As football fans prepare for the upcoming edition of the Super Bowl, we can expect to see not just a fantastic sporting event, but also a dazzling array of cutting-edge technology at work behind the scenes to deliver the game to millions of spectators. Beyond the NFL Stats and watch parties, there is a lot at work behind the scenes. Here’s a look at some of the ways Super Bowl technology has grown over the previous fifty years to get a sense of how complex this sport has gotten.
Camera Technology has Advanced Greatly
Super Bowl I was broadcasted simultaneously on NBC and CBS in 1967, making it the only game ever broadcasted by two major networks at the same time. Unfortunately, as was usual practice at the time, the majority of the game’s tape was erased. The NFL was only able to find all 145 plays of the game on a few dozen different sources a few years ago, stitch them together, enhance, color correct the film, and bring the game back to life for the first time. Despite $12 tickets, the afternoon game had a large number of vacant seats and, of course, no jumbo screen or pyrotechnics-filled halftime performance.
While Super Bowl I is a wonderful throwback for film aficionados, camera technology and the viewing experience have gone a long way in the last 50 years. CBS Sports recently launched new camera technology to bring television viewers even closer to the live event experience. Last year’s game drew over 90 million million viewers and was enhanced by this new camera technology that debuted a few years ago.
The Super Bowl will be filmed with a total of 78 cameras, up from the 72 cameras that covered the event last year. The Eye Vision 360, a replay camera that can pause any point of play and circle 360 degrees around it before continuing play, is undoubtedly the show-stopper among the new cameras.
The positioning of a fleet of 36 cameras near the red zone at the 25 yard line will allow the cameras to film the whole field and subsequently render into 360-degree images for replays. Instant replay has become such an integral part of how football is viewed and played that it’s easy to forget that the NFL did not deploy a restricted instant replay system until 1986.
Since then, the procedure has evolved, from nine-inch monitors in a skybox to high-definition multiple-angle replays for officials to study on the side of the field. What started with walkie talkies and stopwatches has progressed to 360-degree HD cameras and an off-site control center where referees may confer with officiating specialists directly whenever a review is launched.
Pylon cameras will be mounted to the pylons on the edge of the endzone once again. Pylon cameras are eight high-resolution cameras with high-definition audio that will be affixed to the pylons on the edge of the endzone. These cameras will undoubtedly record some up-close and personal touchdown footage, as well as give a different viewpoint on calls that are too near to make with the naked eye.
The First Down Line
Sportvision was the first to bring the beauty of overlaid yard lines to live television viewers in 1997. The “First and Ten” line indicates how far the offense must go to get a first down.
While this line looks to be magical on the screen, it was created by a series of steps: To begin, a laser is utilized in the field’s center to collect elevation data and map the field’s contours for a computational depiction.
Broadcast cameras equipped with Sportvision sensors can therefore maintain the virtual field’s size and perspective while panning, zooming, and tilting. Finally, production operators ensure that when a first down is reached, the line advances in the right direction from the play, all before you see that magical yellow line on your television screen.
In addition to the First and Ten lines, this year’s Matrix-like EyeVision 360 cameras will be able to superimpose a virtual line on the action, increasing the instant replay experience in the same manner that Sportvision’s First and Ten technologies enhanced live watching. With these cameras the viewing experience will be taken to another level.