How Will 4K Factor into the Broadcast of the Super Bowl?
[As some of you might have heard, there's some kind of sporting match happening today, a big one apparently.] All jesting aside, the Super Bowl isn't just an epic clash between the NFL's two best teams. It's also the absolute pinnacle of sports broadcast media, as both the league and Fox (among others) shell out incredible amounts of money to ensure that the production is as technologically advanced as current broadcast standards will allow. This year is no exception. As the Broncos and Seahawks go head to head today (go Broncos), the Fox Sports production team will be utilizing over 100 Sony cameras, several of which will be 4K, to ensure that we, the viewers, have the best seat in the house. Here's a brief look at how it will all go down this afternoon.
First and foremost, let's talk about how the big game will be broadcast. Unfortunately, we're not at a point where a full 4K broadcast is feasible, nor will we be for some time. Today's game will be broadcast at a full 1080p on television, and the free internet live stream will be available at 720p.
A good portion of the insane amount of HD camera coverage will be provided by an army of Sony HDC-1500 and HDC-2500 cameras, which will be routed via triaxial cable to any one of the five production trucks being used for the game broadcast.
However, for the past few years, Fox has bean developing a fantastic use for high resolution technology in live sporting events. It's called "Super Zoom" and the concept is one with which any filmmaker would be familiar. Essentially, they're pulling the raw (not RAW) 4K signal from these cameras to a properly equipped production truck through a fiber-optic connection, then cropping various pieces of the image down to a full HD resolution in order to provide an effect similar to a digital zoom but without the corresponding pixel degradation. Here's what SVG as to say about it:
It’s all about the clarity of the replay and giving viewers the best possible look at a play, and that’s what we can do with these cameras,” said Jerry Steinberg, senior vice president, technical operations, of FOX Sports. “Since we’re starting with such a high-resolution image, we can zoom in multiple times on a shot and still get a completely clear picture with zero pixel degradation. You see everything in extreme detail, in fact with an extra amount of detail you wouldn’t see in a traditional replay.
This year, Fox will be sporting six 4K cameras in all, five of which will be Sony's F55, and one of which will be an F65. The F55's will be placed along the sidelines and at the goal lines, where the benefits of high resolution cameras could be make-or-break when plays are being reviewed by officials. The F65 will be used much in the same way that it was during Fox's coverage of the World Series, as sort of a master "Super Zoom" that is positioned in such a way that it captures the entire field of play.
While it's pretty clear at this point that full 4K broadcast is out of the question for a while, at least for the next few years, it's interesting to see technological niches, like sports broadcast, where high-resolution is really a game changer, both for the productions using it, and the audiences who view the content.
What do you guys think of Fox's camera setup for this year's Super Bowl? Are high-resolution cameras going to become commonplace in the near future of sports broadcast, even if the broadcasts themselves are only in HD? And perhaps most importantly, who are you pulling for in today's game? Let us know down in the comments!
Also, GO BRONCOS!