Do you think we would be able to pass on doing a Super Bowl LIV reaction? Well, if you know Will Curran and Brandt Krueger, the answer is obviously a resounding no. Because you already know that here at the Event Tech Podcast, we bring you the best news in events. And considering that the Super Bowl is one of the big boys out there, we simply had to tackle it.
So today, that’s exactly what our lovely hosts will be up to. Will and Brandt sit down to let us hear their Super Bowl LIV reaction. What were the highlights? What didn’t they enjoy that much? And most importantly, is there anything we, as event professionals, can learn from it? If you want to hear the answers to these questions, wait no longer. Press play and join us!
So right off the bat, Will asks brand to give this year’s show a grade from A to F. “I think there’s the overall wow factor, I think there’s execution. Did everything seem to go off very well? I mean it is, especially talking about the halftime show, it’s ridiculous how much they have to get on and off the field in an incredibly short amount of time. And so being able to do that effectively and have everything work perfectly, already right there, you get an A kind of for that because for sheer effort”, says Brandt.
“But I have to say, the big picture, I was a little underwhelmed this year”, he continues. “I just remember going back in my head over the last few years. We’ve got drones, we’ve got Lady Gaga flying in on a line, we’ve got Madonna riding in on giant things and Katy Perry with the left shark, right shark. I thought JLo and Shakira did an amazing job, so I guess I would give it, I would say it’s an A for execution. It looked great, it sounded great as far as the mix and everything that I could tell. I didn’t hear any major audio gaps in anything”.
The Night Before
“So they had a Bud Light music fest, and that was fun. I could get super catty about some of the musical acts, but I did try to look at it through a technical eye”, says Brandt. ” It was basically a giant kind of curved LED wall behind them. So they had a lot of content, a lot of pretty, pretty. But again, good execution, not particularly creative. There was nothing that, wow, it was just a big stage”.
Part of that, again, is the limitations of getting from act, to act, to act”, he adds. “So you had to be able to move very quickly from a couple of rappers on stage to a full band setup. Guns N’ Roses played, Maroon 5 played. So being able to move very easily and seamlessly, you’ve got limitations on there. If you weren’t really into any of the musical acts that were playing, there was no reason to really watch that show. It was kind of boring to be perfectly honest”.
“One of the more interesting segments was during the music fest, they actually did the big reveal for what the Madden NFL game predictions were for the Superbowl. They hammed it up with the big screen and calculating and lots of footage of Madden NFL game footage of the Chiefs and the 49er’s squaring off and touchdown dances. And then it would go to a boot screen. And then eventually it predicted the game. It did predict the game accurately, but not by as many points. So I thought that was interesting”
Super Bowl LIV Reaction: The Pre-Game
Next up on the list of the official Super Bowl LIV Reaction is the five-hour-long pre-game. “I kind of skimmed through and looked for the highlights and did a little searching around afterward to see if I missed anything”, says Brandt. “But I did manage to actually land on a few funny things and a few takeaways. So one is, I saw a lot of this kind of AR where the camera is moving, they’ve dubbed in graphics and things like that. And it’s reacting to the camera movements to look like it’s physically in the space”.
“And again, not something that’s terribly new, especially in football and sports, they’ve been kind of playing around with that kind of stuff for a while. But I saw a lot of it right away in that pre-game show of just as they’re standing there, there’s graphics kind of in the background that are reacting to as the camera moves. So it’s this motion tracking graphics. Maybe not what’s traditionally AR, but it is AR in the sense that they’re laying over stuff”.
There was a funny moment, from a totally nerdy AV standpoint”, he continues. “They had Jimmy Johnson, one of the Fox hosts, former coach, they had him up in a bucket lift over their set. And he had his jacket and suit on and you could see the harnesses. So they had actually harnessed him even though he was only about 10 feet off the ground. And so I just thought that was kind of a funny, always wear your safety harness whenever you’re on one of those bucket lifts.”.
“They wound the SkyCam kind of through the palm trees. So it not only was doing kind of the front to back as we see on the football field, but it actually was kind of going almost in a curved zip line. Which I thought was kind of cool as it went through”, adds Brandt. “I was kind of like, “How did they do that? How does that even work?” Because it’s got to be taught and be able to go from front to back and side to side. And I get how that works over a field, a wide-open football field, but how do they get it to go through the trees? Maybe it was drone?”.
“It was probably a cable cam”, says Will. “But honestly, cameras are getting so small. If you look at 1917, the movie, Arri made a special camera just for that movie because it needed to be lightweight and small. Honestly, my computers bigger. And it can shoot 6K, all those sort of things like that. And by the way, this was the first-ever Superbowl, and I’m using air quotes, in 4K HDR”.
5G has been in the limelight for a while, and we’ve covered it previously on the podcast. And during the Super Bowl, Verizon “implied that the stadium basically had been bathed in 5G”, Brandt explains. “Great, so the four people in the stadium that have a 5G phone were able to take advantage of it. And then this ultrawideband thing was in the fine print, which I thought was interesting. That they bothered to even have fine print on this little puff piece that they did at the beginning of the show”.
“So clearly Verizon paid Fox a ton of money to have this little segment produced. They flew a drone cam or something like that up to the stadium as they explained that this was the first-ever Superbowl to have 5G. And they installed it all over the stadium so they could have 5G”.
Some Extra Input
Will found an article where a team conducted an experience. “They had a bunch of people from their team go on from all the different networks and test their speeds and latencies across all of them. And they actually were able to hit some 5G speeds of 646 Mbps on Verizon, T-Mobile is about half that, Sprint was about a third of that”, he explains. “The upload speeds were still abysmal because we know that obviously the 5G upload hasn’t quite caught up with the download. However, the latencies were pretty crazy. I mean, 91-millisecond latencies on Verizon, which is slow for what it can do”.
“But what’s interesting as well is that they also compared it to the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. They had over 24 TB of data on the stadium wifi on game day, averaging download speeds of 30 Mbps So then, for the Hard Rock Stadium, they were seeing speeds of 60 Mbps-ish, up and down, low latency. But then for the big game, as it says everywhere, it says 37 Mbps, 47 MB. Pretty impressive. It looks like they saw only relatively slow slowdowns, but 37 Mbps on A gigantic stadium wifi is pretty solid”.
Broadcasting In 4k
Continuing our Super Bowl LIV reaction episode, the conversation about broadcasting quality comes up again. “This was the first one it was done in 4K. I think the interesting thing for people to know, is that it wasn’t really 4K”, says Will. “Again, the hype train was so hard, but the thing that’s interesting about it for you to know is that it was a 1080p, normal HD signal, that’s called upscaled. “Which is kind of a fancy version stretching it and fixing a bunch of things so it looks like it’s 4K”.
“But I think the thing that was impressive is that it was in high dynamic range, HDR. Which, in my opinion, HDR probably has a better effect and more impressing looking effect than 4K does”, he continues. “So if anything, the bigger upgrade, is the HDR. It’s funny how 4K’s now actually pretty standard across most people’s TVs. Black Friday, having 4K TVs for $600 really shows that it’s coming. But there’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to it. But I’ll be really curious to see next year when they do true 4K”.
The Halftime Show!
No Super Bowl LIV reaction would be complete without diving into the halftime show!
Will tells us he “watched it on YouTube on 1080p, 60 frames per second, and I listened to it on these headphones that I use to record so pretty good sounding headphones. I think that was the first thing that I immediately noticed was it sounded really good. For years we’ve been plagued with really bad audio. It was almost like I thought it was lip-synced. And I’m not sure if the live broadcast was different than the recorded one that I pulled off of YouTube, maybe they mastered it afterward”.
“I would’ve just said it was lip-synced if it wasn’t for the fact that was a couple of times where they tap the mic on accident. And then also, one thing I think I was most impressed with. The stadium sounded really good with it. It didn’t sound like there was mic right next to one person screaming”.
The Camera Work
“The bedazzled mics was absolutely fantastic. But on the video side of things, I think this is the one part where they get 100% A for execution. And I feel like they focused on the TV audience rather than the arena audience. I went back to watch a couple of past ones, it feels like this is the first time where they went 100% in on TV audience and almost to the point where it almost feels like it would’ve been awkward to watch in person because the camera work was just incredible”.
“Obviously all this stuff was heavily rehearsed, but I thought it was really incredible, really sharp in focus. It kept my attention. And the camera cutting was great too. There were a couple of times where fireworks were going off to the beat of the music and they cut perfectly to the camera, the fireworks exploding and the back and forth. I mean the camerawork and the camera cutting was just next level good”.
“I think where it probably starts to deteriorate a little bit for me is when we move on to kind of lighting areas. I thought the lighting was really good, it was executed really, really well. But even look at this fixture list, there’s nothing that I’m not like, “Oh yeah, I haven’t seen that before. What was that?” This one, it was a lot of beams. The spot operators, they get listed in this live design article. The spot operators should get huge, huge props because they just track them so well and did such a good job. But it just didn’t have this thing where I was like, “Whoa, this is so incredible.” Maybe the lasers at the end with JLo when they’re shooting vertically, but it’s not something we haven’t seen before. But it just looked really good, it just looked good”.
“It was really a great show”, adds Brandt. “But because every year they set the bar so high and they try something new and they do something big, I think that’s why it feels a little underwhelming. It was a great show and that’s all you can say about it. And that’s what I mean. It didn’t have that water cooler factor of the next day. Other than, oh man, Shakira and JLo knocked it out of the park, they were fantastic. And that’s, in fact, what all the news articles say is how good they were”.
“So at first, I thought they were leaning into the fact that there were bezels to almost give that kind of old 70s dance floor look. Because you could very clearly see the edges of the tiles”, says Brandt. “And initially, they were doing mainly kind of light up things and patterns and swirls and colors. It probably makes them easier to put together, it makes them probably sturdier. So if we’re going to have bezels, we might as well make them noticeable from space and go for it. But then, in the later sections of the show, they did more projection mapping style effects where the floor falls through”.
“What took away from that, for me, was these giant black bezels around each of the panels of the flooring”, he continues. “So it felt to me that they were going to lean into it and somebody said, “No, we need to make it cooler.” And so they quickly came up with the floor falling away. And then in this segment, the people will be spinning around. The bottom, it’ll look like it’s deeper than it is and it’s spinning around. So it again felt like, well, that’s cool, I guess”.
“But had they actually just done projection mapping, which we’ve seen done incredibly well at the Superbowl in the past. Where the field flips and flops and falls away and there are holes and all that kind of stuff. Looks phenomenal, looks amazing and doesn’t have these big thick bezels on each of the tiles. So I was really kind of thrown by that. And it was like why they decided to go down that road of trying to do projection mapping style effects with these panels that were clearly panels as opposed to a seamless floor? But again, I can’t stress this enough, it was an A for execution”, he concludes.
And that does it for the Super Bowl LIV reaction episode, brought to you by the Event Tech Podcast! What did you think about the event? Was the halftime show your cup of tea? And would you also consider it perfectly executes but somehow underwhelming? Make sure you let us know, and don’t forget to tune in next week for another session of event tech talk!