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Tuesday, 19 February 2013 13:51

Capturing Live Events

Written by  Gordon Meyer
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super_bowl_2013_p3 The live broadcast of a major sports event can provide plenty of technical and creative challenges. And when the event is as high profile as the Super Bowl, which combines a football game, a half-time show worthy of Broadway, and an audience of hundreds of millions, the stakes are even higher. To prepare for the Super Bowl’s expansive broadcast schedule and telecast from New Orleans, several networks turned to broadcast equipment rental company Bexel to handle their on-site production needs and fiber infrastructure.

Super Bowl coverage involves a lot more than the game itself. CBS, the official network home of the event, broadcasts the game and special Super Bowl episodes of popular CBS shows, including “The Talk,” “CBS This Morning,” “Eye on Football,” “ROME,” “Super Bowl Live,” “Lead Off,” “CBS Evening News” and “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson.”   Preparation for the broadcast began a full week in advance as the Bexel and CBS teams created a New Orleans production base with edit capabilities, equipment rentals, engineering support and fiber. Avid editing bays were set up in an office trailer on the grounds of the Superdome to handle production needs and ensure support throughout Super Bowl weekend. Bexel also outfitted BBS1, the company’s 53-foot edit truck and fully configurable production platform, with multiple linear edit bays and extensive graphics support. Lane Robbins, Bexel’s engineer in charge, supervised the installation of ancillary equipment, including cameras, super-slow-motion systems, monitors, tape machines, lenses and EVS servers, in order to help CBS capture and broadcast all of the week’s events.

The technical requirements of the production required Bexel and CBS to set up temporary broadcast centers at three separate locations: the Superdome, Jackson Square (located in the French Quarter about a mile from the Superdome) and Morial Convention Center. The fiber-optic infrastructure at Jackson Square allowed for connectivity over the entire park for four separate and independent sets. “The broadcast compound is isolated from Jackson Square, with Decatur Street being open to the public,” says Justin Paulk, Bexel’s fiber-optic business segment manager. “Bexel was asked to provide a solution to establish temporary connectivity. Collectively, we decided the best solution would be to deploy our 72-strand fiber from each mobile unit to its associated set. The result is that each set had a 72-strand fiber with a ‘glass cow’ sitting next to it.” From each glass cow, which Paulk describes as a breakout fiber-patch panel, 40 short 200-foot TAC-12 single-mode fiber cables extended out to audio, video and camera feeds. All connectivity crossing the street was made via 288 single-mode strands.

To efficiently accommodate the needs of various shows and production sets, Bexel’s Engineering Systems and Solutions (ESS) Project Manager Andy Berry oversaw the Jackson Square setup while Paulk managed the compound. To expedite connectivity, Bexel provided one college booth fiber kit to each stage, providing 18 HD video, 48 audio, coms with integrated SAP panels and rewetters for IFB. Throughout the Morial Convention Center’s “radio row,” the Bexel team provided editing facilities and storage for the extensive live-radio programming. In addition, Camera Corps Q-Balls and Sony XDCAMS were utilized to capture overhead shots on the floor of the convention center.

Bexel’s T2 fiber trailer supplied connectivity for NFL Films and more than 30 broadcast affiliates. As in years past, Bexel provided optical connectivity for all of the local media and still photography groups, including paths from various locations within the stadium, such as the catwalk and workspaces of the various news agencies covering the game. “Historically, we have monitored all signals coming off the field with the DA infrastructure we build into the truck and Evertz VIPs,” says Perry Sanderson of Bexel fiber technical sales. “This year, however, we rolled in our pre-built Evertz EMR 128x128 Magnum Router, which includes six VIP-Xs and internal patching. This allowed us to not only monitor the signals coming from the field, but also to look at feeds coming off the scaffolding.”

For several years, Bexel has provided remote broadcast resources to CBS for the Super Bowl, and each year the job becomes increasingly complex. As a live event watched by hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide, it’s crucial that everything comes off without a hitch, even after unforeseen snafus like this year’s 30-minute power blackout. “This year was our largest effort to date, demonstrating the tremendous growth we’ve experienced with our broadcast partnerships,” says Lee Estroff, Bexel’s VP of business development. Estroff adds that many different elements played a part in making Super Bowl Week a reality. The seamless contributions from a small army of technicians, engineers and creative staff were integral to successfully achieve an epic broadcast.
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