Background: Bexel has a history of supporting the world’s largest live sporting events, so it was no surprise that when FOX Sports needed engineering and broadcast solutions for the days of live coverage leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII and the network’s pre-game coverage, they called in Bexel. Also, part of the network’s game plan was Autoscript teleprompters, Litepanels LED fixtures, and a mix of Vinten and Sachtler camera supports using Anton/Bauer batteries and chargers, which all contributed to the precise execution of one of the biggest days in American sports.
Challenge: Provide the major conduits and high-quality, reliable broadcast solutions between several key locales, including MetLife Stadium, Times Square, and Manhattan’s Millennium Hotel, that were vital to the broadcasts of the Super Bowl week.
Solution: Bexel brought a team of 20 engineers and technicians to link a new street-level studio in Times Square (part of NYC’s “Super Bowl Boulevard”) to a file-based edit facility inside Manhattan’s Millennium Hotel, and to a similar studio set and edit facility inside MetLife Stadium, in New Jersey (where the game took place). Both FOX Sports studios were also outfitted with Litepanels 1x1 and Sola series LED fixtures, and Autoscript and Vinten.
This year’s production, seen by 111.5 million people, leveraged a special and highly portable fiber-optic cabling infrastructure, provided by Bexel. This included two 72-strand runs in Times Square connecting the street set with the edit facility at the nearby Millennium Hotel and the facilities in MetLife Stadium, a few miles away. There was also several thousand feet of fiber at the Stadium linking various production pieces together. Bexel also provided conversion boxes and signal distribution technology to move signals from one place to the other.
Of course, keeping track of all those fiber feeds was another major challenge, but Bexel solved it by setting up a 32-channel IPTV system, which allowed FOX Sports personnel to monitor the various incoming and outgoing program feeds between locations. In fact, the Millennium Hotel and MetLife stadium had identical 16-channel units set up, and both worked seamlessly together without a glitch.
Bexel also worked with a third-party post-production company called Thumbwar, (based in Calif.) to set up a fully working edit workflow—complete with content stored on a 48 TB SAN—for production of graphics and video packages. Inside a seventh floor suite at the Millennium, Bexel staff worked with Thumbwar to network eight Apple Final Cut Pro workstations, two Autodesk Smoke systems, and several Adobe After Effects systems, in addition to ingest and logging stations. FOX Sports staff also had seamless access to the network inside MetLife Stadium as well. In fact, the Bexel/Thumbwar team configured two mirrored systems so that editors could work from either location without missing a beat.
Litepanels fixtures used on set during pre-game festivities and the Super Bowl itself provided big benefits for the crew and talent. In particular, FOX Sports has been a big fan of the Sola 6 Fresnel fixtures, which provide the performance of a large Fresnel (the industry workhorse in terms of lighting), but operate a lot cooler and with less power due to the unit’s built-in LED technology. The daylight-balanced Sola 6 also offers FOX Sports the controllability and light-shaping properties inherent in a Fresnel light. The fixtures draw a small fraction of the power of conventional Fresnel fixtures, and like the rest of Sola Series, provides Litepanels’ full-spectrum of quality light.
Bexel’s Engineered Services and Solutions (ESS) also provided engineering, fiber-management services and a variety of equipment for ESPN and NFL Films during the run-up to Super Bowl. Justin Paulk, Fiber Business Segment manager for Bexel ESS, said that FOX Sports utilized 73 individual fiber-optic cables, and NFL Films used 96 fiber cables. The individual fiber optic strands would extend over 438 miles if barreled together.
For all the teleprompter needs, Autoscript was on Vinten supports for the studio positions at MetLife and Times Square. Designed with purpose, the Autoscript prompting software allowed for essential updates during the game.
Vinten 750 heads and HDT tripods and Quattro pedestals, provided by Game Creek, were at each site, smoothly capturing the game action and reports from the studio.
Sactler systems, using Anton/Bauer batteries, were used by mobile crews to capture viewers’ opinions out in Times Square. Sachtler gear allowed the crew to set up and capture the moments quickly, while providing a sturdy foundation. Anton/Bauer’s RealTime display provided reliable mobile power, helping operators monitor the batteries’ charges, so they didn’t have to worry about stopping in the middle of a crucial take to swap out the battery.
“The challenge was providing enough capacity to move those HD signals back and forth, and doing it redundantly to ensure reliability. Bexel helped out a great deal in planning and implementing that infrastructure and figuring out the logistics of making it all work, including what equipment we’d need to do what we needed to accomplish.”
“At FOX Sports we’re focused on efficiency and have used Litepanels 1x1 panels and Sola 6 fixtures in our production booth and field studios for four years. We like that they don’t run hot and don’t require much power. On this Super Bowl production, we had them in great abundance in New York’s Times Square and at MetLife Stadium for programming leading up to kickoff. We also used them during the game on our portable Super Bowl set on the field, which was vital for operating such a large OB unit.”
“There were no major problems on this project, on either side of the Hudson River, and that’s all due to the fine engineers and production staff that made it happen. … It was good seeing everyone working together for the benefit of fans around the world.”
Mike Davies, vice president of Field and Technical Operations for FOX Sports