FOX NFL Sunday: Behind The Curtain

Illustration for article titled FOX NFL Sunday: Behind The Curtain

David Pierce takes us behind the scenes of Fox NFL Sunday over at the Verge:

This Fox crew will broadcast the Super Bowl in February, and every week leading up to it is an experiment with some new tweak or technology. Most are tried and ignored, or integrated only in small ways. "Ultimately, when it comes down to it," says Callahan, "everything that we're trying to do is about telling a story, and giving the producers and directors the tools that they need to tell that story." Last year, Fox focused on integrating the parabolic mics that now roam the sideline, pointing at players and plays to get hyper-focused audio. Previously it's been graphics, and in 1996 it was the Fox Box — Fox was the first network to have the score displayed at all times in the top corner of the screen, and even other networks refer to it as the Fox Box. This year it's 4K, as Fox seeks a perfect and incontrovertible replay system.

Fox has been using 4K cameras for three years, but not to broadcast the game, which the crew says would be pointless given current bandwidth and TV technology. It's all about replay. "We can do things like zoom in, look at a guy's foot… we can see precisely a nice, solid foot, and a line right there, and know that the guy is in," says Colby Bourgeios, Fox's technical director. This year is about fine-tuning — finding the right camera, the right lens, the right capture and extraction devices. But even when 4K works convincingly, Callahan says, "we need it to be the first or second replay. If we were to sit there and have a 4K replay that we could show two plays later… and that would have reversed the official's call, well, that's awful." He won't add anything to the Fox broadcast that will slow it down, or impede it in any way.

The system as it exists now is astonishing in its immediacy. Russo, Zyontz, and Bourgeios speak in often unintelligible shorthand, and seem to mostly just know exactly what the others want. The whole Fox A crew has been together for years, some for decades, and like any dynastic team there's a sense of trust and calm that Rich Russo says is crucial to the whole process. "Everyone gets excited, and you get excited, and you want things to be perfect, but you know that you have such a great team here… you have to be able to listen."


And earlier this year Zac Crain also looked behind the curtain of Fox's NFL machine for SB Nation Longform.