Super Bowl LI to be Shot in Stunning 4K and 8K With 360 Degree Views

by on January 23, 2017

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

A still capture of "Be the Player" in action

A still capture of “Be the Player” in action

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.

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  • Chris OMalley
    January 23, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    “Fox will only be broadcasting the game in 1080p HD due to what we suppose are logistical reasons that have to do with 4K broadcast difficulty.”

    Ummm, well yeah, considering there’s no U.S broadcast standard for 4K broadcasts and no equipment in any U.S. homes to receive 4K broadcasts.


    • George Bynum
      January 24, 2017 at 8:16 am

      Nor is there a broadcast standard for 1080p, is there? Also, isn’t Fox still 720p?


    • Aretel Video Transport - your UHD transport solution
      January 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

      It really has to do with getting the uncompressed HD or 4K signal from the even to the broadcast studio. The signal is compresses slightly to get to the studio (an uncomrpessed HD signal take 1.5G of bandwidth) and the downsampling it to MPEG at a bitrate of around 5Mbps to 1080i.


    • Jo
      January 24, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      I thought dish or direct TV have has 3k boxes out for a bit and Comcast rently released one?


    • Chip
      January 26, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      My home has the equipment. I have watched the Masters last year and many MLB games live on Directv!


    • DenCimm
      January 29, 2017 at 8:48 am

      “there’s” “no equipment in any U.S. homes to receive 4K broadcasts.” Really?

      Several Roku devices CAN broadcast 4K UHD and with Fox broadcasting over their sports app, homes, like mine, CAN receive and view the game in UHD.

      Why Fox is choosing not to broadcast in UHD is thus leaving me dumbfounded!


    • Captainkirk
      January 29, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      Actually Directv has been broadcasting in 4K for the pat few years and does NBA and did MLB last year on a consistent basis. This is just fox being lazy as others have figured it out and are doing it. There is consumer equipment to get 4k broacasts, just not OTA yet and a satellite Subscription is required.


    • Garrett
      January 31, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      This would be incorrect. Directv has channel 106 dedicated to live 4k broadcasts. Ues it works very well. I’ve got the Thunder vs Spurs on live 4k right now.


    • Dan
      February 1, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      DirecTV has equipment in customer homes for a while now. They are ready to broadcast. I’m a DirecTV technician, what rock you been living under?


    • M. Leu
      February 4, 2017 at 7:11 am

      I have 4K DIRECTV in every room of my house. 4K is readily available now. Not sure when you woke up from your coma, but do some research before posting such silly banter!


    • Canada superb owl fan
      February 5, 2017 at 5:40 am

      In Canada some of us have a 4k pvr (I’ve owned one since 3 months now and watch hockey on 4k). Can’t believe that for the superbowl, Fox was not able to achieve this…


    • VARaider56
      February 10, 2017 at 6:03 pm

      Hi Chris,
      I don’t really understand your comment/statement “Ummm, well yeah, considering there’s no U.S broadcast standard for 4K broadcasts and no equipment in any U.S. homes to receive 4K broadcasts” I have DirecTV and a 4K Sony 75″ TV, and a Model HR54/200 UHD Receiver for my Satellite dish. I get 3 each 4K channels DTV Channels 104, 105, 106, all broadcasted in 4K, Of course you have to pay for Movies broadcasted in 4K on DTV Channel 105 CINE4K. Today I watched the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am in 4k on DTV Channel 106 Live 4K.


    • TG
      January 31, 2019 at 8:37 am

      Just heads up. I have a comcast 4k HDR box at my home. And its amazing. I was able to watch the winter Olympics and some international soccer matches in 4k. I hope they will show the super bowl in 4k for the few viewers that have the box in a experimental bases at least


  • Hugh Massengill
    January 24, 2017 at 6:06 am

    The Romans would be impressed. After all, while they had gladiators fighting to the death to the cheers of drunken crowds, The NFL and Fox will have it all in 4K.
    And yes, it will be to the death, though a slow motion version as those wonderfully trained athletes destroy their brains and crash their very vulnerable bodies toward an early death through dementia.
    Modern football is too dangerous. It is barbaric. It is like smoking in the 1950’s, just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it isn’t an absolute insanity.
    To think that millionaire sportscasters get to relax and cheer on this mess.
    Hugh Massengill, Eugene Oregon


  • Dave Evans
    January 24, 2017 at 8:06 am

    While at this, the question, will providers like Comcast, Dish network or DirecTV with the right hardware (of course), offer PPV of the superbowl in 1080p or (dreaming) 4K ?

    Fox itself is a 720P channel, not 1080p, no broadcasted station is in 1080p, unless it’s a PPV or special channel.


  • Don Carpenter
    January 24, 2017 at 8:28 am

    The author also doesn’t seem to be aware that Fox broadcasts in 720p.


    • Stephen
      January 24, 2017 at 9:23 am

      Hello Don, this has been corrected and thank you for mentioning that mistake.


      • SL
        January 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm

        Dumb question, why even have camera’s etc at the game anything higher than 720p IF FOX only delivers 720P?? When I saw this post I got very excited as I thought at the very least via my New LG 4K (via Directv) the picture while not “true 4k”, would be somewhat better than a normal FOX Football broadcast. So bottom line I will see no difference?
        Just curious as well does NBC and or CBS broadcast in 1080i?


        • Stephen
          January 30, 2017 at 7:33 pm

          Hello SL. I believe that they’re doing it for two main reasons. First, because the additional resolution from the 4K and 8K cameras allows for superior downsampled video quality for the sake of making the “Be the Player” point of view shots as effective as possible during the audience broadcast. Secondly. Fox realizes that live 4K broadcasts are the near future and is getting an early start on handling mass video recording and editing with the technology of these cameras in use during a live game.


  • Thomas
    January 24, 2017 at 8:46 am

    How exactly are they gonna deliver the 1080p broadcast? Currently they only send out broadcasts OTA in 720p.


  • holl_ands
    January 24, 2017 at 9:23 am

    BTW: Although NOT currently used, ATSC 1.0 A/53 Spec [Table A-3] also mandates 1080p, in addition to the usual 1080i and 720p….it will be interesting to see how many HDTV/UDTV’s hiccup on this as yet underutilized 1080p format….which will require much higher data rates than Fox’s current 720p format


  • Gman
    January 24, 2017 at 11:52 am

    I could see the NFL selling this broadcast to lure people into Best buy to purchase a 4K TV but no one transmits 4K yet.

    I have Direct TV and even that tops out at 1080i.


  • Don Carpenter
    January 24, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    “While at this, the question, will providers like Comcast, Dish network or DirecTV with the right hardware (of course), offer PPV of the superbowl in 1080p or (dreaming) 4K ?”

    Not likely. The rights belong to the network broadcasting it and, therefore, the affiliates have exclusive broadcast rights in the territories they cover. For something this big, they’d object to anyone in their area having an alternate method of viewing that skips local commercials.

    And, if you don’t think it’s that big of a deal, imagine being the sales manager for the TV station and your biggest-paying client wanders into a packed sports bar showing the 4k version and he doesn’t see the ad he paid for. His ad was supposed to reach every viewer in the city. Yeah, he’s gonna want a rebate.

    Plus, the NFL already makes DirecTV black out locally-broadcast games from their Sunday Ticket package. This has long been an issue with ST subs who feel with what they pay, they should be able to watch all of the games through Sunday Ticket. The NFL won’t bite the broadcast hand that feeds it.

    Since the NFL would lose more revenue than they’d reap from canceling exclusivity, don’t expect a 4k Super Bowl terribly soon. There’s just no financial incentive for the NFL to push it.


  • Sean Ryan
    January 25, 2017 at 8:25 am

    With Sky HD in the U.K. Broadcasting in 4k as early as March for formula 1 racing, one would think the Network Giants would figure out how to get this done for the most watch television event in the US each year.


  • DenCimm
    January 29, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Fuck you for deleting my comment!

    Excuse me for proving a fellow commenter wrong!


  • Chill Will
    January 29, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Duh did you read what they said? IT will be wired up for 4k…, geez, fox does not even have a 1080 all there channels are 720p


  • Carl
    January 21, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Directv has three 4k channels. One has shown several live sports events in 4k. There are no commercials during these events so you literally shoot through the timeouts and the halftime show.


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