February 2, 2014

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!

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30 Comments

4k doesn't make the game any better to watch, as in, its still the match being played whether you watch it in 720/1080 or whatever resolution you are. 4k for live sports broadcast is highly expensive, and to say that sports are sent out at full bandwith is a lie.

4k is fantastic for film, adverts, commercials etc but for live broadcast it won't become mainstream for more than a decade I wouldn't have thought.

Wonder how many Nac's they will have there?

February 2, 2014 at 1:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Laurence

Heard the same about hd years ago

February 2, 2014 at 3:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Daniel

I heard the same about hearing the same!

February 2, 2014 at 3:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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David

Except that for resolution, there are diminishing returns given the limitations of the human eye. SD > HD is an enormous jump. HD > 4K is less so, and anything beyond that becomes increasingly negligible.

February 3, 2014 at 1:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Swissted

NHK in Japan not only is going to 8K soon but they will be doing it at 120Hz in real time. It seems 4K at 60Hz should be doable for America. Hey, we put a man on the moon. Youd think we could pull off 4x lower resolution at half the refresh rate than NHK.

February 2, 2014 at 8:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene

With technology that rivals a calculator today.

February 2, 2014 at 10:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anthony Marino

Exactly! Think about that statement.

February 3, 2014 at 6:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kraig

Japan is, on average, a decade ahead of the US as far as technology adoption goes...

February 3, 2014 at 6:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Pat

Sporting and concerts are a GREAT use for 4K. I've seen the olympics shot and viewed in 8k at NAB and it was a phenomenal experience. You feel like you are there.

February 2, 2014 at 11:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Mikey

Triaxal connections aren't supporting 4k. And probably never will. As long as triaxal is the industry standard there won't be a 4K broadcast. SEMPTY fiber however supports up to 6k, but is fragile and expensive.

The most of us currently aren't even receiving a full 1080p picture at home.

So it will take a while for any 4k broadcast.

February 2, 2014 at 3:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tim

Yeah, all the 4K feeds are running to the production trucks via fiber.

Also, I feel sorry for all of the camera assistants who will be wrangling triax cable in icy, cold weather all day. I literally wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

February 2, 2014 at 4:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4507

SMPTE fiber is actually pretty robust, on par I would say, with TRIAX. Tac fiber is more "fragile" but it's also a lot thinner. They are both significantly more expensive then copper but they have the distance and bandwidth that make them worth that extra cost.

I don't personally know the limits of fiber, I do know that I've been able to send camera controls and two (one each direction) 1080 60i 4:2:2 feeds down SMPTE but if you up that to 1080 4:4:4 you're limited to one line, on the SMPTE I've worked with. I would think that 6k is definitely possibly but it would be dependent on compression.

February 2, 2014 at 11:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Nick Hiltgen

4k is dead for broadcast...

February 2, 2014 at 3:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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geraldo

Where can I find the 720p stream?

February 2, 2014 at 6:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Chris K

Apparently this is it: http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl

February 2, 2014 at 8:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene

February 2, 2014 at 9:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene

Networks in Japan and South Korea will be broadcasting upcoming Olympics in 8K, not 4K, but 8K. How long till America does 8K?

February 2, 2014 at 8:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene

4K can be streamed online or beamed via a satellite already. The OTA won't be possible until HEVC becomes the OTA standard.
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Meanwhile, "Time Warner Cable Chairman and CEO Robert D Marcus, said: “We’ll triple Internet speeds for customers with our most popular tiers of service, add more community Wi-Fi, improve the TV product".

This is pretty big news. The 15Mbps is going to 50, 20 to 100, 30 to 200, 50 to 300. And, at these speeds, 4K should be a breeze.
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http://www.telecomlead.com/broadband/time-warner-cable-triples-broadband...

February 2, 2014 at 8:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

New York, LA? Nah, I'll just move to Omaha and get gigabit internet.

February 2, 2014 at 8:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene

Today's game was not broadcast at 1080p. You won't find a signal OTA broadcast in that resolution.

Fox, like ABC/ESPN, does its broadcasts in 720p.

February 2, 2014 at 10:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anon

big chance for online streaming services to be one step ahead of the tv companies and bring better quality for less money

February 2, 2014 at 10:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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geraldo

I'm not sure about that. The big broadcasters don't want anything to do with online streaming. Just look at the Aereo case. They're coming kicking and screaming into the 21st century a la Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.

February 3, 2014 at 12:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anon

Not a question about resolution but, since we're talking sports video, how does all the slo-mo happen? Are there some Phantoms lurking about or do they have some method of slowing regular footage down? A lot of it looks like authentic high speed capture.

February 3, 2014 at 2:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Fox apparently had made a special rig for the World Series. No idea if they put together something similar for this SB.
http://gizmodo.com/5954753/how-a-5000+fps-camera-captures-world-series-s...

February 3, 2014 at 3:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

New Coca Cola commercial from Super Bowl:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=443Vy3I0gJs

lots of buzz around the 'net. Not gonna comment about the controversy, but really liked the image.

Shot with Sony F55, fine example that camera stands more than fine against Alexa. And for that matter, all the Red equipment.

February 3, 2014 at 10:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Juhan-i

Can you point to any documentation that this was shot with an F55?

February 3, 2014 at 11:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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The reason it looks good is the c-series anamorphic lenses.

February 4, 2014 at 1:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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jj

4k or not, it was one of the worst sport event coverage I've ever seen. I think it could have been covered way better with 16 cameras +/- 4. I lost count of screwed up slow motions and directional cutting failures. In my opinion, they should set their focus on the quality....not the quantity. But I guess, that's a General problem.

February 3, 2014 at 4:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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german herman

After reading this article I watched the game, it's too bad that Denver didn't show up to play. But the instant replays in fact were quite sharp and crisp, and thanks to this article I know why. HIgher resolution does mean better quality and this was a perfect example.

More and more we will be able to watch shows online, and my computer resolution beats my TV.

February 4, 2014 at 3:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Larry Vaughn

However, there's a schism in the monitor availability at this moment. Some very small tablets are Full HD and ~ 13" models can go as high 2.5K but there are very few 2.5K stand-alone monitors. In fact, perusing the sites, the smallest 2.5K monitors are 27" and the lowest priced among them is in the mid-$300's. Likewise, there are $500 4K TV sets but there are no $500 4K computer monitors. Go figure that one out.

February 4, 2014 at 7:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD