If you're a football fan like Mike Arnold, it's hard to keep your excitement in check when it's time for the Super Bowl. It's even harder when you're directing the CBS Sports live coverage of the event for the first time.
For Arnold, who directed the Super Bowl XLI telecast from Dolphin Stadium in South Florida on Feb. 4, the strategy was straightforward: Keep it simple. Don't get bogged down with "gimmick" cameras, like the "pylon cam" that was added by Fox Sports during Super Bowl XXXIX but didn't get any serious screen time. "I think that's why we didn't use it," Arnold admitted.
Instead, his approach was to provide solid football coverage and supplement it with some of the extra toys provided by CBS Sports for the game. "Once the game starts, it's hopefully going to be a regular football game," he said in an interview a few days before the telecast.
According to Arnold, Ken Aagaard, CBS Sports senior vice president of operations, didn't want to surprise the team with anything on game day, "making sure that at least for the last playoff [game] we could see just about everything we were going to have." For example, Arnold and his team had the chance to work with the high-speed cameras that were used for replays during the AFC Divisional Championship two weeks before the Super Bowl.
One extra that did make its debut during Super Bowl XLI was the "tackle box" camera. Working with Princeton Video Image, the company that provides the onscreen first down indicator, CBS had a dedicated camera that kept a visual watch over the quarterback. The camera could show evidence of any intentional grounding during the game by showing an onscreen box of the area between the tackles.
Arnold and crew were right at home in NEP Broadcasting Supershooter 24, the truck they've been using for the entire NFL season. "They [NEP] built it to our specs three years ago," he said. "They took a lot of input from our key people."
Pete Kallander, technical manager, said CBS uses about 22 cameras for a typical NFL game. Arnold explained that about 14 of those are for game coverage, while the others are used for the game clock, booth cameras and beauty shots. For the Super Bowl, Kallander said there were more than 50 cameras, mostly Sony cameras with Canon lenses--and most of the additional cameras were used for coverage of isolated action on the field for replays. According to George Hoover, senior vice president of engineering for NEP, which owns the SS24 truck, the complement of Super Bowl cameras included 18 Sony HDC-1500 multi-format cameras and six HDC-3300 slow-motion cameras. With the exception of a couple of POV cameras installed on the military planes that flew over the stadium during the National Anthem, the entire production was native HD.
How did Arnold handle the image overload? He relied on his crew, particularly Associate Director Steve Karasik, who helped identify relevant graphics and good shots from these secondary sources during the telecast.
Despite bloated camera quantities, Arnold and his crew had to learn how to share. Six Super Bowl cameras had to be shared with the The NFL Today
, which was moved from its studio set to Dolphin Stadium for the game, and 12 had to help cover the halftime show (even though both productions have a full group of dedicated cameras). Kallander said the logistics were a challenge, making sure the shared camera operators were in contact with the proper production at the right time.
Super Bowl XLI also featured a "big event graphic style" modeled after the usual CBS NFL graphics, Arnold said. The audio was a 5.1 surround sound broadcast, which CBS only provides on its HD NFL games during the season, and was mixed with a Calrec Alpha 5.1 digital audio console. Technical director Jonas Einstein switched the game using a Sony MVS-8000A switcher.
While the hype, producer Lance Barrow did a good job making the Super Bowl seem like a normal workweek, Arnold said. Part of the prep included watching tape with Phil Simms, a former Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the New York Giants who served as analyst on the telecast. Arnold said the sessions helped identify tendencies of the two teams, so they could better prepare isolated camera coverage for impact players.