Super Bowl Stalwart SMT Delivers Graphics and More for Big Game

The Super Bowl may seem to be all about annual change — the teams, the venue, even the network — but certain staples are called on year after year to get the Big Game to air. One such stalwart is SMT (SportsMEDIA Technology), which has delivered broadcast services — real-time on-screen graphics, data tickers, clock-and-score, real-time stats-generation systems, live commentator stats screens, virtual graphics (including the yellow first-down line) — to the U.S. broadcaster and the NFL’s world-feed production for virtually every Super Bowl since 1996.

SMT supports the Super Bowl broadcast with its ClockBox system for real-time game-clock and play-clock information and QBStat system for real-time in-game stats and talent-information displays. SMT’s systems enable on-air talent to have statistical information at their fingertips.

“It allows the production to move forward in a real-time pace, and that’s an important piece because [Jim] Nantz wants to be able to commentate on what that information is as quickly as possible,” says Don Tupper, VP, business development, SMT. “SMT will have the stats instantly available by the time the first play rolls.”

SMT’s virtually inserted graphics show the target distance and career long for Pittsburgh placekicker Shaun Suisham.

SMT’s virtually inserted graphics show the target distance and career long for Pittsburgh placekicker Shaun Suisham.

QBStat and ClockBox feed data into SMT’s SMART (Sports Media Augmented Reality Technology) System, which creates the virtually inserted graphics, including first-down line, line of scrimmage, virtual play clock, down and distance, red zone, and field-goal–kicker display.

“[When] we’re putting that virtual graphic on the field that says it’s second and nine, that virtual graphic is requesting information from the same QBStat database,” says Tupper. “We are the hub of all of that data so that it’s real time, but it’s also consistent across all the graphics-display devices and anything that’s in front of talent. The worst thing that you can have is talent, looking at the scoreboard in the stadium, say second and seven and CBS has on the screen it’s second and eight. You don’t want to ever have disparate information, so the entire production is synchronized around this one set of data.”

Perhaps the most noticeable, and necessary, virtually inserted graphic provided by SMT is the yellow first-down line. During the regular-season A games, SMT calibrates CBS Sports’ three primary cameras — on the 25-, 50-, and 25-yard lines — with the line. For the Super Bowl, nine cameras will be configured, including the three primary game cameras, two end-zone cameras, two goal-line cameras, the all-22 camera, and the reverse-left-slash camera.

In New Orleans, SMT has a designated workspace within CBS’s and NFL Network’s fleet of mobile units. Says Tupper, “We started building and integrating our systems into the CBS mobile facilities [for] the first week of the playoffs — Wild Card weekend — and each week, we’ve continued to build while we’re on-site supporting [CBS’s] A-game playoff coverage.”

NFL Network produces the Super Bowl world-feed production, for which SMT will provide a data- and graphics-services package. SMT has provided this solution to the NFL for 17 years.

Begun last Friday, SMT’s on-site preparation includes configuring the nine cameras with a specialized pan head that pulls data from the camera’s pan-and-tilt sensors and from encoders that obtain zoom and focus values.

CBS’s coverage of the AFC Championship included virtual billboards created using SMT technology.

CBS’s coverage of the AFC Championship included virtual billboards created using SMT technology.

“Those four parameters — pan, tilt, zoom, and focus — at every single camera come back to our central set up in the truck compound, and that’s what allows us to put the lines on the field in the right place,” explains Tupper. “And then, when the camera moves, the lines don’t move. That’s the fundamental part of the technology.”

Should a field goal or extra-point conversion pass above the goalposts, SMT will provide virtual extensions of the goal posts to determine the flight path of the ball. During rehearsals, CBS’s camera operators will choreograph the best angles from which to view the goal posts; once cameras are trained on the goalposts, the virtual extensions can be inserted graphically on-screen.

Five SMT graphics operators are on-site (a typical CBS A game has three), controlling, among other systems, SMT’s SMART Zoom Telestration System, the company’s proprietary technology that powers CBS’s Eye Zoom. SMT will also provide talent-driven telestration customized for Phil Simms.

“During the regular season, we provide these telestration systems to Phil Simms with an EVS remote control,” says Tupper. “He has the ability to not only telestrate on his screen but to rewind and replay the highlight; he has control of the rewind and play live on-air, which is pretty unique.”

Super Bowl XLVII also will serve as the launch of a new comprehensive animation- and insert-graphics package. That same look will ultimately roll out on CBS Sports Network later in the year, further unifying CBS Sports’ on-air branding.

“There is the game the last three hours, but really, our efforts are multifaceted,” says Tupper. “Literally, there’ll be programming coming from New Orleans [all week] that will have [our] technology supporting it.”