ANC Sports Makes Ribbon Boards Super for Game, Halftime

Unlike on normal football Sundays at Cowboys Stadium, during the Super Bowl, ANC Sports Director of Technical Services Jeff Paulson actually got to watch some of the game. As ANC Sports’ primary operator for the venue’s two 360-degree LED ribbon boards throughout the regular and college seasons, he is accustomed to filling every inch of Cowboys Stadium with content. During the Super Bowl, he was able to keep the display relatively quiet, although that did not make his job any easier.

“There was a lot less content,” Paulson explains. “During a regular football game, we can have animations playing during play, and I’ve got to hit sponsors, but, during the Super Bowl, they wanted it to be completely still during play. I had a lot more player stats than I normally do for a Cowboys game, and, after I put them up, I didn’t have to run a game prompt or change sponsors. I was a lot less busy during the game.”

A Year’s Worth of Preparation
Before the game, however, Paulson was far busier than normal. He began preparations for the Super Bowl a year ago, when NFL officials traveled to Dallas during the 2010 NBA All Star Game to scout the venue. After arriving on-site the Monday prior to Super Bowl XLV, he spent a full week amassing and revising content.

“We had a four-hour pregame show, and there was a lot of content for that,” he says. “We also married content on all of our boards with what Big Screen Network was showing on the big screen so that it went along with the live in-stadium pregame show that they had. Each hit that the show had, we had a graphic to marry up to it.”

The hardest part of the pregame show, ironically, was the graphic-free National Anthem. Paulson was running the lyrics across the ribbon boards, and. when singer Christina Aguilera fumbled two lines, he nearly had a heart attack.

“That was the only time that my heart skipped a beat. I was hoping it wasn’t my fault,” he says. “I knew I had the right lyrics up, and I was assured by the production people that all of my lyrics were correct. But, at that point, I didn’t know where to go.”

Constant Content Corrections
For the game itself, Paulson was given more than 100 GB of media to run on the two ribbon boards, and most of the content did not come in until the day before the game.

“Once we got the content, I had to double-check all of it. With 70 headshots, there are bound to be things that need to be corrected on some of them,” he says. “The NFL also gave me a single template of what they wanted for stat and player pages for each team, so I created those for every position, which took another full day because of the sheer number of people that they wanted stats for.”

Paulson also created a game-in-progress scoreboard, which was up and running five days before kickoff. On game day, however, the NFL wanted to make some changes. While running the boards and keeping track of the game clock, he had time to make only one major change to that scoreboard, so he spent the second quarter discussing exactly what to change — while keeping his hands on the board controls. At the end of the halftime show, he worked quickly to implement the agreed-upon change and had the revised graphics ready to run for the second half.

The Show Within the Game
Before making those graphical changes, however, Paulson had plenty of halftime-show responsibilities to fulfill. The Black Eyed Peas’ performance, which ran nearly 14 minutes long, required an additional 100 GB of content, so he had his hands full throughout halftime.

“There were some exact-timing cues in which our boards needed to match the beat of the music and the light show on stage,” he explains. “We had them deliver 13 pieces of content that were each exactly a minute long. The track that is playing has timecode on it, and I have a monitor with timecode on it right next to me, so I know exactly when each of those beats and cues are going to hit. As each of those cues come up, I can fire up the appropriate piece of content so that we could be on beat with the music, and the light show could match.”

Last-Minute Success
“I was a little concerned going in, not having been given a lot of content and stats before I got down there,” Paulson says, “but Big Screen obviously does this for a living, so they made it easy. I knew that there was going to be stuff that was last-minute, but it was very professional.”

Some of the content was so last-minute, in fact, that the first time Paulson ran the World Champion Green Bay Packers graphic was when it went live at the end of the game. Still, with relatively few surprises throughout the hours-long production, he was pleased with the outcome, and working closely with Big Screen Network turned out to be a productive partnership.