Mixed Reality on Monday Night Football: Inside The Famous Group’s ‘Flying Razor’ Virtual Segment at Gillette Stadium
It was the company’s first live MR production on a regular-season NFL broadcast
As mixed reality continues to become more commonplace on live sports broadcasts and in-venue experiences, The Famous Group (TFG) continues to up the ante. On Monday at Gillette Stadium, the virtual-event producer teamed up with ESPN, Gillette, and the New England Patriots to create the first live commercial mixed-reality experience on an NFL broadcast, featuring multiple layers of mixed media during the Patriots’ Monday Night Football matchup with the Bears at Gillette Stadium.
. A giant razor flying effortlessly onto the field. Neon green everywhere. Innovation all over the place. ICYMI checkout #GilletteLabs Stadium. #MNF pic.twitter.com/nhlHqiAFud
— Gillette (@Gillette) October 25, 2022
In addition to serving as the latest showcase for mixed-reality technology in a live sports broadcast, the segment also showed off Gillette Stadium’s much-anticipated renovations set to be completed for the 2023 NFL season. The “GilletteLabs Stadium” MR pregame segment, part of Proctor & Gamble’s advertising campaign for its Exfoliating Bar razor, featured a giant razor floating over the field, a neon-green videoboard displaying what is to come with the renovations, and a closing fireworks sequence.
“It has been awesome to collaborate with Gillette on the 45-second mixed-reality experience,” says Andrew Isaacson, newly named partner at The Famous Group and longtime EVP, business development. “Fans [could] not only see the [assembly] of the razor by the stadium’s namesake sponsor but also get their first look at the highly anticipated renovations coming to the stadium. The project is another way TFG continues to innovate in MR and deepen the fan experience.”
Behind the Scenes: Creating a Virtual Giant Razor and Neon-Green Stadium
The Famous Group used Epic Games’ Unreal Engine and Pixotope to create real-time graphics that were merged with the live broadcast feed via two tracked cameras. The machines and infrastructure were provided by XR Studios and Thistle Communications, SMT handled the tracking.
Because the scene was produced in a real-time 3D environment, TFG could use a highly precise 3D scan of the stadium (provided by TruePoint Laser Scanning) to locate and place the virtual objects within the correct camera space.
“This was extremely helpful in this activation,” says Erik Beaumont, head of mixed reality, The Famous Group, “as a large portion of the content was matching the new stadium’s look and feel virtually to how the stadium currently looked on the feed.”
Sound design was produced by Firebird Sound and the piece’s music provided by APM.
The project, led by TFG Executive Creative Director Hemu Karadkar, required an unusually high degree of precision in showing off the future Gillette Stadium architecture. TFG needed the new architecture in the virtual space to blend seamlessly with the existing stadium despite the ongoing construction.
“Whenever we work with a brand or partner,” says Beaumont, “we strive to ensure that the product matches the brand’s vision and the real object as much as possible. On Monday night, there was an additional element of unpredictable weather that we had to deal with. A thick fog rolled into the stadium close to game time, but it actually wound up creating a cinematic atmosphere.”
Check out the behind-the-scenes work in the control room here:
Positive Vibe: Graphics Generate Plenty of Buzz, Build on TFG History
Although The Famous Group has been a fixture on high-profile sports events for more than a decade — the past 17 Super Bowls, several NBA Finals, NCAA Final Four, NFL Drafts — Monday’s opening segment marked a new chapter in the company’s history with the first-ever mixed-reality segment during a regular-season NFL broadcast.
“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from both partners as well what we’ve seen on social media,” says Isaacson. “The entire Gillette team was a dream to work with from the early stages to final delivery. Collaborating with ESPN on the broadcast was exciting, too; they were fantastic.”
“This one was special on many fronts,” adds Isaacson. “We got to push the envelope creatively, led by [Karadkar] and his team. Knowing it was going to be integrated within one of the premier sports-broadcast franchises in Monday Night Football was especially rewarding.”
This is just the latest in a string of TFG’s mixed-reality projects on high-profile sports events over the past year: the Jackie Robinson pregame tribute at the MLB All-Star Game, the NHL’s first-ever MR sequence featuring a Chipotle-branded Zamboni rolling out a giant burrito bowl at Ball Arena during the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup Playoff run, an MR version of the “golden golfer” from the trophy at The Players Championship, a pregame segment for Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium honoring L.A.’s long Super Bowl history, and NBA All-Star Game pregame player introductions and 75th Anniversary Team ceremony at halftime, among many others.
Denzel Washington honors Jackie Robinson. Chills. #AllStarGame pic.twitter.com/Tm9BEj1FHJ
— MLB (@MLB) July 20, 2022
Cool: Colorado Avalanche and Chipotle utilize mixed reality during an elaborate intermission stunt. pic.twitter.com/Q0DqU5uROc
— Mark J. Burns (@markjburns88) May 18, 2022