The 2022 Super Bowl and Winter Olympics Take Center Stage

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Delivering on the Promise of Big Productions

When it comes to working on the the biggest  productions, the Super Bowl and the Olympics are at the top of the list. Yes, I know there are a lot of other sporting events, just not at the same time! The Super Bowl will be played out at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, while there will be dozens of mobile production units in the broadcast compound. Then for good measure, add in hundreds of cameras, thousands of production professionals and sports journalists all focused to deliver once in a lifetime images in what many consider two of the highest pinnacles of sports production. 

So just when you thought that the Super Bowl was the only game in town(sorry very bad pun I know) just for good measure add in the responsibility of producing the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Both events will be happening at the same time and both will be produced by NBC, no stranger to big events. The 2022 Winter Olympics have multiple events with 12 venues spread out over multiple locations over multiple days! Working on or producing even one part of these marque events is so definitely not for the faint of heart. Lucky for us mere production motals, we were able to get a sneak peak into some of the behind the scenes as production ramps up for these two prestigious events.  

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Without lots of really smart people,  I’m not sure any network would have the resources to do big productions like the Super Bowl with out some very knowledgeable and experienced professionals. That’s when the networks get on the phone to NEP and Glen Levine. Without a doubt Glen Levine the  President, NEP U.S. Broadcast Services has to be one of the busiest people(and nicest guys) on the planet right about now. Always making time for people and is the consummate professional. With the responsibility over dozens of mobile units, engineers, and production personnel, Glen oversees  this amazing balancing act that gets the right units and the right people to the right venue. Fortunately, I was able to catch Glen in between flights from as I like to say “somewhere to somewhere else” and asked him what the “mad dash” is like to get ready for the big game. 

“For the Super Bowl it’s all about planning and scheduling. Set up is planned and takes time. We are in roughly 2 weeks prior to the game. Things are staged in a logical timeline, from running fiber to parking trucks and then building for show. We schedule in appropriate test time along with production FAX and pre-production. As for Strike, you would be surprised at how quickly all is come’s apart. Similar logic in removing hardware and get the primary units rolling, them remove cable. We hope to be out in a day and half.”

I also asked Glen what are some of the biggest challenges or changes he has seen.   “Great to see technology continue to advance. Higher quality, more specialty cameras, more instant replay and SSMO.” The ongoing challenge is COVID and that’s is everyone’s challenge along having this many people on site”. Glen has also been gracious enough to share some of his tech info that NEP is bringing to Los Angeles and SoFi stadium which I will share below. But We will have to catch up with more from Glen in a bit. For now, lets switch our focus to the production of the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing China. 

In a nod to advancing technology, NBC announced some interesting additions to the broadcast of the Olympics. For the first time ever for a Winter Olympics, NBC Sports will provide live coverage of the NBC broadcast network’s Olympics primetime and Prime Plus shows in certain markets in the 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) format with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and ATMOS sound.  NBC’s primetime coverage of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will also be presented in 4K HDR. Events which will be featured in 4K HDR during the Winter Olympics primetime and Prime Plus shows include figure skating, skiing, snowboarding, hockey, bobsled, and other sports.  “The Winter Olympics provide some of the most amazing moments and stunning visuals in the world of sports,” said Gary Zenkel, President, NBC Olympics. “We’re excited to once again bring the American audience closer to all of the incredible action with our live primetime and Prime Plus shows utilizing this remarkable 4K HDR technology.” 

NBC Sports’ 4K UHD programming will provide pictures in ultra-high resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) that is four times that of current HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), High Dynamic Range (HDR), which produces wider contrast and richer range of colors, and Dolby ATMOS, which provides a fully immersive overhead surround sound experience. But that’s not all the tech advances at the Olympics. 

According to Molly Solomon President and Executive Producer of the Olympics, NBC is adding other production elements to the mix. “We are deploying the most production technology ever at a Winter Olympics, including at figure skating where we have added major elements.”

“For figure skating we want to be better at better explaining quad jumps, those amazing feats. So, we have added four super slow-mo cameras, one in each corner of the rink. That brings us up to 22 cameras of figure skating, and that is really going to help the viewer better understand the rotations on those jumps that determine their scores.”

Solomon added: “We are also using stro-motion, athlete tracking technology for enhanced replay packages. So I think that all in all is going to come across as a really enhanced figure skating broadcast.

Then up in snowboarding, we are going to have raw motion data tracking, and that means that you’ll be able to see the jump height in the halfpipe which is really cool. At alpine we have added motion sensors to give us even better (measurements of) wind and speed.”

Solomon then closed with her thoughts about Covid and large scale remotes: ‘We’ve got a built‑in expertise on how to mount large‑scale remote productions.  The Beijing model is going to be very similar to our Tokyo in that the heartbeat of our Olympic operation will actually be in Stamford, Connecticut, at NBC Sports headquarters.  We’ll have more personnel there than in the host city. Just with COVID’s changing conditions it’s just added a layer of complexity to all of this.  So we need to make sure that we can provide the same quality experience to the American viewers.  So that’s why we’re split between the two cities.

But as we tell our team, we’re nimble, we’re flexible and we’re ready to pivot.  But I have to say something significant has changed virtually every day for the last three months, forcing us to adjust our plan numerous times.  And I expect that to continue.  And so will the challenge of covering these Olympics.”

Closing Thoughts 

If you have never been involved in a large scale sporting event you gotta try it if you can at least once. As a live sports TD and director I can say without a doubt live sports production has been one of the best experiences of my career except for that tornado. At the end of the day no matter the type of production you are on, it is all about the people you get the privilege to work with. But circling back to Glen, I think he sums it up best: 

“The Super Bowl is exciting and demands much attention.  NEP has been fortunate to be involved with many Super Bowls over the years, and the success of these productions must be attributed to many people paying attention to the details in planning and execution. Our team is focused from the very beginning, using their talent to prep wisely and follow through with careful execution on site.  From behind the scenes, from our excellent coordinators and field shop personnel to our on site expert tech managers, engineers, and drivers, each person brings years of experience and talent. I am proud of each one – their dedication, contributions, and hard work during what has been challenging times are outstanding.” 

That’s what I’m saying! Give credit where credit is due. Oh, and here is the coolest list of mobile trucks and production gear I mentioned earlier. Enjoy! 

Glen Levines Way Too Cool Truck and Gear List

MOBILE UNITS 

  • Mobile Units/NBC:                   
  • ND1 A, B, C, D – Super Bowl
  • ND7 A, B, D – Super Bowl
  • SS5, ST5, ND7C – Pregame/Postgame 
  • Black & Red – Super Bowl Experience
  • SS18 – Lake Set at Super Bowl
  • SS3 – Lake Set Green Room                          

Mobile Units/NFL Films:           

  • SS9, ST9 – Super Bowl World Feed
  • Super B, Cable Truck 2 – Super Bowl                   

Other Mobile Units:                  

  • Summit, ST35 – NFL Honors

EQUIPMENT / NEP Fletcher NBC:

  • 2 Sony P31 Robotic Booth Cameras
  • 5 Sony P50 Robotic Hallway Cameras
  • 7 Sony 4800 Camera Systems (High Frame Rate 4K Zoom extraction) 
  • 2 Goal Line Systems
  • 2 Side Line Systems
  • 2 “Over the End Zone” Systems
  • 1 High Endzone
  • 5 Sony 4500 Servers
  • 1 Sony P43 Camera system (2x HFR/ 4K on skycam)
  • 6 4K Dreamchip POV’s (3 on each end zone back line for 4K zoom extraction replays)
  • 2 PeaPod 500 Goal Post Robotic systems with Virtual Graphics interface (Goal Post robos)
  • 2 Dreamchip POV’s (Coaches Cameras)

NFL Network:

  • 1 Sony P31 1080P robotic system for Red Carper Show
  • 1 Sony P31 1080P robotic system for in-stadium beauty shots 

NEP Broadcast Sports International (BSI)













Description

SoFi FNIA

Santa Monica

SoFi Game

Totals

1.4 RF Cameras

 

3

 

3

Sony P1 box camera

 

2

 

2

Return Video TXs

 

3

 

3

Return Video RXs

 

4

 

4

1.4 GHz wireless mics (Blue Steels)

14

3

 

17

1.4 GHz LAV mics (MIC1500)

5

0

0

5

High Power PLs

5

1

2

8

High Power IFBs

12

3

3

18

Handheld Radios

90

6

6

96

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