CBS Sports Super Bowl Coverage Offers Tech Innovation

Preparations for Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday hit a crucial step this evening at Sun Life Stadium when two high school football teams take the field for a rehearsal that will help CBS Sports iron out any existing technical kinks and get some final practice keeping up with a no-huddle offense on both sides of the ball.

“Everyone knows their job and knows what they have to do,” Ken Aagaard, CBS Sports EVP of Operations and Production Services, says about a CBS team that features many of the same staffers that were around three years ago for Super Bowl XLI. “And live-sports productions always have issues, so we know how to face them in each area of the production and overcome them.”

The rehearsal is a major step in a game-prep process that got off to a soggy start last Monday when a heavy rainstorm rolled through the area. Heavy rains prevented the NFL from laying down a new field. That, in turn, caused a ripple of delays that slowed camera setup by about six hours, but the CBS crew hustled and made up the lost time.

“In a big show like this, every action that is normal during the regular season causes a reaction that can grow into a tsunami,” says Aagaard.

Among the technical highlights of this year’s telecast will be the use of six SuperVision cameras (also known as Inertia Unlimited’s xMo system), the largest contingent of xMo cameras ever used at one event. “It’s going to be interesting to see how those cameras work together,” says Aagaard. “But the new camera positions are going to give people at home looks they haven’t seen before.”

The six SuperVision units will be complemented with four super-slo-mo systems located near the end zone, giving CBS Sports what is believed to be the largest contingent of super-slow-motion replay devices ever at a Super Bowl.

Other new features include Orad’s Hyperzoom, which allows a single video frame to be frozen and zoomed in on without a loss in resolution; more cameras calibrated for the first-down line; and a larger EVS network that also is tied together with Avid Unity and Avid editing systems.

Sportvision also will have a graphic that virtually extends the height of the goal posts to indicate whether balls kicked over the top of a post went through the uprights. “It will be unofficial,” says Aagaard, “but it will give us an indication if it crossed the goalpost.”

At the end of the day, all of the cameras and replay devices are on hand for one purpose: to make sure CBS Sports doesn’t miss a foot going out of bounds or a fumble that might occur before a knee hits the ground. “Our camera and replay operators have a lot of say about what happens in the game because the replays the referees look at are based on their work,” says Aagaard. “We take that responsibility very seriously.”

Helping out in that process will be a separate remote-production unit that is dedicated to tape release and will have production personnel keeping an eye on every camera and replay. While CBS Sports will rely heavily on the latest technologies, one area will take a step back in time to ensure more reliability: microphones. Sun Life Stadium is located in an area that is subject to large amount of RF interference.

As a result, CBS Sports will use only three wireless microphones during the telecast. One wireless mic will be located at a demonstration field outside the stadium that will be used during the pre-game for CBS talent to run through plays and formations. The other two will be used on two of the eight parabolic antenna mics. But outside of those three, all other mics will be hard-wired.

“You cannot do wireless at an event like this, even with the parabs,” says Aagaard. “The DTV transition has made using microphones in this area problematic.”

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