Live From Super Bowl LII: SMT Brings Innovations to Broadcast, In-Venue Show
NBC will use new telestrator technology on SkyCam; 1st & Ten line, Next-Gen Stats make Super Bowl videoboard debut
SMT (SportsMEDIA Technology) is bringing a number of Super Bowl firsts to Minneapolis on both the broadcast and the in-venue production side. On NBC’s Super Bowl LII broadcast, SMT will deploy a telestrator on the high SkyCam for the first time and also will have the 1st & Ten line available on additional cameras. The in-venue production will offer the 1st & Ten line on the videoboards for the first time in a Super Bowl and will also feature enhanced NFL Next Gen Stats integration.
“It’s always exciting to do something brand new for the first time,” says SMT Coordinating Producer Tommy Gianakos, who leads the NBC SNF/TNF team. “And it’s even better when you’re doing it on the biggest show of the year with a lot of extra pieces added on top.”
In addition, during the Super Bowl LII telecast, NBC Sports’ production team will have access to a new telestration system on the high SkyCam for first replays.
“We’re now adding some telestration elements on SkyCam,” Gianakos explains. “In the past, we’ve been able to have a tackle-box [graphic] on one of the hard cameras if there’s an intentional-grounding play, but we haven’t been able to do it from high and low SkyCam on first or second replay. That intentional-grounding [virtual graphic] right above the tackles on SkyCam is something we haven’t been able to do before, but now we are able to do pretty instantaneously.”
SMT demonstrated it for NBC Sports producer Fred Gaudelli on Friday when a high school football team was on the field, and NBC opted to move forward with the system for the game.
“We’re able to do backwards-pass line virtually in real space; we’re able to measure cushions, able to paint routes on the field, all very rapidly,” says Ben Hayes, senior account manager, SMT. “It’s pretty unique to this show and the first time we’re going to be doing it on-air.”
In addition to having the live 1st & Ten line on both SkyCams and the same six hard cameras available for NBC’s Thursday Night Football and Sunday Night Football telecasts, SMT has added it to the two goal-line cameras, the all-22 camera, and two more iso cameras.
SMT also added next-gen DMX switchboard connectivity to NBC’s scorebug, so on-field graphics will update in real time and list personnel and formations of both teams.
“From a crew standpoint, it was really nice for us to have both Thursday Night Football and Sunday Night Football this season because it gave us a second group of people that understood the expectations of this show and what Fred and [director] Drew [Esocoff] really want from the show,” says Hayes. “We were basically able to merge those two crews for this game and not miss a beat.”
On the Videoboards: 1st & Ten line, Enhanced Next Gen Stats
Fans at the stadium will be able to see the 1st & Ten line system on the videoboards. For the first time at a Super Bowl, the yellow virtual line will be deployed on three cameras –— on the 50- and both 25-yard lines — for the in-venue videoboard production.
Also, SMT is providing a new version of the NFL’s Next Gen Stats data feed unique to the game, offering real-time content not available on broadcasts.
“It’s amazing to be doing this here at Super Bowl,” says Ben Grafchik, business development manager, SMT. “Obviously, we can build upon the technology in the future, but this is our first step into it. And then I’m looking to try to continue that going forward.”
Fans inside U.S. Bank Stadium will have access to real-time team and player data, ranging from positional information (Who’s on the field?) to game leaders (Who’s the fastest on the field today? Who’s had the longest plays today?) and quarterback passing grids (How has this QB fared in these zones today?). The production is made possible by SMT’s Dual-Channel SportsCG, a turnkey clock-and-score–graphics publishing system that requires just a single operator.
“We knew the Minnesota Vikings were already doing virtual and NFL Next Gen Stats, so we started thinking about what we could do to spice it up for the Super Bowl,” says Grafchik. “We’re throwing a lot of things at this production in hopes of seeing what sticks and what makes sense going forward for other venues.”
In the lead-up to the game, SMT worked with the league to merge the NFL Game Statistics & Information System (GSIS) feed with NFL Next Gen Stats API to come up with a simple lower-thirds graphics interface. This will allow the graphics operator to easily create and deploy a host of new deep analytics graphics on the videoboard during the game.
“These additional NGS elements get viewers used to seeing traditional stats along with nontraditional stats when they are following the story of the game,” says Grafchik. “If Alshon Jeffery has a massive play, the operator can instantly go with the lower third for his average receptions per target. The whole plan was to speed up this process so that this individual isn’t [creating] true specialty graphics; they’re just creating traditional graphics with extra spice on top of it. By getting quick graphics in like that, it helps to tell a story to the viewer in-venue without much narration on top of it.”