The Super Bowl might revolve around a piece of pigskin, but for those of us watching at home, it’s all about the tech. It starts with making sure your big screen and streaming service of choice are ready to go. Then there’re the big ads for gadgets, and even, uh… sex toys that sync to the action on the field.
But the most high-tech elements of Super Bowl 53 can actually be found behind the scenes of the broadcast operation that projects the whole spectacle onto the retinas of over 100 million people.
As our sister site TechRepublic reports, the brand-new Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta, which is hosting the championship, is embedded with over 4,000 miles of fiber to support a network that includes plenty of internet-of-things sensors throughout the building. The dome also has 90 miles of audio cabling and nearly 2,000 Wi-Fi access points.
On top of all that digital infrastructure, CBS Sports, which will broadcast the biggest event in American television, will also be using 2,000 strands of additional fiber and 330 recording channels. It’s required to support the 115 total cameras and five sets around the stadium that’ll be used to catch all the angles of each play, as well as the halftime show featuring Maroon 5, not to mention the pre- and postgame festivities. (Disclosure: CBS is CNET’s parent company.)
Jason Cohen, vice president of remote technical productions for CBS Sports, told me there’ll even be a plane 2,000 feet above the stadium before kickoff and a tethered drone 3,000 feet due west of the dome, just to provide those nice panoramic shots of the city during breaks in the action.
This year, six of the network’s cameras will also be outfitted with augmented-reality sensors from ncam that let them track AR graphics.
Integrating AR into a broadcast isn’t new. Watch enough NFL games and you’re bound to notice the graphics, animations, lines and other various markers on the field that aren’t really there. But this year, Cohen says, CBS is experimenting with pushing the technology to new levels.
Provided everything works out and all the technology cooperates, CBS hopes to create coordinated augmented-reality sequences that require cutting together images from four separate cameras.
Traditional cameras, the skycam, a Techno-jib and an AVS wireless handheld Steadicam on the field will hopefully all be able to combine to project imagery into the stadium that’s just for the enjoyment of the massive worldwide audience at home.
‘You’re really going to experience AR in a more theatrical manner,’ Cohen said.
Pulling it off will require the flawless coordination of the data from the ncam sensors, transmission of wireless signals and video from the field and then running it all through a graphics engine developed by the Future Group to generate what’s seen on screens at home.
Look out for the enhanced visual effects during the pregame show, before kickoff and coming out of halftime, as well as during the game, when AR will be used to show statistics and other info in slick new ways.
Another big first for the broadcast will be the use of multiple 8K cameras. CBS will have three around the stadium to help an enthusiastic minority justify the purchase of some seriously high-resolution home screenage. That’s in addition to 16 cameras with 4K capabilities, including nine that are zoom-capable with slow motion.
The end result should be a feast for the eyes, which is sure to be better for your health than gorging on the chicken wings, pizza and other elements that often go into a big Super Bowl production at home.