NFL Kickoff 2022: CBS Sports To Debut C360 Wired Pylon Cams, Improve Emmy Award-Winning RomoVision
Suzanne Smith will be at the front bench as director of B games
CBS Sports will once again showcase the NFL’s best in seven games this Sunday. With top AFC teams on its stacked schedule, the broadcaster will further enhance on-air technologies while also deploying new ones, improving the critically acclaimed RomoVision and introducing wired Pylon Cams from C360.
“It’s really fun and exciting to bring in these new technologies and have them impact our broadcasts,” says Harold Bryant, executive producer/EVP, production, CBS Sports. “It’s a never-ending process, but we’re always looking for new ways to present the game and tell the story.”
Enhanced Broadcast Toys: RomoVision To Feature Player Identification
RomoVision, which received the prestigious George Wensel Technical Achievement Award at the 2022 Sports Emmys, changed the way football fans interpret plays on the field. It uses augmented reality for dynamic replays of some of the game’s biggest plays, becoming so engrained in the production philosophy that its replays became the first replay shown on the broadcast.
“RomoVision is possible only with our tremendous relationship with the NFL and their NextGen data and our partnership with Genius Sports’ Second Spectrum,” says Jason Cohen, VP, remote technical operations, CBS Sports. “We wanted to show the X’s and O’s in a meaningful way and gave the front bench another tool to dissect a play.”
Winning an Emmy Award can spur interest in pushing the technology to the next level or developing something entirely new. Heading into the 2022-23 season, Cohen and company decided to stick with what works and further improve the RomoVision implementation with new visual cues and graphics.
“You’ll see a different look that’s a more modernized with our overall graphics,” says Cohen. “You’ll also see player identification with jersey numbers or names of players running routes and on defense. I think it’s one of those projects that probably will continue to be evolved every year as we get different ideas and suggestions.”
For game coverage, the camera complement will boast some noteworthy additions and will be bolstered by other notable pieces of hardware. For each goal line, C360 will provide new wired Pylon Cams capable of pan, tilt, and zoom tracking in 4K. On each of the four cameras, the PTZ aspect with full 200-degree range of motion will provide angles that can be used in both a live and a replay setting.
“We used to have individual cameras within the pylon that forced us to quickly cut [to each angle] to show the progression of a player crossing the goal line and getting into the end zone,” says Cohen. “Now I think there’s going to be some opportunities to experiment with taking the pylon feed live before going back to a traditional camera angle.”
Pound for pound, the regular-season arsenal might be as big as it has ever been. For example, both A and B games will feature a Sony HDC-F5500 as a shallow–depth-of-field handheld, with increased drones for the main schedule and five additional super-slow-motion cameras and SkyCam on the secondary slate. In total, more than 30 cameras will be in use for the A package, including 13 hard cameras, 3G line-to-gain pylons, three Marshall POVs, two Sony HDC-P43’s on the goalposts, two Sony PXW-FX9’s, a Sony HDC-P50 on SkyCam, and a Sony HDC-4800.
Hybrid Approach: Rotating Production Trucks, Integrated Remote Workflows
As the sports-video-production community progresses further from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, broadcasters have adopted a hybrid environment with both onsite and remote workflows. At CBS Sports, remote services will play a large role on all televised games. From a replay perspective, at least one Hawkeye operator will be contributing remotely to the network’s tape room. In addition, Grass Valley AMPP (Agile Media Processing Platform) will provide monitoring for quality control and troubleshooting.
In the compound, the broadcaster has lined out the first three weeks of mobile-unit assignments, featuring a rotating cast of trucks from NEP Group, Game Creek Video, and F&F Productions. The roster will cover a schedule that spans the country. For games played in September, 11 mobile units will be parked at 15 venues: six from NEP (Supershooter 4, EN2, Supershooter 5, Supershooter CBS, Chromium, and Nickel), four from Game Creek Video (Celtic, B1, Columbia, and B6), and F&F GTX19.
Stellar Talent Teams and Production Crews on the Roster
In addition to the robust onsite and offsite technologies driving the weekly telecasts, CBS Sports will field an accomplished lineup of game and studio talent and production crews that feature some of the smartest minds in the game.
For the A package, play-by-play commentator Jim Nantz, analyst Tony Romo, and reporter Tracy Wolfson will be together for their sixth consecutive season. For the B package, play-by-play commentator Ian Eagle, analyst Charles Davis, and reporter Evan Washburn will be working together for their third straight. NFL rules analyst Gene Steratore will also be back this year.
Other games on the schedule will be called by the teams of Kevin Harlan, Trent Green, and Melanie Collins; Greg Gumbel, Adam Archuleta, and AJ Ross; Andrew Catalon and James Lofton; Spero Dedes and Jay Feely; and Tom McCarthy and Tiki Barber. Beth Mowins will be featured as a play-by-play commentator, and Amanda Renner, Michael Grady, and Aditi Kinkhabwala will serve as additional reporters.
On the production side, producer Jim Rikhoff and director Mike Arnold will handle the A package, and director Suzanne Smith — in her first full year as the director of the network’s B package — will work alongside producer Mark Wolff. Taking over the position after the retirement of Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Bob Fishman, Smith had joined CBS Sports in 1983 as a broadcast associate and is one of the first women to direct NFL games. This season will also be her 40th year working on football, both collegiate and professional, at the network.
“We’re excited that trailblazing director Suzanne Smith is going to be directing our No. 2 team,” says CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus.
Having joined CBS Sports as a researcher in 1985, Rikhoff has been at the Eye Network almost as long as Smith has. The two broadcast vets will be at the front bench on their respective games. He recalls the way Smith reacted to being tasked with directing the 2022 AFC Championship Game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 30 after last-minute changes due to COVID-19.
“She found out this would be her assignment a few days before the game,” he says. “To do a game of that size [on short notice] tells you what type of director she is. We’re in capable hands with Suzanne, and I can’t wait to see the work she does this fall.”
NFL Slimetime To Return to Primetime on Nickelodeon
As for the 2022-23 programming schedule, a handful of shows will make their return. Demonstrating corporate synergy with Nickelodeon, NFL Slimetime will again occupy its primetime slot of 7 p.m. ET every Wednesday night on Nickelodeon, debuting Sept. 14. The program will be headlined by hosts Nate Burleson and Dylan Gilmer, correspondents Mia Burleson and Dylan Schefter, and football kid commentator George Johnston IV. On Christmas Day, an episode will run at noon on CBS and stream live on Paramount+ prior to the matchup between the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams at 4:30 p.m.
The Week 16 game can be watched in two ways: the traditional broadcast on CBS and Paramount+ or the slime-filled alternative production on Nickelodeon. NFL Slimetime will be produced by CBS Sports Executive Producer Shawn Robbins and Nickelodeon EVP, Unscripted and Digital Franchise Studios, Ashley Kaplan; VP, Unscripted, Luke Wahl; VP, Unscripted Current Series, Paul J. Medford; and VP, Production, Viacom Digital Studios, Jana Blumenthal.
On CBS Sports Network, That Other Pregame Show (TOPS) will mark its 10th NFL season, airing from 9:00 a.m. to noon through Week 10 and from 8:00 a.m. to noon for the rest of the regular season. Hosts Adam Schein and Amy Trask, analyst Brock Vereen, NFL Insider Jonathan Jones will be joined by a trio of new faces: analysts Thomas Davis and Kyle Long, along with Kinkhabwala. Jeff Ratcliffe and Keith Irizarry will provide fantasy updates and advice, and The NFL Today analysts — Burleson, Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason, and Phil Simms — will also make appearances. Producer Deb Gelman and director Jay Kincaid will be in the control room for TOPS.
Brand-New Opportunities: CBS Sports Continues Tech Innovation
Every year is a challenge, but it’s also another chance to dazzle football fans around the nation. With the combination of a tantalizing schedule and creative technologies, CBS Sports is in the driver seat for another impressive NFL season.
“As a network, we’re truly excited about the schedule, and we’re blessed to have tremendous matchups every week,” says Cohen. “We’re also very passionate about trying to continue to advance our technology and innovations.”
The NFL on CBS begins this Sunday with seven games: five at 1 p.m. ET (Baltimore Ravens vs. New York Jets, Cleveland Browns vs. Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans, New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals) and two at 4:25 p.m. (Kansas City Chiefs vs. Arizona Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders vs. Los Angeles Chargers).