The biggest differences between the Super Bowl and a regular “Sunday Night Football” game come before the kickoff, according to NBC Sports producer Fred Gaudelli.
“The 30 minutes that lead up to [Super Bowl] kickoff is something you don’t deal with on a regular Sunday night game,” Mr. Gaudelli explained. “You don’t have choreographed team entrances, you don’t have a live performance of ‘America the Beautiful’ and the national anthem, you don’t have a Walter Payton Award ceremony on the field, you don’t have the ceremonial coin toss.”
Mr. Gaudelli said getting those ceremonies to run smoothly so that they look good and don’t delay the start of the game requires planning and rehearsal.
“That really takes up a lot of time for something that really doesn’t have any impact on the game, but has an impact on covering the spectacle which is the Super Bowl,” he said.
Mr. Gaudelli and his team are getting ready to cover Sunday’s Super Bowl faceoff in Tampa, Fla., between the well-known Pittsburgh Steelers and the not-so-familiar Arizona Cardinals, a team that didn’t appear on “Sunday Night Football” this season. In fact, Mr. Gaudelli said, he hasn’t produced a Cardinals game since 2000 and spent part of last week watching several of the NFC team’s games from this season.
NBC plans to bring a high school football team out to Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Friday to put them through the paces of plays both teams will run so that the production staff can plan how to shoot them.
“We put them in the offensive and defensive sets of both teams and have them mimic the plays that each team will run, so our camera guys can get familiarized with the plan that we have put in to cover a Troy Polamalu or the zone blitz of the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Cardinals’ four-wide offense,” Mr. Gaudelli said.
Right From the Start
Before the game starts, NBC is changing the way the team comes onto the field. Instead of airing a video montage as the players come out of the locker room, Mr. Gaudelli will have live cameras follow them until they get to the mouth of the tunnel that leads to the gridiron.
“We’re going to watch the faces of the players and see the intensity and who looks ready, who looks a little nervous. It’s probably similar to the way you would cover the entrance of the fighters in a heavyweight championship,” he said. “That will be a little different. That will be something people haven’t seen. How dramatic it will be, I don’t know. I have a sense that it will be.”
Once the game starts, there will be few gimmicks. NBC will have 30 cameras, instead of the 20 it used during the regular season, and 12 parabolic sideline microphones instead of the usual six.
“Every play has a chance to be a play that no one will ever forget, like the Tyree play last year,” Mr. Gaudelli said, referring to the moment when Giants receiver David Tyree pinned the ball to his forehead in making a crucial catch in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII. “That is in the front of your mind, and that’s why you add extra equipment, so you might have better looks at those types of plays.”
NBC also will employ three ultra-super-slow-motion cameras that shoot three times faster than regular super-slow-motion cameras, and will place cameras at the corners of the end zones.
“You put cameras in places that could provide defining looks at critical plays. Is someone in or out of bounds? Did the ball break the plane of the goal line? Was he inside the pylon?” Mr. Gaudelli said.
But even if there were a thousand cameras, there remains a chance that the best view will get blocked by a body, he said.
NBC will be using new 3-D graphics and a more uptempo version of its musical theme.
“To make it feel like the Super Bowl, and the spectacle that the Super Bowl is, you have to package the ins and outs of the Super Bowl to give it that really big feel and make people feel that, ‘Wow, this isn’t a normal Sunday game. This is a huge American event.’ And that’s how I approach the Super Bowl,” Mr. Gaudelli said.