Sony Gear Removes Surprises From Super Bowl Production

Three years ago, CBS Sports EVP of Operations and Production Services Ken Aagaard chose Sony HDC-1500 cameras to cover the Super Bowl. For next weekend’s Super Bowl XLIV, Sony HDC-1500s will again go to work for CBS, covering all of the action from Sun Life Stadium in Miami.

“Ken Aagaard was so happy in 2007 with our cameras that he decided to use basically the same blueprint to do the Super Bowl this year,” says Rob Willox, director in Sony’s Content Creation Division. “He just increased his camera count.”

All in the Family
That count is up to 50, including six ultra-high-frame-rate cameras that Sony is not providing. The other 44, however, are Sony: 21 fixed cameras (a mixture of HDC-1000s and -1500s), four super-motion HDC-3300 cameras, three 1500 handheld cameras, two handheld 3300 cameras, two robotic cameras on the goalposts, two robotic coaches cameras, two booth cameras, two RF handheld cameras, a Skycam, Steadicam, clock cameras, and an unmanned camera to provide a beauty shot of the stadium.

“If all of these cameras are the same breed, it’s very simple for the overall colorimetry of them all to match,” Willox says. “They all systemize together from inter-truck to intra-truck, and we can send files over networks between cameras for color setup.”

Says Jay Chaney, director of sales support engineering for Sony, “For the first hour, with the sun going down, you’re working with latitude available in HDC-1500 series cameras. That’s probably their most challenging time, other than possibly pyrotechnics during the halftime show.”

Some cameras, Willox explains, will pull double duty, covering both the game and the halftime show. CBS will want those cameras to be able to provide a different look for each segment, as the lighting will look one way when the Saints and Colts are on the field but be dramatically different when The Who takes the stage. Because all of the cameras are Sonys, it is easy to create the desired color setup in the game-coverage production truck, change that setup in the halftime production truck, and re-create the game look before the second half kicks off.

“It is a very complex undertaking that is not for the meek,” says Willox.

Nothing To Report, Hopefully
CBS has been working with the 1500s for its NFL coverage all season, so there will be no surprises when the crew sets up shop in Miami this week.

“The nice thing about the 1500s and the 3300s is, we know exactly the care and feeding of those cameras,” Willox says. “They’re a very known entity to us. We’ve done the game the last four years in a row with 1500s, so we know how much service capability to send to the event and what the anticipated issues could be.”

A senior camera technician will be on-site to look after the 44 Sony cameras, and a senior switcher technician will be in Miami to take care of the MVS 8000 that will be switching the game from the NEP trucks. Sony will also be providing a range of HD videotape recorders, displays, and supporting production equipment for the broadcast.

Of the 50 cameras on hand, about half will already have cable hookups; the other half will require some drops.

“The ability for these cameras to operate off of triax and fiber is important in that environment, because it will probably be a mixture,” Willox points out. “Adding one piece of hardware to the overall chain increases your flexibility.”

Stick to the Script
Although the Super Bowl is one of the biggest television productions in the world, Sony has plenty of experience working with large numbers of cameras networked between trucks. For the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National, Sony brings in 40-50 HDC cameras at a time, all of which must be interdependent.

“It’s unusual to have that many cameras systemized at a time, but we’ve got a great body of experience with it,” Willox says. “The Super Bowl is a day that has enough of a wild card to it that I don’t think they want any variables in the production.”

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