CBS is pulling out all the stops in its coverage of what is expected to be the biggest broadcast of the year: Super Bowl XLI at Miami's Dolphin Stadium, Feb. 4.
"It's a monster show," said Ken Aagaard, CBS Sports vice president of operations and production. "We've added five or six cameras just for our basic coverage--we're going to make sure that we have the game covered properly."
CBS estimated it would use about 50 cameras for game coverage (not including the network's "NFL Today" pregame show). Concurrently, NFL indicated that about 10 foreign rights holders have contracted an HD feed.
Stateside there's an even greater emphasis on providing details of critical plays.
Six of Sony's HDC3300 3x high-resolution slo-mo cameras will be used (see "NFL Takes Slo-mo Hi Def," in the Jan. 10, 2007 issue of TV Technology for more details). According to Aagaard, four hard configurations of this model will be in the two end zones, and two handheld versions will roam the field--one on the far side, one on the near side of the action.
CBS will also add two different high-speed cameras and an upgraded suspension system from Cablecam, a Los Angeles-based developer of rigging systems. The network was considering a robotic camera and more special effects at press time.
CBS officially kicked off its "SuperVision" high-speed camera footage on Jan. 7 during the playoff game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. The network first began working the high-speed option into its broadcasts on Thanksgiving, during the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions game at Ford Field, according to Aagaard. Two models will be used at the Super Bowl: the Phantom V10, manufactured by Vision Research and supplied by Image Cam and Inertia Unlimited, and NAC Image Technology's Memrecam Hi-Motion, supplied by Fletcher Chicago Inc.
Once known only for their ability to capture the particulars of car crashes, CBS proved that high-speed cameras could provide notable looks at a golf swing or at a club head hitting a ball off a tee.
| CBS will use the NAC Memrecam Hi-Motion camera to provide high-speed HD coverage of Super Bowl action.|
But, unlike golf, football doesn't allow for 20- to 30-second playback--eight seconds is more like it.
So, optimal placement and judicious usage are paramount. Aagaard said he envisioned two handheld Memrecams with 22x lenses in the field, and one Phantom V10 with a 100x lens sitting on a tripod in the CBS announcer booth high above the 50-yard line.
"They're obviously in a position to see the ball crossing a first down or goal line, or a fumble situation," he said. "You put a handheld on the near side and the far side (of the action) because you can be blocked, so you're trying to cover yourself both ways. And then you take the high camera and try to focus that on the quarterback if he's throwing, or maybe on a wide receiver."
Obviously the production crew will further finesse its strategy once they know the contenders.
Although the Phantom claims to shoot 500 frames per second compared to 300 fps for the Memrecam, Aagaard said the latter "matches better with our other cameras." Both are set to shoot at 300 fps, where, he said, "they both look pretty good."
Lighting is also a consideration.
"Whenever you do anything 300 frames per second or up you're always going to have an issue with light," he said.
The Memrecams require a light level of about 190 foot-candles. Dolphin Stadium agreed to provide 175, Aagaard said. It is generally recognized that light levels in the corners are less than that. So, Musco Lighting is providing a secondary source.
"The camera is selectable if you have lower light levels--we can go from 300 [fps] down to 240 and gain an additional stop of light sensitivity," said Fletcher's Dan Grainge. "But, if you have to use it below 180, why use it?"
Cablecam President Jim Rodnunsky said the suspension system that CBS contracted for the post season (beginning Jan. 7 at the AFC Wild Card game) operates 35 percent faster than it did a year ago, thanks to improvements by Cablecam, Sony (to its HDCF950 camera) and gimbal manufacturer Cineflex.
During the regular season, improvements translated into more aggressive coverage for Fox, NBC and the NFL Network.
"On kickoffs, we can park up in the corner and chase the runners down the sidelines," said Rodnunsky, who also noted the system's ability to "fly over the line of scrimmage and behind the quarterback in a faster way."
SHOT, SPECIAL EFFECTS & TIMING
CBS will install a robotic camera supplied by Imagecam in the TV tower used by its local affiliate, WFOR. The camera will provide the requisite establishing shots, shooting back at the stadium via fiber.
"We cannot have a blimp after 4:30 over the stadium--it's considered a Level One security situation," since 9/11, Aagaard said.
He said CBS was also looking to do more virtual graphics.
"If the situation is right, we will use a graphic called the 'Tackle Box' which will virtually show whether the QB has stayed in the pocket or not."
To date, CBS broadcasts have included some virtual stadium signs for billboards, as well as drive charts and target lines "where guys need to get to when they kick," Aagaard said.
Aagaard is impressed with the amount of cool stuff out there to cover the big game. But, he observed, there are also obvious limitations.
"You still have to find time to get some of these elements in properly [without] missing any snaps," he said, noting the need to balance technology requirements against, for example, the pace of quarterbacks who favor no huddle offense. "Half of our equipment is useless if Peyton Manning gets to the Super Bowl."