This year’s NFL Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be produced by CBS with potential footage from 120 video cameras.
That incredible number includes 18 robotic cameras, 32 cameras embedded into endzone pylons, 3 sky cams, and a new “Trolley Cam,” as well as manually operated cams (let’s keep those videographers working!) and 25 super slow motion angles.
The new Trolley Cam will give the view that a spectator might have of the field from the eighth row of the stands. And, a 53-foot “Movie Bird” crane will give a sweeping view of the entire field at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
In addition, CBS is using Sony Venice cameras on the field to create a “dramatic cinematographic feel” to the coverage. We’ve seen similar shots in the 2020/2021 NFL season, but this will be the first time the Sony Venice cameras have been used to cover a Super Bowl.
Also contributing to the production of Super Bowl LV are 12 cameras with 4k and 8k capabilities that provide “enhanced replay angles.”
But while there will be some 4k and 8k footage captured at the Super Bowl, the big game will not be broadcast in 4k by CBS. This is disappointing news for 4k and 8k TV owners who may have been looking forward to (and maybe even purchased a TV for) this year’s Super Bowl.
Why is Super Bowl LV not being broadcast in 4k? CBS claims it mainly has to do with Covid-19 and the restrictions social distancing has placed on producing the live event in 4k. But it seems to be more than that, especially considering CBS has never produced an NFL game in 4k.
While boasting an incredible production with 120 cameras, new special effects (see the “Sea and Sand” Super Bowl graphic), and use of 4k and 8k cameras, CBS for some reason is not able to even upscale the live event to 4k.
Upscale you ask? Yes, upscaled. A fully covered live event of this scale and production value is just not possible yet in 4k. However, FOX was able to broadcast a very high quality Super Bowl last year using 4k cameras and all the special angles and replays we expect, as well as multiple games throughout the 2020/2021 season, only produced in 2k and upscaled to 4k.
The results, even though upscaled, are stunning. A 4k image, even from an upscaled 2k image, provides a level of sharpness we’ve never seen before on broadcast television. And with the HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) HDR spec that is available on most HDR TVs, there is a color depth that by far exceeds any non-HDR broadcasts.
A fully native 4k broadcast is possible though, as we have seen other sporting events with limited cameras produce 4k broadcasts that stay 2160p all the way to your TV. The production quality (replays, camera angles, etc.) is just is not as good as a game in HD.
The lack of a 4k Super Bowl doesn’t mean you may as well return your 4k or 8k TV, as both display types are capable of some impressive upscaling (albeit from less than desirable source material from cable and satellite companies, which unfortunately still only deliver 720i/1080i video), and TV settings such as Sports Mode that can display incredible color saturation and refresh rates.
See some of the cameras and angles used for Super Bowl LV below (courtesy CBS).