Super Bowl LVII

Live From Super Bowl LVII: Van Wagner Deploys Two Control Rooms for In-Venue Show at State Farm Stadium

A new IP-capable control room will be used for the first time

Generating excitement and buzz inside a Super Bowl stadium is the main goal of Van Wagner, but, as in-venue productions grow in size and scope, the technology required to power elements on game day needs to follow suit. For Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium, Van Wagner will occupy not only newly renovated control-room space near the building’s upper level but also a secondary control room at field level.

“Our show is no [smaller] than what it was [for Super LVI] last year in Los Angeles,” says Bob Becker, president, productions, Van Wagner Productions, “but we can’t fit all of our people inside the main control room. We have been able to in the past, but Super Bowls have gotten increasingly complex.”

Sub-Level Space: Secondary Control Room Handles Overflow, Drives Fan Engagement

Developing additional workspace for the larger staff required by this complex production was paramount for Van Wagner. It used the same tactic for Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium in 2021 to accommodate COVID-19 protocols, but this plan has been implemented to greatly enhance the company’s plans. More important, the secondary control room, located on the venue’s field level, is responsible for fan-engagement opportunities, such as Dance Cam, as well as for the host show throughout the game.

The last time Van Wagner operated at this building — Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 — this secondary control room wasn’t available. The area has become valuable for other NFL-related productions outside the main in-venue show, including the NFL TikTok Tailgate concert featuring Jason Derulo and the Black Keys prior to kickoff on Sunday. The sub-level control room will ease the stresses on both the production staff in the main control room and the technology being used.

A secondary control room has been built at State Farm Stadium to alleviate pressure on the main control room.

“During the last Super Bowl here, we cut our Fan Cam show off the [main game] switcher and taxed the efforts of both the people and the equipment,” Becker explains. “As shows get more technologically advanced and we’re asked to do more, we began constructing these sub control rooms to give us some more space.”

Up Top: IP-Capable Control Room Serves as Main Production Hub

As if producing the biggest in-venue show of the year weren’t a difficult enough task, Van Wagner will handle Sunday’s festivities from a newly renovated control room that hasn’t yet been used for an official game. Torn apart and put back together with all IP-capable technologies after the 2022 Vrbo Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve, the production-control room was assembled by Insignia Event Services — the Arizona Cardinals’ AV, engineering, and production company — in less than 40 days. Led by Manager, Engineering, Jesse Janosky; Chief Engineer Matthew Alvarado; and Broadcast Engineers Ian White and Johnathan Wulf, the effort was designed to benefit the club’s long-term goals after years of finding temporary solutions to permanent problems.

“They made a bold decision to transition the core of the control-room system to IP following the end of the regular season due to some challenges with the prior router,” says Nate McCoart, director, technical operations, Van Wagner Productions. “Jesse and his engineering team essentially redid the entire core of the control room in the last month coming into Super Bowl.”

Van Wagner’s Nate McCoart (left) and Bob Becker inside the secondary control room at State Farm Stadium

For Van Wagner, anchoring production efforts on a full IP core would elevate production quality but could also raise potential risks during production of a high-profile event like Super Bowl LVII. The risks have been minimized by thorough preparation and a commitment to outfitting the control room with a reliable tech backbone.

“When the Cardinals were ready to deploy [these technologies] in the physical rack room,” says McCoart, “it was pretty much plugging in things that had already been set up and configured. That has made the transition [to our show] a little bit smoother, so everything has been rock solid heading into one of the biggest shows of the year.”

Videoboard Production: Ross Video Gear Powers Multiple Facets

At the center of Van Wagner’s efforts are the production solutions and support of Ross Video, whose involvement began in October 2022. After handling the Week 7 matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals, the two companies sat down to iron out what they wanted to change about the Cardinals’ in-venue show. With the franchise deploying a large complement of Ross Video equipment — Acuity production switcher, openGear OGX Frames for signal processing, Ross Video’s tally system, UltriTouch routing system, XPression Tessera for all LED signage, DashBoard control system for complete venue control — Ross Video Manager, Solution Specialists, Global Sports and Live Events, Andrew Lahey and his team have become very familiar with the building. Another advantage is that Super Bowl LVII is Ross Video’s seventh straight working with Van Wagner.

“We learn so much from each other,” says Lahey. “While there will always be surprises, they lessen every year because we almost know what they want [in their show]. Nate and I have a handful of meetings throughout the year, so our relationship is strong.”

Ross Video’s Andrew Lahey, Bradley Wasilition, Stefan Tribble, Amber Barnett, Andrew Sampson, and Gregory Kuh are on hand at Super Bowl LVII.

Playing a major role in the preparation for Sunday’s championship game, Ross Video’s onsite crew includes, besides Lahey, Senior Content and Workflow Specialist, Global Sports and Live Events, Gregory Kuh; Technical Solutions Manager, Sports and Live Events, Andrew Sampson; Senior Solution Specialist, Sports and Live Events, Amber Barnett; Project Manager/Solution Specialist, Sports and Live Events, Stefan Tribble; Business Development Manager, Sports Analysis Graphics, Bradley Wasilition. They are responsible for troubleshooting equipment malfunctions, loading content into run of show, and fine-tuning last-minute adjustments. During this phase before Super Bowl LVI in SoFi Stadium last year, margins for error were a lot smaller with the venue’s Infinity Screen; for example, a full 12 hours was needed to re-render any misspellings or other mistakes in on-screen graphics. This year, despite a brand-new videoboard as the main focal point of the show, quicker turnaround times have allowed more time to add other content into the mix.

“For shows at venues with larger videoboards, we need to stick the basics,” says Lahey, “but we’re at a point where we can tweak or add extra details to the show. While we want [the production] to go well, [the Super Bowl] is also a great stage to try out new things.”

Additional gear has been brought in to supplement the Cardinals’ infrastructure: two XPression Studio packages (one for traditional graphics, one for concourse feed and L-Bar feed), PIERO Live Down & Distance for Virtual First Down Lines (controlled by Wasilition), Ultrix FR5’s for LED routing, and Carbonite Mosaic video processors. Even with the technological additions to an already busy production foundation, the folks at Ross Video are excited to be a part of one of the biggest sports events on the calendar.

“You can’t get much bigger than the Super Bowl,” says Lahey. “We get to see the excitement that builds up throughout the week and come together on Sunday, so Ross Video is thankful for the continued relationship with Van Wagner and the NFL.”

Along with Ross Video, Riedel Communications will also play a vital role in the in-venue production with a full complement of SMPTE ST 2110 products and a plethora of solutions in the main control room, including Riedel’s Artist 1024 intercom along with both the Bolero 1.9Ghz DECT version and the newly introduced Bolero 2.4Ghz version. In addition, the 1200-series SmartPanels, the 2300-series SmartPanels, and even some 1000-series panels are being used within a 630+ port system bringing communication to every inch of the venue and then some.

Creative Thinking: Crew Juggles Preparation and Deadlines To Deliver Content

Van Wagner VP, Productions, Brian Scott, and Senior Creative Director Ryan Kehn have worked closely with Arizona Cardinals Senior Director, Game Entertainment and Special Events, Tim Beach and his crew to assemble a captivating show for fans in attendance. Van Wagner’s production staff is onsite, but, almost two weeks ago, a sizeable number of staffers were working remotely to piece together content following the playoffs and the AFC and NFC Championship Games. With editors working from various locations around the country, McCoart needed to patch them into the physical control room in Arizona and bring everything online at State Farm Stadium when the crew arrived three weeks ago.

Van Wagner’s Brian Scott (left) and Ryan Kehn will work inside the main control room on Sunday.

“We brought all the infrastructure for our creative team in a week earlier than we normally would,” he explains. “Now that we’re closer to game day, we don’t have any remote editing, but, for the first two weeks, we gave the team time to work [remotely] in the same environment that they’re going to work in onsite.”

On the production side, Scott and Kehn are most concerned with the way fans interpret the material shown on the videoboard and how sightlines are different from stadium to stadium. Given the physical layout of the stadium’s LED real estate, stitching together an aesthetically pleasing experience is one of the team’s biggest challenges.

“Whenever we come in,” says Kehn, ”we’re tasked with translating the level and quality of the show that we’ve been building up over the past couple of decades and laying it across a different footprint in every stadium. This is my first time directing the Super Bowl in a stadium that I’ve been in before, so it has been interesting to see how our show has evolved. Over the past seven years, we’ve been in a lot of new buildings and have had to adapt and bring in a bigger complement.”

That complement features a total of 15 cameras, including eight hards, three RF Steadicams, and two wired handhelds. The show will be an upgrade from a typical Cardinals in-venue show, which features eight cameras (four hards, two RFs, two wired handhelds).

“Take SoFi [Stadium], for instance, for last year: there’s a lot of LED real estate, a cool building. It’s not the biggest LED real estate in the world, but [the videoboard is] closer to the fans. I think, being a producer, I prefer that, because the work spreads and dissipates through the crowd a little bit better. These big moments where we take the boards over, I think, translate better. And it gets the energy up a little bit more.”

Creatively, Scott and Kehn are tapping into the unstoppable forces of nature that are the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. As No. 1 seeds that finished the season with identical records of 16-3, both squads exhibited their dominance throughout their respective postseason runs. Hype videos are updated with recent game footage as well as with top plays from the entire season. To generate the best clips possible, Van Wagner is relying on efficient logging services from Adobe and a dedicated staff of five loggers and is working ahead of schedule to meet the necessary deadlines.

“We’ve had to hit it pretty hard after Conference Championship Sunday,” says Scott, “but we also did a lot of setup work prior to that. In some cases, we knock out the graphics of the four remaining teams, and it takes us a couple of days after [the conference championships] to get the footage together for our videos.”

Always Improving: Van Wagner Leans on a Highly Determined Team 

At Super Bowl XXIX at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium in 1995, Becker was working his first-ever Super Bowl with a crew of two. Nearly three decades later, the company’s onsite staff has ballooned to 300. Countless ideas have been brainstormed, and teams have won and lost, but, over the years, the crew’s passion has been at the heart of each successful Super Bowl production.

“Everybody who has played a role does it to the best of their ability,” says Scott. “All of our departments do an amazing job, and I’m so proud of what they’ve done.”

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