have communications that start from the field and go to the locker room, to the rollout news-desk and sportscasters that come on field before, in between [quarters], and after the game,” he says. “Plus the tailgate show, which is part of the fan experience, where there are performance stages where they’re using CrewCom, and another area called the Lake set, where we have NFL Network and NBC all broadcasting together. So that’s probably a spread of a mile or a mile and a half. We’re covering a lot of ground.”
CrewCom is the NFL’s regular- and post-season wireless system, as well as for Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football productions.