Last year, the Super Bowl had “only” 40 cameras. A year later, that just won’t do.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the world’s biggest sporting event, CBS Sports is unveiling a 70-camera system that includes some truly remarkable technology that’s sure to make this year’s game a joy to watch no matter the outcome of the game itself.
In addition to an updated skycam and pylon cams, CBS will introduce viewers to Eye Vision 360, a replay camera that can freeze any aspect of the game and revolve 360-degrees around the play to offer viewers at home a first-person view of any play or player.
If it sounds like fantasy or like something out of The Matrix, it isn’t. It’s just a lot of cameras synced together!
There will be 36 cameras ringing Levi’s Field, each shooting the event in 5K resolution to create a single 360-degree view. And, since the technology will be used for replays, it has the capability of superimposing the virtual first-down lines that we’ve grown accustomed to as well.
With all the camera innovations happening this year, it’s exciting to think about where home viewing of NFL football will be in a few more years!
The Super Bowl’s golden anniversary in Santa Clara—in the heart of Silicon Valley—will be no exception. CBS Sports is debuting new technology in its suite of 70 cameras being used to film the 2016 game; last year only 40 video cameras were used to capture the 2015 Super Bowl. (That’s 75 percent more cameras, if you didn’t want to do the math.) Old favorites—like the SkyCam—are back with some impressive updates, and totally new technology is also readying for its debut.
Introducing: Eye Vision 360
This new replay camera can freeze on any moment and revolve around the play to provide a first-person point of view of any player on the field. So you can watch from the perspective of the quarterback struggling to stay in the pocket, all captured with stunning 5K resolution cameras, the highest resolution ever used to film the big game.
Eye Vision 360 works with 36 cameras strung together along the top deck of Levi’s Stadium. The cameras are bunched toward the red zone at around the 25 yard line. “The idea is that these cameras are looking at the whole field,” says Ken Aagaard, Executive Vice President at CBS Sports Operations and Engineering.
“So with the higher resolution, when the system renders itself it can zoom in on the screen. And it’s the software in the background giving you the ability to freeze the scene and wrap around it for that Matrix look.”
Another impressive feature these cameras are capable of is superimposing a virtual line in the play, like a transparent pane of glass. That ability to add a graphic, combined with the 360-degree rotation around the play, means fans will be able to see if the ball goes past that transparent pane. Since there are 36 cameras all working to render into single 360 view, the technology isn’t for live broadcast, but the idea is that it will take replay video to the next level.
Pylon Cameras Make Their Debut
Another new camera making its Super Bowl debut this year: the pylon camera. For those less familiar with the setup of a football field, a pylon is the rectangular orange marker placed in the corners of the end zone to help players and fans see the boundaries of the goalline.
Eight custom-molded pylons will be stuffed with two high-resolution cameras each, giving fans a field-level view of the game in 2K resolution. These cameras are also tricked out with microphones to help capture the natural sound of the field.
Pylon cameras were first used last September, but 2016 are their Super Bowl debut. “It has the potential to make a difference in a call, especially right there on the sideline in the corner of the endzone,” says Aagaard. “And considering these cameras can capture a player’s feet as they pass the goal line, they may help to determine the outcome of the game.”
The pylon cams aren’t going to replace traditional sideline filming. Fans can still expect to see camera operators walking around the field and down the goal line, cart cameras running up and down, and others that are positioned no more than five inches off the ground.
A Serious SkyCam Update
Everybody loves SkyCam. The aerial camera technology was first introduced to Super Bowl fans in 1984, but didn’t become regularly used by the NFL until around 2001. While vast improvements have been made over the years, the SkyCam system being used at 50th Super Bowl might put those tweaks to shame.
Last year the team at SkyCam unveiled a new version of the flying camera system called the Wildcat that could travel at speeds nearly twice as fast the previous version. The Wildcat SkyCam can soar through the air at speeds that surpass 25 miles-per-hour—that means the camera can outrun the players.
“If you look at the next-gen stats, you’ve got guys running at 18-20 miles per hour,” said Stephen Wharton, CTO of SkyCam. “You can give everyone a view of what the quarterback is looking at with his play down the field and the camera can keep up with the play, traveling down field with him.”
The SkyCam is just a single camera, but it operates on a web of wires, securely harnessed above the game. Still, it gets pretty close to the players, enabling some amazing shots. “Depending on where you are in the game and what’s happening, the NFL likes for us to stay a minimum of 12 feet from the ground,” reported Endre Buxton, CEO of SkyCam. “However, we can drop lower than that if we stay 20 yards behind an active player.”
One of the biggest challenges with an aerial camera that zips across the sky at crazy speeds is stabilization. SkyCam uses a fully active four axis stabilization system, which each have feedback loops that are likewise stabilized. “It’s our job to make sure that the motion that the camera is experiencing is canceled out, to make sure you see a solid picture at home,” said Wharton.
And of course, the aerial camera is also equipped with microphones—so get ready to clearly hear each and every helmet clash come February 7.