With Alpha 1 and Venice, Sony wins the big game. A relatively dull Super Bowl was a visual triumph.
While the Pandemic-Era Super Bowl lacked quite a bit in terms of the matchup between Tampa Bay and Kansas City, it was still a showcase for a number of technologies from Sony’s imaging teams, including the brand-new Alpha 1.
The Big Game was the public debut of Sony’s new flagship hybrid camera, which, along with its cinema sibling, the Venice provided some stunning images from the field at Raymond James Stadium.
Not only did CBS use the Alpha 1 for on-field coverage, but it was used by a number of Associated Press photographers covering the game, and those AP shooters without the new Alpha 1 were shooting cameras like the a9 II and the a7RIV, as all AP photographers are now using Sony.
Getting Alpha 1 On The Field
Earlier this season, Fox Sports introduced a new look for the endzone shots, as well as player close-ups from the sidelines. Fans reacted swiftly to the new high-resolution look with rich bokeh. Many people thought Fox had some new 8K broadcast cameras (even though the NFL is only broadcast in HD), but in actuality, Fox rolled out Sony cameras with mobile transmitters.
What fans saw as extra detail was a combination of the high-resolution of the Sony full-frame sensors, and the bokeh possible with wide aperture lenses. The resulting images were so different from traditional broadcast cameras, that fans thought they were higher resolution than the NFL is actually presented in.
Even Fox’s own news affiliates thought the network was capturing images in 8K, and revealing that the setup’s nickname is The Megalodon. In their article FOX Sports 8K camera the real winner of Seahawks-Washington game, the local Fox station linked to a now-much-retweeted image of a Sony camera on a gimbal.
— Charlie Sweeney (@CharlieSweeney) December 20, 2020
High-fidelity and Creamy-Bokeh
The high-fidelity and creamy-bokeh look were so popular with fans that the head of Sports Video Group, an organization that both provides educational materials for video production professionals and a daily newsgroup, tweeted about the camera setup. SVG also ran a piece talking about the technical setup at the Big Game.
If there has been one technology story in NFL coverage this year, it is the use of cameras capable of shallow–depth-of-field shooting on the field during warmups and after key plays.
‘Everyone has been talking about it and is excited about it,” says Cohen. “Obviously, we’re going to continue what we’ve been doing all along in the playoffs, which is to use the Sony Venice camera on a Steadicam.’
One late potential addition to the show will be the use of a Sony Alpha One camera on one of the MōVIhandheld rigs that have been capturing the shallow–depth-of-field shots that have garnered a lot of attention on social media.
‘The operator has been blown away by how cool it is and how fast the autofocus is,’ says Cohen. “He said it’s amazing because he literally just touches a screen to select the subject that he wants it to focus on and it is instantaneously locked in the focus.’
The Sony Alpha 1 and the Sony Venice were responsible for all of the bokeh-filled end zone coverage during the game, and the cameras captured some key moments, including touchdown celebrations, and Tampa Bay’s post-game celebration.
Women Take To The Field
In a celebrated move, the Associated Press brought two female photographers to cover the game which will go down in history as being the first Super Bowl with a female referee. (Seriously, why did that take so long, NFL?)
As Sarah Thomas took to the field so did Lynne Sladky @lsladky and Ashley Landis @ashphotog, shooters for the AP. (Note: the white lines on this Instagram coverage are part of the AP’s watermark to prevent reproduction and not a camera issue.)
Now it shouldn’t be surprising that women were photographing the game, some of the best sports photographers I’ve ever shot with are women, but it’s nice to see both the Associated Press and the NFL publicly acknowledge the important work of women in these fields.
Sony Wins The Big Game Just In Times
CBS, Fox, and the Associated Press weren’t the only organizations shooting with the Alpha 1. Doug Mills, photographer-extraordinaire from the New York Times transitioned from capturing the inauguration to documenting the Buccaneer/Chiefs showdown, armed with a brand new Alpha 1 (pre-order now from B&H).
This season’s football coverage won’t be the last time you see Sony’s cameras capturing key on-field moments. Technology spreads quickly in broadcast, especially in sports broadcasting where new looks and new angles can be the difference between keeping a fan watching the game or having them switch over to Netflix (which also features a lot of work captured on Sony.)
To me, it’s interesting to see the transition of Sony’s Alpha cameras going from documenting key moments from the point of view of an observer to being a key component of live broadcasting. That means the future of TV is sharper than ever.…
My daily shooter is Sony a9 II with a vertical grip and various Sony lenses attached like the FE 20mm F1.8. Find more gear recommendations in our shop. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.