Pixotope’s Live Mixed Reality Production Enhances Super Bowl Coverage

The Future Group, provider of the Pixotope live photo-realistic virtual production system, helped Fox Sports deliver a mixed reality pre-game presentation of the NFL’s “100 All Time Team” as the opening to the NFL Super Bowl LIV telecast on February 2, 2020. The complex, seven-minute production combined live action from multiple moving cameras with augmented virtual stages and graphics.

The Future Group provided six installations of its virtual production platform, Pixotope, along with essential technical expertise to liaise with all other aspects of the multi-faceted production.

Using Pixotope, the NFL tapped The Famous Group, a fan experience company, to design and choreograph the pre-show content. The concept was to celebrate the history of the sport and the contribution of those 100 players and 10 coaches, using graphics, historical film and live shots of attendees.

To pull it all together, The Famous Group used multiple virtual stages and screens to exactly match the stadium environment to which they would be augmented. Cameras needed to be tracked in real time and have their lenses aligned so that the virtual elements would be generated at precisely the right angle to accurately match real-world positions. Lighting needed to be measured so that it could be simulated in the virtual world to ensure correct shadows and highlights. 

In-stadium screens, which would show the augmented content to the crowd, had to be accurately marked out in the virtual scene so that they could be blocked out to avoid visual “feedback.” All this had to take place under precise time control to synchronize with the voice-over and contributing performers in the stadium. David Stroud, a Pixotope product specialist, was part of a team of mixed reality technicians that helped install the required technology and bring together all the constituent departments.

“Although the virtual scene had been set up offline from scans and measurements from the stadium, there are inevitably adjustments that can only be done on site,” he said. “We used our Pixotope virtual production platform to receive images and tracking data from each of the cameras, one of which was a Skycam ‘wire-camera,’ and augment onto those the virtual elements designed by The Famous Group. This allowed everyone to see the results in real time, making adjustments and improvements as we rehearsed the show in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.”

Stroud said they the camera operators visualize how the preshow would come together, as understandably, they were more used to following the unscripted action of a football game than reacting to very specific time cues.

“Pixotope has the capability to continuously output the final result, even while editing the graphics – a great tool for directors following rapid changes and updates because it’s always live,” Stroud said, adding that they also worked closely with camera tracking specialists SMT, and were able to improve our data exchanges to further perfect the virtual camera motion. In addition, all of the necessary hardware was provided by Quince Imaging.

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