For many American sports fans, and die-hard NFL fanatics specifically, Super Bowl Sunday is the pinnacle of the athletic calendar in the United States. The play on the field and analysis of the game are such topics of obsession, one may get the impression they're all anyone thinks about in late January and early February. However, most fans overlook the production and coverage of the Big Game.
David Pierce is an editor at The Verge, SB Nation's sister technology site. And while many people give no thought to the production that allows them obsess over the climax of the NFL season, Pierce does. He was in New Orleans last week covering the other side of Super Bowl XLVII.
Perhaps one of the most significant technological advances related to the NFL is the adoption of the 4K camera. Despite the ability to access instant replay and conduct video reviews, some plays remain controversial even after an official has upheld or overturned a call. That's because most cameras don't have the power to provide crystal-clear pictures, which means an official may not be able to truly see whether or not a player's knee was down before the ball left his hand or if a bouncing punt grazed a receiving player. With 4K cameras, those problems are resolved.
With four times the pixels comes much-improved clarity, and a 1920 x 1080 cross-section of the image is going to be far sharper than the blurry replays we're used to seeing. The touch-based interface (broadcast systems company) Evertz created also allows the operator to quickly isolate the exact moment in question - CBS also chose (Japanese company and distributor of 4K cameras) For-A in part because the company's cameras shoot up to 500 frames per second - and then pick two spots in the frame, zoom in on both, and quickly switch between them. Ball in hand? Check. Knee down? Check.
While getting the best image possible for instant replays may be getting easier, getting the best image possible for photographs in newspapers and on websites remains a difficult task. Pierce spoke with Peter Read Miller, a long-time Sports Illustrated photographer, who estimated Sunday's game was the 38th Super Bowl he'd covered. Miller explained how trying to capture an iconic Super Bowl image is based on a lot of instinct. And sometimes, a photographer's instinct is wrong:
And Miller knows something about missing the perfect shot. During the Rams / Patriots Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, he had an inkling something was going to happen on the other side of the field. "The Rams were driving away from me, and they were pretty good then. So I said 'Marshall [Faulk] is going to break a big one, and I want to see it.' So I snuck down past the bench, and sure enough, Ty Law intercepts the ball, and runs RIGHT back straight past me."
As anyone who is familiar with photographic coverage of the Super Bowl -- or tired cliches -- knows, a picture is worth a thousand words. By now, fans have seen countless still images from the Baltimore Ravens' 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans' Louisiana/Mercedes-Benz Super Dome. However, many fans might not be familiar with images providing a behind-the-scenes look at the game and the festivities surrounding it.
Pierce spent four days in the Crescent City, and with camera in hand, he documented many of the unseen aspects of Super Bowl XLVII. He captured photos of everything from the NFL Fan Experience to workers intently focused on numerous TVs in a production truck. Pierce's images prove that there's a lot more to the Super Bowl than 60 minutes of football:
Over four days leading up to the Super Bowl, I toured New Orleans to see how the Super Bowl is made, and what happens when hundreds of thousands of loud, proud football fans get together to party. And somewhere in there, I'm pretty sure they played a football game.
Yes, they definitely played a football game, but Pierce shed new light on plenty of other angles to the Super Bowl, too.