Famous group ups the ante on mixed reality tech at Super Bowl LVI, NBA All-Star
Productions Celebrate Iconic LA Coliseum, NBA Diamond Anniversary
Whether for sports broadcasts or indoor shows, The Famous Group has established itself as one of the predominant players in the world of augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) for live sports. . Last month, TFG further amped up its mixed reality game with back-to-back pioneering efforts at Super Bowl LVI and the NBA All-Star Game.
“We are extremely grateful to be part of two of the biggest sporting events of the year, let alone back-to-back weekends,” says Famed band executive producer Andrew Isaacson. “The stakes are high, but so is the reward.”
Working on their 17th straight Super Bowl in last month’s game at SoFi Stadium, TFG was commissioned by the NFL to create a cutting-edge mixed reality pre-game segment that would honor Los Angeles’ long Super Bowl history. Then, just a week later, TFG was on hand at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland for the NBA All-Star Game, creating stunning mixed reality experiences for pre-game player introductions and the NBA’s 75th anniversary ceremony. the team at halftime.
“Our team is made up of sports fans at heart,” says Isaacson, “and we’ve been blown away and touched by the impact and reach of these projects. These productions that combine live performance with real-time effects are not easy to achieve, but we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of bringing cutting-edge technology to the sports industry to improve fan experience and create more immersive events. ”
Super Bowl LVI: MR makes the biggest sporting event even bigger
When TFG began working with the NFL on the creative development of the Super Bowl LVI pre-game show last summer, they identified three key storylines: the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, the historic significance of the the return of the Super Bowl to Los Angeles (the first Super Bowl took place at the LA Memorial Coliseum in 1967), and the unprecedented sports and entertainment destination offered by the new SoFi Stadium.
“We wanted the creation to lean on SoFi as a canvas and focus on the amazing [Infinity Screen],” said Lauren Fisher, Creative Director, The Famous Group.
The result was a dual-camera mixed reality production featuring a nod to the Los Angeles Coliseum: pulling back a virtual curtain to reveal a 3D recreation of the iconic location. Additionally, TFG paid homage to Super Bowl I by referencing the jet packs featured in the first-ever Super Bowl halftime show. TFG created futuristic drone-like versions of the originals to deliver the trophy to the stadium to serve as an “Easter egg” and nod to Super Bowl history.
“Mixed Reality has the unique ability to enhance and deepen storytelling and the fan experience,” says Tim Tubito, Director, Presentation and Event Content, NFL. “The Famous Group continues to bring a creative and innovative approach to stadium and broadcast environments, and Super Bowl LIV was no different. Mixed reality production with nods to the LA Coliseum and jet packs originals was a unique way to pay homage to Super Bowl I in LA and create an impactful opening moment.
NBC Sports play-by-play calling out Al Michaels introduced the first game moments before kickoff, and the Lombardi Trophy descended from the Infinity Screen, with the massive video card acting as a portal.
“We brought the Colosseum into SoFi, connecting the past to the present with a special nod to history,” says Fisher. “Tim Tubito and his NFL team have been incredible creative partners in developing these ideas; it was a truly collaborative effort. They kept the heart of the production racing by bringing in legends to complete the whole thing.
On game day, TFG worked with SMT to ensure camera tracking was calibrated and working properly, and the NBC production team, led by director Drew Esocoff and Producer Fred Gaudellicalled the cue-to-cue show from the front bench of Truck A.
The NFL and Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment (who produced the show on location) have also allowed it to be shown to fans internally on the Infinity Screen for the time being. The TFG team was based in a separate mobile unit with NBC communications and had its own operator running the various elements on signals from Esocoff and Gaudelli.
The opening mixed reality experience also featured two live video feeds (Super Bowl 1 legends on the court waving to the crowd) embedded in “virtual jumbotrons” in the 3D LA Coliseum. This was the first time a live stream was integrated into AR/3D elements at the Super Bowl.
“It was The Famous Group’s 17th straight Super Bowl,” Fisher notes. “Each year, we seek to evolve and improve the production and the fan experience. This year, we have worked to create hyper-realistic simulations (especially on the fabric of the [virtual] curtains) and MR elements and focused on improving live video streams. »
Some of TFG’s major technology partners for Super Bowl LVI included Epic Games/Unreal Engine, Quince Imaging, SMT, Pixotope, The LiveYard, Firebird Sound, TruePoint Laser Scanning, and NEP (which provided the onsite mobile unit). Van Wagner worked with TFG from a stadium infrastructure perspective, and Madison Square Garden organist Ray Castoldi supervised the musical selection.
“It was a carefully coordinated event,” says Isaacson. “We had to meticulously time all the production elements to line them up for both the fans in the stadium and the fans at home watching the broadcast. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I think it was the perfect time to kick off the game, and you could feel the excitement from the fans. When [PA announcer] Alan Roach said, “Welcome to the Super Bowl,” it gave fans their first real cue of encouragement and a chance to soak up the importance of where they all were.
Fisher adds, “Although we have been doing these MR activations for several years, having the opportunity to do it on the biggest stage, in our backyard and in our hometown, was especially special. It’s the biggest sporting event of the year, and this project was to celebrate the Super Bowl in our hometown of LA.”
NBA All-Star: “Diamonds” for the 75th anniversary of the League
Just a week later, TFG was back – this time at the NBA All-Star festivities in Cleveland. The NBA tapped TFG to use mixed reality technology to provide an added layer of excitement for the already heavily produced player presentations and halftime presentation.
For the All-Star introductions, TFG created three-dimensional elements designed to complement what was happening on stage during player introductions.
At halftime, TFG infused the entire arena with diamonds to celebrate the league’s ‘diamond anniversary’. At any one time, 750 to 1,000 diamonds floated throughout the site.
“It was our first MR arena activation,” says Fisher. “The lighting was particularly important and had to be dramatic. The NBA wanted the halftime presentation to feel elevated and ceremonial, so we also created special banners, typography, and different elements that were woven together to enhance the presentation and transcend the on-court scene.
TFG brought its proprietary technology, Vixi Live, to NBA All-Star for the first time ever, enhancing the fan experience in the arena during all three nights of festivities. Vixi Live is powered by TFG’s Virtual Seat software and allows arena fans to participate in live gameplay by scanning a QR code on the main video boards at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and Wolstein Center to see themselves on the big screens.
Vixi Live was launched at the start of the NBA season and is currently used by the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors. Isaacson calls it “the ultimate on-location video selfie camera” and says it gives arena producers thousands of extra fan looks to put on billboards.
“We were very happy with the end product. [at NBA All-Star]says Isaacson. “It looked amazing, and it elevated and enhanced a historic moment for the NBA. I think it resonated and connected with both the fans in the arena and the fans at home watching the show.