Get an inside look at the Super Bowl production

For the first time in history, the Super Bowl will be broadcast in 4K. It will be available on DIRECTV channel 105. While the game footage itself will actually be produced in HD, I’m still recommending you watch the 4K feed because the quality will be so much better than what you see on Fox. I explain why here.

But why?

We know the NFL uses 4K and even 8K cameras on the field. But, in this behind-the-scenes look thanks to Digital Trends, we can now understand why the production is going to be in HD. You see, they use all 4K cameras, and the production equipment will work in 4K. The problem is that with 4K they would be limited to only using abour 25 cameras instead of the roughly 100 they use now.

You don’t really think about how the NFL coverage always has the perfect shot, but it takes a lot of work. Using so many cameras makes it easy to blanket the field in video from multiple angles. Going back to 25 cameras would be like going back to 1990 when it comes to production values. For the Super Bowl video makers, it wasn’t worth it.

They also claim that today’s systems aren’t ready for that level of live production and that you’d see some problems with fast motion that just don’t come up when you’re doing the broadcast in HD.

The bottom line here is that so far, there just isn’t a production solution that can handle that many cameras in 4K. At least that’s what we’re being told. I suppose it’s possible, anyway; that’s a lot of technology and it’s not something that even your average sporting event would need. Having a reduced number of cameras on the field might even be ok for a regular season game, but this is the most watched sporting event of the year here in the US. It has to be technologically awesome.

They’re gambling that you can’t tell the difference

There’s the rub, as Shakespeare once said. I’ve been telling you for years that it takes an 80″ or larger TV to really get the maximum benefit out of 4K. With a smaller TV you don’t see the difference in the fine details. You’ll see an overall better picture, that’s true. For most people on most TVs though, a high-quality Blu-ray disc in HD will generally beat a low-quality 4K streamed picture.

And that’s what I’m talking about here. This will be the best quality HD picture ever on DIRECTV. There won’t be any sign of motion artifacts, macroblocking, or any of the issues that can come with overcompressed video. By taking a pristine 1080p feed and providing it over a 4K carrier, you’ll see the best possible HD. And really, that’s what will bowl you over. (No pun intended.)

Hopefully by next year, there will be a real end-to-end 4K production of the Super Bowl. I’m willing to bet you won’t even notice that the game is in “just” high definition this year, as long as you’re watching it on DIRECTV’s channel 105.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.