Fox Sports, Game Creek Video key successful Super Bowl telecast

By Ken Kerschbaumer

GLENDALE, AZ–While fans sitting down to watch Super Bowl XLII wondered whether the New York Giants had a chance against the undefeated New England Patriots (they did) Fox Sports wondered whether the NFL would open the roof to the University of Phoenix stadium for the big game (they didn’t). For Fox Sports and its production team the closed roof was the top challenge on a Super Bowl Sunday that went remarkably well considering that the roof reduced the amount of light available for Intertia Unlimited’s X-Mo camera and required Senior Audio Mixer Fred Aldous and his team to make the audio all it could be.

“A dome is like a reverse parab dish,” says Aldous. “And not all domes are created equal. First they have different shapes to contend with and some domes have more sound absorption than others. And the University of Phoenix stadium is one of the hardest to handle because there is no sound absorption.”

But Aldous and the team prevailed and once the game was finished the Fox Sports production compound was the second happiest area in the stadium confines outside of the New York Giants locker room. “We have the best trucks and the best team,” said Fox Sports Director of Engineering Michael Davies.

The trucks include Game Creek Video’s A, B, C and D unit, all part of Fox Sports’ NASCAR contingent that is currently racing across the country to Daytona Beach, FL for the Daytona 500. The main truck for pre-game was Game Creek’s Patriot truck.

The biggest change to the Fox compound was converting what is typically a racing radio area for NASCAR events to a transmission headend outfitted with seven Tandberg HD encoders. “It’s nice to be able to put transmission in the truck instead of a trailer,” says Davies. “It made them more incorporated into the facility.” Fox Sports took no chances on transmission with five diverse fiber connections from Level 3 and two satellite uplinks to Los Angeles.

Fox also took no changes on power. Cat Power and Greg Landa provided dual 1,0000 KW generators to Fox Sports and also provided power to the NFL Experience and NFL.

Game Creek, based in Hudson, N.H., had a total of six HD production trucks on site in Glendale, Arizona, with another three in Scottsdale, AZ, most of which had Thomson Grass Valley high-definition production switchers on-board. The HD production was produced in 720p.

Four of the all-HD trucks used Thomson Grass Valley Kalypso HD and Kayak HD switchers to manage the more than 25 cameras and other sources used to capture the live game action and the half-time show, as well as the pre- and post-game show activities.

Game Creek’s “Fox HD Expando” truck handled the main game feed with a Kalypso 4 M/E HD switcher, while a Kayak was used as a sub-switcher to switch HD replays. Alongside Fox HD Expando were other production units, such as Game Creek’s Patriot, which handled the pre-/half/post-game studio show. Patriot also has a Thomson Grass Valley 4 M/E HD Kalypso.

Game Creeks’ Patriot trucks A and B were in Arizona to handle the Fox pre- and post-game, while its “Yankee Clipper” and “NorthStar HD” production vehicles supplied mobile facilities to ESPN for its week long telecast. These trucks also have a Thomson Grass Valley 4 M/E Kalypso in each unit.

More than 30 Sony high-definition cameras outfitted, including a combination of Sony’s HDC-1500 multi-format cameras and HDC-3300 3x slow-motion cameras, were the backbone of the Super Bowl production along with a variety of Canon HD lenses. The cameras were used for everything from pre-game Red Carpet coverage of celebrities arriving to the NFL Tailgate party (nine cameras total), the regular pre-game, and game coverage.

The cameras were part of Game Creek Video’s arsenal, with Game Creek providing a total of nine HD production units to both Fox Sports and ESPN. A total of 27 HDC-1500 cameras served as the primary field-production units, supported by four HDC-3300 systems. Two of the “slow-motion” systems were in each end zone, while the other two were used as free-roaming hand-held units.

“This is the ‘big game’ and it is the most watched television event in the world, so we’re not taking any chances,” says Pat Sullivan, Game Creek president.

Thirty cameras, however, is a step back from the recent arms race of Super Bowl productions that typically resulted in more cameras and more angles. The Fox Sports production team sat down with Super Bowl Director Artie Kempner to figure out what cameras were needed to tell the story. “When we can do a very, very good job of covering a game with 10-12 cameras we should be able to do the Super Bowl with three times that many,” says Davies.

There were some additions. The First-and-Ten line was used on six cameras instead of two. And there were six parabolic antennas on the sidelines instead of four.

Inertia Unlimited’s X-Mo camera made another Super Bowl appearance and while Jeff Silverman, Inertia Unlimited owner, wasn’t overjoyed with the closed roof that cut down on light, which is key to proper performance of the camera, he was confident as the system’s light sensitivity has double since the last Super Bowl. “The irony is all the biggest events are under the lights,” says Silverman.

CP Communications with the help of their partner Total RF Productions, provided Fox, Half-time Entertainment and NFL Networks with the fiber optic infrastructures for this years Super Bowl held at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“We provided runs from the parking lot trucks to the compound, and all runs inside and around the stadium,” says Kurt Heitmann, SVP of sales for Red House Holdings. “We brought in more than 50,000 feet of fiber for all the runs we had to make, in variations of Tac 2’s, Tac 4’s, Tac 12’s, and single runs.”

For example, one of the challenges facing Fox Sports was the Red Carpet show. Located more than 4,000 feet from the Fox Sports broadcast compound. Ensuring the production crew working on the pre-game could easily throw coverage to and from the red carpet required flawless connectivity and CP Communications delivered.

For the NFL Network CP Communications ran 3,000 feet of tac 12 double jacketed fiber from the NFL Experience truck, located up in the parking lots, down to the world feed compound.

“We had to use the same fiber that Total RF uses for golf because of the heavy traffic area here at the Super Bowl,” says Heitmann.

“The entire truck-to-truck transmission of signals is over fiber,” explains Heitmann. “The three runs of Tac 12 fiber carried all HD video, AES audio, analog audio and the truck communications signals. We have trucks and golf carts and thousands of people running and walking over this fiber. It is the backbone for these networks.”