When Bob Becker, executive vice president of Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment, was working at his first Super Bowl XXIX in 1995 on the in-venue video show it was pretty easy to keep track of the production team. Why? It only had two people.
“The technology has changed, the game has changed, and the business of game presentation has changed as well,” says Becker. For today’s big game a team of 45 has been working hard for months and many have been on site for more than two weeks, working closely with the AMB Sports + Entertainment team to ensure fans today get a great experience.
“We are going to take the Halo board and use it as a canvas to create dynamic content and game presentation for the fans that has never been done before,” he says.
Julie Chongarlides will serve as TD at Super Bowl LIII, a role she also handles for Atlanta Falcons games.
Topping the list will be four 360-degree videos that have been especially created for the Halo board which is a 360-degree circular video board hanging in the middle of the stadium.
“They were edited for the entire circumference of the board with pictures popping all over the place,” he says. “It is very dynamic and a complete sensory experience.”
The VWSE team works closely with the in-house video department as that team is well versed with the control rooms, how to get the most out of the boards, and more.
“We look to the teams for general direction on how these use the board as we don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “And one of the advantages we have is we don’t have a lot of sponsors and we don’t have to window out sections of the board for sponsors. So, we can really be creative.”
Becker says that for the Super Bowl there are three simultaneous shows being produced by three teams: the game presentation, the up-to-the-second stats for the game, and then a show for the ribbon board that complements the other two shows.
The VWSE team has worked in the board previously for the 2018 College Football Championship Game between the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia. One of the challenges then was the scoreboard control room only had one Ross Xpression Tessera system which is used to deliver content to the Halo. With only one system the team could not upload content and create it at the same time.
“But now the stadium has a second Tessera system so we can load content onto one system while creating content on the other,” he says.
The group of 45 includes additional editors, producers, and also a team from Ross Video that helps out with augmented reality and Ross Xpression graphics.
“It takes more and more people to keep the show to the level of expectations,” says Becker. “People said last year’s show was one of the best game presentations.”
Key to the success is the merging of the VWSE team with the local venue team and Becker has a bit of an advantage this time around as he previously worked with Pete Soto, AMB Sports + Entertainment Group, senior director of game presentation, in Miami for the Florida Marlins.
“I’m proud to be able to share this with Pete and he has put together a great team here,” says Becker. “The support has been unprecedented.”
l-to-r VWSE staffers, Executive Producer Brian Scott and Director Ryan Kehn and Julie Chongarlides who is with the AMB Sports + Entertainment team are on the front bench for Super Bowl LIII’s in-venue show.
The team on the front bench exemplifies the cooperation as it includes two VWSE staffers, Executive Producer Brian Scott and Director Ryan Kehn and Julie Chongarlides who is with the AMB Sports + Entertainment team and will technical direct on the show.
“I’m very excited to be the technical director for Super Bowl LIII,” says Chongarlides. “It’s an awesome opportunity and I’m very excited.”
Chongarlides serves as TD for the Atlanta Falcons games and also spent half a season as TD for Atlanta United. Midway through the season she became director of the United games and also directed the MLS Cup for 74,000 fans. She will once again get to tell the story for a packed house and she, Kehn, and Scott will have 18 cameras to work with as well as four network feeds, giving them a total of 22 sources.
Chongarlides also has a lot of experience creating videos for the Halo board. She says there are 11 looks the team works with, including a 180-degree canvas that measures 10,000 pixels across and 1080 pixels high. She has learned to shoot really wide, even when the video is running on a quarter of the screen as that still measures 5042×1080.
“When we produced the ‘We Ready’ video for Atlanta United we shot closeups of their faces but when you scale it gets really close, so you just need to shoot very wide,” she says.
The extra help also extends to vendor support. Gaines Johnson, Evertz, field applications engineer, Dreamcatcher, has been on site to ensure the Dreamcatcher replay systems are running at full speed.
“We have seven playout systems here and we flipped over the 4K recording to HD so that there are 21 HD records and four three-times slo-mo records,” he says. Replay operations are broken down with one replay operator in charge of first look replays, another handling packages, another looking at high-frame records, another at output, and then two others building AFC and NFC packages.