CBS Used 8K Cameras During Super Bowl LIII Broadcast
If you’re trying to put a new technology through a true stress test, what better way to do so than by incorporating it into one of the largest national television broadcasts of the year? That’s exactly what CBS did with their broadcast of Super Bowl LIII on Sunday night in Atlanta. There, the network became the first to use 8K cameras during a live television (and streaming) broadcast of the country’s marquee sporting event.
As the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams were busy battling for the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy, the CBS crew, headed by lead producer Jim Rikhoff and CBS Sports’ innovation chief Ken Aagaard, worked together to put on a broadcast that included some 115 cameras spaced throughout the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Three of those cameras, Aagaard told Sports Illustrated prior to the big game, sported Sony 8K lenses.
“This could give us that one little shot,” he told the publication, “So of course it’s worth it.”
Two of the cameras were installed in the rafters of the stadium on special mounts in order to get unobstructed views of each red zone, and the crew was still deciding where to deploy the third lens as of the SI interview. According to the report, CBS used custom software to help minimize motion blur, allowing the truck operator to use a touchscreen and zoom in up to 10x without sacrificing much, if any, resolution. The cameras never really came into play as far as helping to determine a close call, but the thought was they’d be able to help the referees (and viewers at home) get an incredibly clear view of a close and potentially game-changing call.
Of course, 8K TVs were all the rage at the recent CES 2019 show out in Las Vegas and at IFA 2019 in Berlin back in September. But consumer-ready sets have yet to hit retail show floors here in the U.S. However, that latter fact doesn’t make it any less exciting to see that a major network is willing to invest in 8K technology and employ it in one of the biggest television events on the calendar. That’s a win for 8K.
On the other side of the coin, though, it doesn’t mean we’re any closer to seeing widespread use or availability of 8K content.
Condsider this: In the same SI report, Aagaard discusses how he’s pushed the envelope in the past with Super Bowl broadcasts. Three years ago, when CBS last had the big game, Aagaard was in his same role and at the time made headlines for deploying a prototype Sony 4K camera on the sideline. That camera did capture one of the game’s defining plays, but it wasn’t broadcasted in 4K. Fast forward three years and we’re still struggling to find 4K content outside of streaming media services.
So, sure, it may be exciting to see that CBS helped to make history by being one of the first to use 8K cameras in a live TV broadcast. But consumers should certainly tamper their expectations around how soon we’ll start to see 8K content regularly produced.