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What It Takes to put Super Bowl XLII in High Definition

by February 01, 2008
Super Bowl XLII Technology is off-the-charts

Super Bowl XLII Technology is off-the-charts

So what does it take to successfully pull off a Super Bowl in high definition? We emailed Fox Sports requesting some info on the game and what would be involved and also dug up some information form other sources like Broadcast Engineering to put together a picture of exactly what goes on during an event of this magnitude and notoriety.

As it turns out, this year's event practically sets a Guinness record for technology applied to the Arizona Stadium. Fox Sports and their subcontractors have about 2 weeks to get the system set up, tested and configured. That includes configuring the half time show system as well as the complete audio and video substructures required to broadcast through the stadium and remote truck systems. In the past this was a 4-week configuration, but recent advances and experience with shooting events such as the weekly NASCAR races have made the process more efficient.

They really need to be efficient, because the Game Creek trucks which roll into Arizona for Super Bowl XLII, must pack up and make it to the Daytona 500 in Florida by February 8th.

Challenges and Obstacles

The new 63,400-seat University of Phoenix Stadium was completed in 2006 for $455 million. There is fiber installed throughout the new building which facilitates easy access and transmission of high definition video and uncompressed audio around the stadium. One of the advances made to the stadium presents a major drawback, however. Because the retractable roof panels don't allow the sunlight needed to keep the grass growing, the two acre playing field itself is designed to roll out into the parking. It sounds simple, except that it takes 45 minutes to wheel out and another 45 minutes to wheel back in.

It's obvious that since the playing field moves Fox Sports cannot install camera cabling on the field far in advance of the game. This means that it can only be done after the green field is wheeled inside the stadium - typically the day before the game. Did someone say hustle?

Camera Technology - $3.3 million worth

FOX Sports crews will be shooting in HD with over two dozen Sony HDC-1500 cameras (retailing at around $90,000 each) and four Sony HDC-3300 super slow-motion HD camera systems (two in the end zones and two roaming). The Sony HDC-3300 cameras cost around $270,000 each. Here's hoping nobody accidentally runs into one and I'm hoping they catch more than a few awesome scoring drives. Once the live game is switched with the Kalypso HD switcher on the main broadcast truck, the signal can then be split to supply both standard and high-definition content via Fox’s Los Angeles broadcast center.

Game Creek will lay miles of fiber-optic cabling between the cameras and trucks as well as between trucks for monitoring audio, video and data sources.

For the game, Fox will introduce the Fox Jumper, a high-resolution camera system that works with the Sportvision virtual graphics application - the same one used to provide on-screen driver information during NASCAR races. The system will be positioned at the 50-yard line and will be used to isolate an expanded view of selected shots, like the catch of a forward pass.

Fox Sports also may use up to six Sony 3000 HD super slow-motion cameras that capture images at up to 1000 frames per second (depending on lighting conditions).

Audio coverage will be stellar with more than 70 microphones positioned throughout the stadium to capture the ambiance, referees, announcers, reporters and other sounds and sources as if you were truly at the game.

Mobile Trucks

Game Creek Video in Hudson, N.H. is being again contracted by Fox Sports to bring four mobile units to Glendale along with six engineers responsible for set-up before the Fox crews take over. Two more trucks with three more engineers will also be on hand to cover the pre-game show.

The main pre-game truck is the Patriot 53-foot expando mobile unit, which includes a Grass Valley Group HD Kalypso Duo Video Production Center; GVG Dual-Twin HD GVEous MX; PESA 128x128 HD broadband router w/ 64 monitoring downconverters; PESA 256x256 Cheetah analog video router; Nvision 512x512 mono audio router; a dozen Sony HDC Sony HDC 1500 1080/60P cameras with Canon DigiSuper 100x9.3 lenses. If you understand even a tenth of what this equipment is, give yourself a pat on the back. Bottom line is that it facilitates getting the action from the Arizona Stadium to your high definition television at home.

For the Super Bowl game itself, Game Creek is bringing four of its five Fox mobile units built exclusively for Fox Sports to cover NASCAR and NFL.

  • Truck A is a 53-foot single expando that handles all instant replay operations along with audio and video control plus transmission engineering. The truck carries 18 Sony HDC 1500 cameras and four Sony HDCS 3300 super slow-mo cameras; a PESA 1156x1156 video router and 1256x1256 stereo audio router.
  • Truck B is a 53-foot single expando dedicated to production control with a three-tier control room facing 122 Samsung 21-inch flat-screen monitors on the wall. The unit features a GVG HD Kalypso Duo Video Production Center and GVG Dual-Twin HD GVEous MX. Graphics are executed with two Chyron Duet Hyper XT2 systems.
  • Truck C is a straight side 53-foot truck that carries most of the field equipment along with four Final Cut Pro editing systems plus the Sportvision first and 10 virtual graphics system.
  • Truck D performs all of the transmission using Tandberg Television encoding and decoding. A Calrec audio mixer handles natural sound effects and ambient stadium sound, such as crowd noise. “Fred Aldous does the audio mixing for the Super Bowl shoot,” said Sullivan, “and he’s one of the best we’ve ever worked with.”

Adding up the cost of the equipment alone involved in an operation like this is simply mindblowing - even before you factor in the half-time show, which is essentially a full concert assembled and disassembled in literally minutes.

We don't envy the job the Fox Sports crew has ahead of it this weekend, but we certainly appreciate the work and look forward to seeing the results.

About the author:
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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Clint DeBoer posts on February 11, 2008 08:54
I never realized this was a practical issue with video encoding. It's literally a couple of seconds. A couple frames I can understand, but seconds? To me that constitutes almost an inexcusable hardware deficiency.
Biggiesized posts on February 11, 2008 02:06
Alright it doesn't look like I'll get a response so I'll just post the answer.

The reason the image gets blurry temporarily is because of the hardware encoder's slew rate. That term should be familiar to you audio guys.
Biggiesized posts on February 08, 2008 13:56
The answer is under your nose

Clint DeBoer, post: 368814
I notice it, have complained about it, and don't understand why it happens other than the program they use must SUCK!
I know exactly what the problem is. You do too, Clint. You wrote an article about it! See if you can figure it out!
aberkowitz posts on February 04, 2008 11:50
birdonthebeach, post: 370045
If you are talking about last night in the Super Bowl, I did not notice any problems. I thought the HD looked pretty good, unlike the Patriots….

Maybe it was my cable providers, but there were about 4 or 5 “blips” in the game where the picture “blinked” (not really sure how to describe it) and the sound skipped- think a skipping record. It would last for 2 seconds, and they were all in the first half, but REALLY annoying.

Otherwise I thought the picture and the sound was outstanding- of course maybe the giants winning had something to do with that!!
birdonthebeach posts on February 04, 2008 11:46
If you are talking about last night in the Super Bowl, I did not notice any problems. I thought the HD looked pretty good, unlike the Patriots….
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