Fox Sports Ops Team Prepares for Super Bowl LVII, Eyes Busy Fall Season with FIFA World Cup Crossover

The MLB Postseason, college football and NASCAR are also on the schedule

With rights to the NFL, MLB Postseason and high-profile college football, Fox Sports always has a packed fall calendar. This year, however, the broadcaster is taking logistical Tetris to a whole new level with the FIFA World Cup and Super Bowl LVII. Add in NASCAR’s season-opening Clash at the Coliseum and the Daytona 500 bookending Super Bowl LVII, and the enormous task ahead of Fox Sports’ operations team becomes clear.

“We don’t have that big [staff] as one might think,” says Mike Davis, SVP, Field & Technical Management & Operations/Chairman, Sports Video Group, Fox Sports. “Fortunately, we have some amazing people — both on staff and freelance — to make sure we’re ready for what’s going to be a very crazy late ’22 and early ’23. We’ve got a lot of sorting out to do and that it definitely thins us out, but it’s all about planning, prioritizing and finding the best people in the industry to work with us.

Fox Sports Key Operating Leaders — Senior Vice President, Field Operations and Engineering, Kevin Callahan; Vice President, Field Operations and Engineering, Brad Chaney; Vice President, Studio Remote Operations, Rod Conti; and Director, Technical Operations, Dave Jones — have plenty of experience in big events, but the broadcaster is using its stacked fall schedule to further integrate future leaders.

“With this [run of events]we are taking the opportunity to delegate some key roles to our next generation of department leaders: [Director, Remote Engineering] Matt Battaglia; [Director, Remote Operations,] Rob Mikulicka; [Senior Manager, Technical and Field Ops,] Lindsey Wayne; [Executive Director, Field Operations,] Sarita Meinking; Director, NFL Operations, Ted Kenney; and Director, Remote Operations, Phil Abrahams.

Davis congratulates the crew department. Led by Vice President, Crew Operations, Stacey Sunny, Director, Crewing, NFL, Michael Marble; and Director, Crewing, CFB, John Stapleton coordinates a list of people numbering in the thousands per week, he points out. “Their expertise is literally what drives the productions we make.”

Fox Sports Vault: Increased resources, same number of employees

Game Creek Video Encore Mobile is back for NFL on FOX Game of the Year; GCV Bravo, the B game. This year, everyone NFL on FOX games will also be produced and broadcast in 1080p. According to Davis, the Fox Sports Vault operation located in the Los Angeles broadcast center will continue to play an important role in NFL production this year.

“Now in its third year as a mainstay for these big shows,” he says, “Vault has allowed us to grow ours [equipment] levels of NFL games — especially when it comes to EVS and graphics devices. Vault is special to us not only because it allows us to add more resources to these shows without increasing headcount or footprint [in the truck onsite] but we believe we’ve also created a fun and comfortable work environment where people genuinely enjoy working.”

In terms of cameras for NFL coverage, Fox released several additional Sony HDC-5500 broadcast cameras and Sony HDC-P50 Steadicams this year. All field level cameras at the A and B games this year will have super slow motion capability – 4X, 6X or 8X – and the broadcaster will continue to look for new opportunities to bring in additional slow motion capabilities as the season progresses. Davies says Skycam will be the standard for the A game this year, with the possibility of several productions featuring dual Skycams.

“Every NFL game — no matter what level the game is for the network — is the most important game of the week for the home team and the away team,” Davis said. “We’re putting an awful lot of resources into not only our A game, but our down market games as well. This includes super motion cameras everywhere, Skycams where possible at these events and various special items to make them feel big so when you watch a game on Fox Sports you know it.”

End Zone Perspective: Expanded Use of C36′ Pylon View Systems

Fox Sports is also looking to continue the deployment of C360 Technologies Pylon View cameras. In a partnership that began last year with the line-to-gain camera, Fox will look to incorporate these systems for its pylon cameras in the end zone. Pylon View offers a 200-degree video perspective of the goal line from the pylon, with the ability to digitally pan, tilt and zoom for a more definitive view of a player scoring a touchdown.

The C360 Time Machine Replay feature allows broadcasters to rewind, reframe and freeze frame a specific game for live TV and OTT platforms. Because this position requires the operator to both shadow the camera and create replays, C360 works with Program Productions Inc. (PPI) to train a full fleet of camera operators for the Pylon View end zone this year.

“This year we’re using the C360 cameras in the end zone, which gives us that pan, tilt and zoom [functionality] almost like a miniature robo on the pylons,” says Davis. “Even better, because you’re capturing the entire volume of a large paramorphic frame, you never miss a thing. I think it will take a few iterations to get used to it and establish the workflow to get things on the air as soon as possible, but early indications are that the C360 end zone pylons will be a big improvement to our coverage.”

Amazon Prime, CBS Sports and ESPN are also using C360 Pylon View systems in various capacities this year.

Time-Synchronized Replays: Sony Hawkeye in Split Screen

Fox Sports is also experimenting with expanding its use of Sony’s Hawkeye officiating technology within its NFL coverage this year. Hawkeye has long been a part of Fox Sports rules analyst Mike Pereiraworkflow for dissecting in-game close calls, and Fox is looking to use it to create split-screen views showing time-synchronized replays.

“We can synchronize multiple replays in the box and play them simultaneously, similar to what they do in the replay booth,” Davis says. “We’re experimenting to see if the same kind of workflow that’s used for officiating can be used to tell a story for an NFL broadcast.” We can have split screen or even quad screen with replays that are fully time synced. You can always do this with other replay devices, but the good thing about the Hawkeye is that it’s built for refereeing from the ground up, [enabling us] to come up with these synchronous repetitions of the same box. We think we can find some great cases where this can inform the fans.”

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