NFL Kickoff 2017: Fox Sports’ Coverage Builds on Super Bowl LI Technology

Double SkyCam successfully tested on-air during preseason

Fox Sports finished up the 2016 season with Super Bowl LI in Houston, and the production team is picking up where it left off in terms of innovations and enhancements. Not all of them will be deployed on opening weekend of the 2017 season, but, by the time the regular season ends and the playoffs start, Fox Sports’ NFL coverage will have a more evolved look and feel.

“We’re building on things that we’ve done before, and football and innovation have really shifted into the fifth gear,” says Michael Davies, SVP, remote and technical operations, Fox Sports. “The whole idea is to use technology that helps the producer tell the story better.”

A second SkyCam unit gives a drone-like camera angle for football coverage.

Topping the list of innovations on the horizon is the use of two SkyCam systems, flying at different heights, at one game. SkyCam tested the dual-camera configuration at its facility outside Dallas, and those successful tests led to a real-world test at a preseason game in Washington this past weekend. The configuration requires two wholly separate SkyCam rigs, with the lower camera flying 12-35 ft. above the playing field and the higher camera at 50 ft. and above. Automation software ensures that they never interfere with each other.

“It offered a significant improvement in coverage and made for a very interesting view because it allowed us to use the lower camera for normal coverage while the higher SkyCam gave a shot that was similar to if we were using a drone,” says Davies. “It was an aerial shot from over the top that gave a tactical view so you could see the plays unfold.”

It is unclear when the dual-camera system might make its regular-season debut, and Fox Sports is working with SMT to figure out how to add augmented reality and things like the 1st & Ten line to both cameras.

“It’s about reexamining our coverage to see what is working, and highlights are the super-slow-motion systems and the great cameras, like the Sony HDC-4300 and HDC-4800, that are available to us,” says Davies. “Each one of our NFL shows will have at least one 4300.”

Fox Sports’ complement of NFL trucks includes Game Creek Video’s Encore unit for the A crew and its FX, a unit entering its final season. Rounding out the NFL fleet will be NEP’s SS32 and SS22 and and Corplex Iridium.

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