Fox Sports kicks off postseason with 1080p HDR production for NFC Wild Card

Additional technologies will be introduced each round

After one of the NFL’s most unpredictable regular seasons in recent memory, the schedule has moved to 2022 and the remaining 14 franchises will face off to play Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13. Despite the upset wins and shocking upsets witnessed over the past four months, Fox Sports’ relentless commitment to technological ingenuity will most certainly continue throughout the playoffs.

“The best way to describe what our playoff coverage will look like is to take Thusday night football, all of a game on Sunday, and put it in one package,” says Kevin Callahan, Vice President, Field Operations and Engineering, Fox Sports. “We are working on some things behind the scenes to improve the viewing experience.”

Sunny Sunday in Tampa: Bucs-Eagles joker game to get UHD HDR production

Without wasting any time, Fox Sports will kick off their playoff slate with a full 1080p HDR production of the first NFC doubleheader Wild Card Game of Sunday. The decision was influenced by Fox Sports’ continued support for widespread 1080p HDR and 4K HDR presentations of some of the most high-profile games in sports: last season’s NFL playoffs, the 2021 MLB All-Star Game in July, MLB 2021 at Field of Dreams game in early August, MLS 2021 All-Star Game in late August, MLB 9/11 in September, to name a few. To heighten the effort, the team will enhance the camera complement normally deployed for its major NFL games and TNF, including two additional high frame rate cameras and a total of 12 pylon cameras with six in each end zone. The added technology will also provide views of each backline for coverage of all boundaries.

Encore from Game Creek Video (Units A, B, and C), the main Thursday night football production unit, will be positioned outside the Raymond James stadium and will lead the Wild Card production. Given its size and ability to house a large number of technologies, the team will have additional EVS operators on site and not have to worry about using another truck to accommodate the increase.

As the playoffs progress to the NFC Championship on Sunday, January 30, the broadcaster will be upgrading its arsenal for improved angles. A Megalodon system will be deployed for the first two rounds, but the penultimate round will receive a second. A platform will track on-field action, sideline interactions and end zone celebrations after touchdowns; the other will be responsible for capturing the energy of the place.

“It’s going to be mostly atmospheric and will be in the crowd for fan photos,” Callahan says. “We want to get [those scenes] in order to translate the match day environment for fans watching at home.

Additionally, the Line to Gain 2.0 — a pylon camera developed with C360 and 3G Wireless — will be located at the line of scrimmage.

Vault Workflow: Travel Delays Require More Remote Operators

As in the regular season, the Los Angeles Vault will be a vital source for remote workflows used throughout the playoffs. The first game in Tampa, Florida, for example, will rely on six EVS operators and one of three graphics operators located in the Vault. While the offsite effort has been essential throughout the season, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and Omicron’s most recent surge has impacted workflows. Specifically, nationwide travel disruptions have made the safe an even more valuable asset.

“We had people who couldn’t attend games,” Callahan notes. “We would cover them by adding positions in the vault. We have been protected against COVID within the mobile units in terms of social distancing, masks and testing, and we have not had to make any significant changes. But we are always ready to add [more health and safety restrictions] if we need it.

If flight cancellations and other forms of delay continue into the next month, the vault will be the broadcaster’s saving grace. Another logistical challenge, the nature of the playoffs generates countless permutations. Based on the NFC side of the medium and the results of the first round, the production team could work in a wide variety of stadiums for the NFC Championship: the freezing temperatures of Green Bay, a more comfortable setting in Dallas, the hot climate from Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay, subtropical Tampa. If the road leads to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, it will be a quick turnaround to get out of the compound and let NBC Sports set up its infrastructure for the final game on the NFL schedule.

“It would be a very interesting storyline if it played out that way,” Callahan adds. “He’s gotten really close a few times over the last 10 years.”

Stay Focused: Fox Sports to Maximize Playoff Coverage with Eye on Super Bowl LVII

2021-22 can be seen as an improvement over the 2020-21 campaign, but it was radically different from the years before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Travel issues, game postponements and rescheduling contests to weekdays, Fox Sports has overcome its share of hurdles. Despite the obstacles, many positives emerged from all these productions.

“It wasn’t the COVID-free season everyone was hoping for, but everyone did a fantastic job of getting these games out,” Callahan said. “At the start of the season, one of the key drivers [of our broadcasts] highlighted, heard and made fans back in the stands part of the experience. I think we really took that into account.

These small victories have come together to create a large-scale achievement, leading to a landmark year for Fox Sports. Most notably, the broadcaster will begin work toward c LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ on February 12, 2023. Prior to that day, the primary goal is to deliver a full production of the current playoff slate.

“We’re really excited about some of the things we’ve been able to do this season, including drone coverage,” Callahan says. “We’re still looking towards our Super Bowl year, and a lot of our testing will start in the preseason next year, but we don’t want to compromise our playoff game coverage at all. “

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coverage against the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC Wild Card Game at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, January 16 will begin with Fox NFL Kickoff at 11 a.m. ET. Stay tuned for more SVG NFL Playoffs 2022 coverage in the coming days.

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