This Super Bowl, ‘doink cameras’ and augmented reality await TV viewers

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Fans who watch the Super Bowl on TV on Sunday will have an enhanced experience thanks to new camera technology, some of it in augmented reality, that CBS will use in its broadcast of the big game.

“Technology will be the star” of Super Bowl LVIII, Harold Bryant, executive vice president of production at CBS Sports, said during a media session last week.

The Paramount Global

network is sending 1,000 staff members to Las Vegas, where the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs will face off at Allegiant Stadium amid a caravan of production trucks and mountains of video and audio equipment. Some 200 people will also work on the telecast remotely.

Put simply, the broadcast will be defined by high-definition TV cameras.

CBS Sports plans to use a record 165 cameras, many of them high-definition 4K-resolution, during the game, according to Patty Power, executive vice president of operations and engineering at CBS Sports. Robotic cameras perched atop the Strat, Planet Hollywood and Mandalay Bay hotels and the Sphere concert venue will offer panoramic views of the Las Vegas Strip during the game. An array of high-definition cameras will cover shots from Allegiant Stadium’s ceiling, goal lines and end-zone pylons.

But the “doink cameras” may create the most buzz. These cameras, set into the uprights in both end zones, will be able to capture never-before-seen angles of field goals and extra points — including the missed field goals that make a “doink” sound when they hit the uprights or crossbar of the goalpost.

The uprights will each have three of these cameras facing the field at different angles. CBS was granted permission by the NFL to embed the cameras after it submitted engineering plans to prove to the league that the integrity of the goalposts wouldn’t be affected, said Jason Cohn, vice president of remote technical operations at CBS Sports.

The network tested the doink cameras during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and the New York Jets, and during an October regular-season game at Allegiant Stadium.

Another new camera, the “Red Cat cam,” manufactured by RED Digital Cinema, will be set up in the stadium’s catwalks above the field to offer a bird’s-eye view of the goal line.

For the first time, this year’s Super Bowl will also feature an alternative telecast, a kids-themed Nickelodeon broadcast that fuses the live football action with the augmented-reality world of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

The blend of technology and storytelling will “blow people away” with the “ultimate in family viewing experience,” said Shawn Robbins, coordinating producer of “Super Bowl LVIII: Live from Bikini Bottom.”

How the AR cameras are used will be of particular interest to Joshua Pendrick, chief executive of Rypplzz, a 3-D spatial-mapping system that creates “intelligent airspace” in a physical setting that hopes to be available later this year — and in future Super Bowls.

When the technology becomes available later this year, it will “greatly enhance the fans’ experience” at a sporting event, said Pendrick, who offered a couple of potential uses: Fans might get a virtual visit from an athlete to sign a digital autograph, he said, or tailored special merchandise deals at an event.

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