Live From Super Bowl LI: Fox Sports Taps Evertz, Astro Design for 8K Zoom System

One goal is to ensure capture of action that occurs away from the play

Four years ago, at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, Evertz introduced the first 4K zoom system and launched one of the hottest new sports-production trends: extracting HD-resolution closeups out of a 4K image so that viewers at home (and replay officials) can more easily tell if a player’s foot is in bounds, whether a catch is made, and so on. At Sunday’s big game, Evertz, along with Astro Design, will take the next leap with the use of an 8K system.

Darryl Wallace, Evertz, Dreamcatcher technical project manager, at the controls of the new 8K replay system.

Darryl Wallace, DreamCatcher technical project manager, Evertz, at the controls of the new 8K replay system

“We can do two 8K pictures in and a 720p picture that is extracted out via 600% zoom,” says Evertz VP, Sales, Joe Cirincione, who is onsite at NRG Stadium. “An associate director will be tracking the motion and can do live zoom, pan, tilt, and even key-frame tracking.”

A look at the 8K Astro monitor at Super Bowl LI.

The field of play via the 8K Astro monitor

The workflow begins with an Astro AH-4801-B camera coupled with an 18mm prime lens. It captures an image of the entire field of play from the alt-22 camera position at the 50-yard line (prior to the game, it was moved to a slash position). That camera is connected to an Astro AT-4803 8K optical transfer unit, an AR-4804 8K optical receiver unit, an AC-4802 camera-control unit, and an HR-7512 8K uncompressed SSD recorder and player. An Astro SC-8215 converts the 8K signal to 4:2:2 and passes it on to the Evertz DreamCatcher for editing via 16 3-Gbps SDI links and to the 8K DM-3814 monitor via 16 channels of DVI.

The DreamCatcher can be set it to follow a specific player or can be easily moved around the 8K image as needed.

There are plenty of potential applications, but the goal is to provide the ultimate backup for a massive production team that often has very specific camera assignments. For example, if a penalty for too many players on the field is called, the 8K camera will allow an HD extraction of the snap, and the extraction frame can be moved to the sideline to see if the players did not get off the field in time. Other uses could include replays of an injury that occurs away from the action.

“We can be ready by the third replay,” notes Cirincione. The system works in real time, but the slowdown is due simply to the editorial decision-making that needs to take place. The replay can also be delivered to a third-party telestration system, and Evertz plans to eventually add in its own telestration system.

Junji Kojima (left) and Kevin Akiyama of Astro Design at Super Bowl LI.

Junji Kojima (left) and Kevin Akiyama of Astro Design at Super Bowl LI

The 8K camera has a 1.7-in. CMOS sensor that captures 33 megapixel images at 60 frames per second. Resolution is 7680×4320, and output is via 12-channel parallel optical output (SNAP 12). It can handle PL-mount lenses and weighs only 2 kg, excluding the lens.

According to Kevin Akiyama, CEO of San Jose, CA-based Astro Design, the company is looking for other applications for the system.

“We have been working with NHK for more than 10 years,” he says, adding, “NHK is targeting 8K distribution to homes for the [2020 Tokyo] Olympics, and that is our goal as well.”

With the move to UHD broadcasting on the near horizon, the system could also play a role in 4K productions by allowing the current zoom craze to migrate to the new format, making high-resolution 4K extraction a part of the UHD-production puzzle.

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