Super Bowl LI to be Shot in Stunning 4K and 8K With 360 Degree Views
Stephan Jukic – January 23, 2017
Possibly for the first time ever, those watching the Super Bowl this coming February 5th are going to get a view of the game that in some ways surpasses anything available to the audiences right there in the stadium. This is going to be possible thanks to a whole plethora of awesome new technologies that are going to be an integral part of Super Bowl LI and possibly, hopefully, forma part of future Super Bowl events with even more enhancement.
Basically, Super Bowl LI is working out to be the most advanced and technologically immersive edition of these games ever attempted thanks to a complex mix of multiple 4K and even 8K cameras, fiber optic technology and specialized semi-simulated viewing angles which will put TV viewers closer to the action than has ever before been possible. Let’s get down to details.
At the more “basic” level, this year’s Fox Sports broadcast of the Super Bowl will come with a total of 38 ultra HD cameras scattered all over the stadium in strategic positions. Along with them and thanks in part to these cameras themselves, the broadcast team will also be able to deliver augmented reality with next-generation statistics and graphics to fans who are viewing the Bowl from their screens.
As Michael Davies, senior vice president of field and technical operations for Fox Sports has stated,
“With the NFL and most other sports, we’re used to seeing replays and on-field action being broadcast from the outside in. But the ambition has always been to get those perspectives from the inside out. With ‘Be the Player’ and some other enhancements we’re utilizing this year, such as pylon cameras, we’ll be able to bring the audience down to the field and offer the viewpoint of a player at the critical decision-making moment.”
The mention of “Be the Player” is possibly the most critical aspect of this new broadcast method from Fox. This technology, brought to Super Bowl LI by Intel, will let viewers “get inside the helmet of any player on the field” through a series of indirect means which don’t actually involve any of the players having cameras literally installed on their helmets. What the technology does instead is utilize a whole array of 38 UHD cameras (4K and 8K resolution) which are going to be scattered around the perimeter of the sports field for a 360 degree view of all the in-game moves. By selectively editing and manipulating how the footage from these cameras is presented to an audience, the producers at Fox can create a sort of “virtual” camera effect from almost any POV in the field in a way that simulates the perspectives of individual players or movement patterns. Beyond these 38 cameras, Fox will also be including 32 non-UHD recording devices and 24 of the total of 70 cameras will be installed along the end-zone pylons for superbly detailed viewing and measurement of how goals are scored during the game.
The video feed from this huge collection of advanced recording devices runs through several miles of fiber-optic cable into a Fox Sports control room from which producers do their compiling, cutting and pasting of “Be the Player” replays.
This video clip from Fox Sports gives a very nice demonstration of just how uniquely effective this technology is at what it promises
It’s also worth noting here that Be the Player has been used before with other MLB and NBA sporting events but under a different name, “Relay 360” and without the added benefit of the filed-level perspective the technology has had added to it for Super Bowl LI.
Of course, because the edits for specific player perspectives have to be done nearly live so audiences can see them right during the game itself, the technology will be used selectively for the biggest or most interesting plays of Super Bowl LI. According to Fox Sports, this selective presentation of such cool new perspective technology is necessary because the complexity of composing and stitching together shots from the live broadcast itself and the 38 cameras requires about 1 terabyte of data per 30 second “Be the Player” clip, and it takes roughly 2 minutes to get each of these clips ready for public consumption. Then there’s the matter of making these clips fit with the whole in-game narrative. As Davies explained, “We want to make sure that we have the right shot and that it can be seamlessly woven into the broadcast”.
In addition to Be the Player, Fox is going to be adding in a few more cutting edge POV technologies for further audience viewing enhancements. One of these will be a new overhead Skycam system that features augmented reality cameras for live vertical virtual tracking of movement on the field so that a live first-down line can be inserted as needed. Then there will be a new Player tracking technology which works off of RFID sensors inside the shoulder pads of the players themselves. With these RFID tags, Fox will be able to display live streaming metrics for location, acceleration, speed and distance for each player on 3D-style virtual billboards which will appear throughout a game.
Finally, moving onto the ultra HD cameras of Super Bowl LI themselves, they are going to be more densely and impressively arrayed than ever before. The Super Bowl has been the scene of 4K ultra HD recordings in the past but this year’s game will be the first ever with an additional array of 8K recording devices scattered around the field for unprecedented levels of video sharpness and extreme detail. The 4K cameras will offer their own superb high resolution while also delivering accelerated frame-rate recording for slow motion shots of in-game maneuvers and overall motion blur reduction during the live and obviously fast-paced HD broadcast of the game.
And yes, we said HD broadcasts, it wasn’t a typo. Despite the absolutely total coverage in 4K and 8K of pretty much everything that happens on the field at Super Bowl LI, Fox will only be broadcasting the game in 720p HD due to what we suppose are logistical reasons that have to do with 4K broadcast difficulty.
Michael Davies claims that despite an HD-only broadcast, the use of native UHD video for the downscaled public video feed will still benefit viewers’ experience of the game, with superior detail capture and better delivery of smooth motion. According to the technical operations president, “The ability to capture a quarterback’s reaction to an evolving situation on the field, or the grimace of a sideline coach after a call, can heighten the emotional impact of the game for viewers. It’s always best to start with the highest-quality source material you can get.”
That said, Davies has affirmed that live 4K broadcasts of the Super Bowl will be coming, just “not this year”.
Super Bowl LI kicks off on February 5th In Houston, Texas with pre-game events starting as of the 27th of January.
Story by 4k.com