Arizona’s State Farm Stadium will host this year’s big game, to be captured in 1080p HD and aired in 4K UHD, where available.
Fox Sports is gearing up for its live coverage of Super Bowl LVII on February 12th, which will be the first NFL Super Bowl to be televised in 4K UHD. The game will be shot in High Dynamic Range (HDR) at 1080p and upconverted for broadcast in 4K and HD HDR for fans with TVs that support either Dolby Vision or the HDR10 4K HDR format.
Signals captured at the game will be sent to the Fox Tech Center in Tempe, Arizona for processing, where commercials and graphics will be added to the broadcast before it goes out to the viewing audience. In fact, all Fox content, from scripted shows, reality television, sports, streaming and more, runs through the $200 million production and distribution facility.
It's Game Time
On site at Arizona’s State Farm Stadium, mobile production company Game Creek Video’s Encore units (a series of three 53-foot IP-based expanding production trucks, complete with a Grass Valley Kayenne switcher, Evertz EXE SDI router, Sony HDC-4300 HD/4K high frame rate cameras, Canon lenses and a networked Calrec Apollo audio console) will help produce do the main game, while several or its other mobile units will cover other aspects of the week-long event. In fact nearly every camera on the field, from traditional to miniature-sized models, will have Super Slow-motion (2x in 4K and 8x in HD) capability to capture every angle for replays.
Game Creek will connect its mobile units (including several others, with names like “Bravo” and “Celtic”) via multiple 10 GBps fiber lines to enable source sharing between production teams. Encore-A will handle the main audio and video sources—with its dual multi-purpose edit rooms and a transmission area; Encore-B will cover secondary production and graphics; and Encore-C will handle replays, last-minute maintenance and storage. Several EVS graphics operators will be located off site as well.
The Fox Tech Center in Tempe, Arizona will be used for processing all of the game feeds into an international telecast.
Most recently Fox Sports used the Encore units to televise five playoff games (aired in 4K), including the NFC Championship Game, although they were captured in 1080p HDR. Most of the cameras and replays will be native HDR while any file transfers and all of the graphics are in Standard Dynamic Range (SDR).
“With 1080p you have beautiful looking images to begin with and then you have HDR and get this rich color depth and dynamic range,” said Matt Battaglia, Director of Remote Engineering at Fox Sports.
The Super Bowl will be available to viewers in 4K through several Fox Sports distributors, including Altice Optimum, Comcast Xfinity, Cox Contour TV, DirecTV, Dish Network, FuboTV, Verizon FIOS and YouTube TV. The game can also be streamed live on a desktop computer via Fox Sports.com or in the Fox Sports app on mobile phones, tablets and other connected devices.
A Dolby Vision First
In another first for a Super Bowl telecast, telco Comcast said it will provide the game in the Dolby Vision HDR format on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 service. Dolby Vision HDR promises greater depth of field, better contrast, and more colors than the HDR10 format found in most 4K TV sets and is a commonly used format used by broadcasters airing 4K UHD. There are a number of sets that support Dolby Vision now on the market.
Comcast Xfinity customers will need a compatible X1 cable box and Dolby Vision capable TV to watch the big game in all of its visual glory.
Dolby Vision supports virtually every production format and resolution being acquired. It works by Dolby inserting the frame-by-frame metadata that describes the video on the transmission encoder. Comcast can then receive an HDR source and convert it into PQ HDR10 with the Dolby Vision metadata, which is what goes out to the consumer. Dolby Vision Live Distribution Processing analyzes every frame and generates metadata describing that particular frame. When the signal reaches a Dolby Vision–enabled display, it will use the image metadata to map the signal to the capability of that particular display, optimizing the experience for the consumer.
“It’s just another step to the encoder; They don’t have to add another external box,” said Carlos Watanabe, director, pay TV and streaming at Dolby.
RF In The Stadium
Every year, sports production depends more heavily on wireless systems for audio and video. In terms of RF operations, however, State Farm Stadium in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale is described by experts in the field as perhaps the most challenging of all NFL stadiums. That’s due to a combination of the venue’s construction materials and design and the density of its immediate RF neighborhood.
Professional Wireless Systems (PWS) has been contracted to manage the wireless systems for Super Bowl LVII’s entertainment elements, including the halftime show and the pre- and post-game entertainment performances.
State Farm Stadium is known to have significant RF challenges, due to an influx of local broadcast operations in the wake of the FCC frequency repack. To help minimize signal interference, frequency managers on site will multiplex microphones, carefully position directional antennas, and coordinate the opening and closing of adjacent frequencies at certain points in the live telecast. A Special Temporary Authority has been granted by the FCC to free up additional radio frequencies for the Super Bowl.
The World Feed
Other production companies will also be on site in Arizona for the big game. NEP Group and its Broadcast Service division is supporting the NFL Films World Feed with its SuperShooter B truck—which will serve as an on-site Master Control room—as well as an auxiliary fiber cable truck called ST9. More than 150 countries take some or all of the main game feed from the main Game Creek truck, choosing from more than 72 feeds. Over 20 miles of fiber cable have been installed within NEP’s truck compound.
NEP Group has installed and will manage 72 feeds across more than 20 miles of fiber on site in Arizona.
At the stadium, NEP will provide several A and B truck combinations and one single production truck to handle all of the World feeds, which it will provide as 1080i HD signals (and a few SD signals). NEP has worked with NFL Films on the world feed for the past 15 years. The World Feed is sold to rights holders’ clients/other broadcasters that have the option of taking all or specific camera and audio feeds from the World Feed trucks to enhance their broadcasts.
“The biggest difference this year is that there is no copper cable runs anywhere,” said Bob Walsh, vice president, Engineering & Operations, for The NEP Group. He added that Tac-12 and Tac-72 cabling will be used, allowing them to send 18 signals down one strand of fiber (using various multiplexing techniques).
“We’ve gone from copper to an all fiber world, and from Tac-12 to Tac-72, which helps us eliminate the number of cables we have to lay down,” said Walsh. “This allows us to set up a lot faster than ever before.”
Also on site in Arizona will be NEP’s Fletcher Sports division, which is supporting Fox Sports with a wide variety of traditional and robotic camera systems from Sony, including those that will be mounted in the end zones as “GoalCams” and others on the sidelines. It will also provide robotically controlled goal post cameras. NEP’s Bexel unit will also be on site, supplying fiber cabling, hardware, monitors and prompters for various sports broadcasting clients (like CBS Sports and ESPN) as will its Aerial Video Systems (AVS) division. AVS will provide a range of HD wireless camera systems, and mobile audio and video RF solutions.
Crews Are Back On Site
NEP’s Michael Pean, Director, Sales, U.S. Broadcast Services, said that overall, the number of technical people on site this year is about 30 percent more than last year and slightly lower than it was pre-pandemic.
“It’s good to see people back on site and interacting with each other,” he said. “There’s been so many efficiencies that we’ve learned over the years,” added NEP’s Walsh. “It’s literally cut off significant days of set up time and has made everyone more efficient. When you do this for so many years, you learn a thing or two.”
As for the main Fox Sports production crew, there’s no rest for the weary. Once the Super Bowl is over, they will travel from Arizona the next morning to Daytona, Florida to get ready for the Daytona 500 car race on February 18th.
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