By Jahleah Santiago
The Super Bowl is one of the most widely watched events in the US, bringing crowds of people around the television in their homes, local bars and restaurants. According to Bill Shea of The Athletic, “Last year, as part of the pandemic downturn in live primetime viewing and the ongoing cord-cutting trend, the Super Bowl tumbled to 96.4 million total viewers, with just under 92 million watching on CBS' linear TV broadcast.” With an intended audience of such a large scale, there is no room for slip ups.
Super Bowl events of the past have demonstrated resilience when networks and commentators braved unpredictable weather like the low temperature of 24 degrees recorded during a 1972 game in New Orleans. Flexible media teams and commentators capturing visuals and maintaining communications during the full 3 to 4-hour duration of the game do so with help from top-of-the-line technology. Let’s look at the advanced video equipment and communication tools that have been utilized in Super Bowl programming.
In a 2019 press release from ViacomCBS, the technological advancements of previous Super Bowl presentations, dating as far back as 1967 are detailed. The database marks the arrival of fundamental emergences in media such as those in 2013’s Super Bowl XLVI. During that game, viewers were treated to mosaic style displays of game footage from numerous screens simultaneously, high-speed cameras with the ability to capture 300-500 frames per second in 1080i high-definition format and “Heyeper Zoom” camera systems from NEP, Inc which allowed game highlights to be captured in real-time and turned over to CBS Sports for high-resolution review.
A Look Back at Prior Super Bowl Broadcast Technologies
At the 2019 Super Bowl, CBS Sports continued its long history of bringing innovation and technology to the sports broadcasting industry. CBS Sports provided fans with unparalleled coverage of Super Bowl LIII on February 3 from Atlanta, Ga., with the integration of virtual augmented reality graphics, 115 cameras, including several 8K cameras for the first time on any network in the United States, and 16 cameras with 4K capacities. CBS' Super Bowl LIII virtual plan included the use of a live, cordless handheld camera displaying augmented reality visuals and up-close camera tagging on the field for the first time on any network at a live sporting event. CBS used four cameras with live augmented reality visuals (including the SkyCam), along with ten additional cameras with trackable first down line technology. In total, 14 cameras created virtual graphic pieces that merged perfectly into the broadcast's real-world setting for seamless translation for at-home viewers.
Multiple 8K cameras with an innovative, highly constructed engineering solution were used by CBS to give fans even more dramatic close-up views of the action from the endzone, including possible game-changing plays along the goal and end lines. CBS was also using 16 cameras with 4K capabilities during the game, as well as nine Sony 4800 camera systems strategically placed around the stadium for the first time on any network. The cameras added more live game camera viewpoints and allowed the producers to recreate critical game moments in super slow motion as well as an HD cut-out with zoomed-in perspectives with little quality loss.
Viewers were able to watch spectacular plays from every angle because every square inch of the endzones were covered by various camera angles. Each endzone was flanked by over 25 cameras, including HD cameras with super slow-motion capabilities, six 4K cameras, three-goal post super slow-motion cameras photographing the backlines, and 14 cameras implanted in pylons. The 50-plus camera feeds from the endzones will include a total of 28 pylon cameras.
EyeVision 360, AR, and Next Gen Stats for Super Bowl LVI
The 2022 Super Bowl between the LA Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, held at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 13, began at 6:30 p.m ET and was broadcasted on NBC and Peacock Premium. The game was a thriller, decided within the last minute and a half. The LA Rams were victorious on the field, AV Technology was the big winner for the event.
The game was the first to implement an EyeVision 360 system, including 5K cameras covering the area and a replay system that gave viewers a 360° perspective in higher clarity than previously seen. The technology, which consisted of 36 cameras stretched throughout the stadium's top deck, was able to freeze a moment and spin around the play before continuing to play out the action. It allowed viewers to see everything from the quarterback's perspective in the pocket to the safety's perspective or other places on the field in real time.
Additionally, the graphics this year included augmented reality (AR) abilities that transformed the game. Verizon, a keynote company at CES® 2021, demonstrated the capabilities of augmented reality on the NFL mobile app. Fans accessed multiple viewing angles and projected overlays of NFL's Next Gen Stats for Players in the 5G Super Stadium. NBC deployed four augmented reality cameras to create an immersive Super Bowl LVI theme of sea and sand for at-home viewing. A variety of cameras were used in the NBC broadcast to provide never-before-seen perspectives. Two Sony Venice cameras, giving full-frame, short-depth views for a cinematographic feel, and a 53-foot-tall Movie Bird crane, serving as an AR-enabled camera, were among the new additions.
The field of view was vast enough to capture the legendary half-time show that was watched by million audiences around the world. This year, the Super Bowl halftime show line-up included five multi-awarded Hip-Hop and R&B hitmakers: Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, and Snoop Dogg. They were joined by a surprise addition, 50 Cent, who came out hanging upside-down. These celebrated musicians are all considered legends in the industry, with dozens of Grammy Awards and Billboard No. 1 albums under their belts. As Jay-Z stated in the NFL press release, the twelve-minute performance was history in the making, since it marks the first time all these five artists share the same stage.
During its coverage of Super Bowl 56, NBC used the NFL's Next Gen Stats, an innovative technological platform that tracks players on the field and generates a bigger collection of statistical data in real-time. Broadcasters and fans could evaluate and analyze the action on the field in a way that had never been possible before thanks to the NFL's Next Gen Stats. Players' match-up-based statistics such as separation distance between offensive and defensive players on any given play (i.e., wide receivers and cornerbacks), how quickly players ran, and the distance covered during the game on any play, were all included in the data. The Super Bowl took on a whole new dimension because of this new technology.
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Contributor: Jahleah Santiago
Jahleah is a proactive Marketing Coordinator and Managing editor with published editorial experience for digital magazines and small businesses of cultural significance. A decorated graduate of Hunter College with departmental honors who is constantly looking to bring real stories to life through multimedia projects and written content.
Jahleah K. Santiago
Marketing Coordinator and Managing Editor at Spoiled NYC