When Donna DiLorenzo and Dave Longwill watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, they won’t be thinking about how great Flacco’s arm is or whether Beyonce is really singing live. They’ll be thinking about how many cameras it took to capture the perfect angle of Kaepernick’s completion and how many people are hiding under the stage at Beyonce’s feet ready to take the whole structure down as fast as possible.
These two event production guru’s with the agency TBA Global might not be helping coordinate the Super Bowl’s massive event planning but with projects including clients like IBM, Google, Bank of America, Wal-Mart and Monster Worldwide, they have some insights into how such an undertaking is put together.
“The mystery of it was blown for me years ago,” DiLorenzo, TBA’s senior vice president of production, said. “I’m immediately drawn into thinking ‘how many LED tiles is that?’ and ‘how did they move this piece into position during three minutes of commercials?’”
First of all, planning for the Super Bowl, DiLorenzo said, probably started the day after last year’s NFL championship game, if not sooner. She rattled off a list of players, er, planners that would be involved: production designer, tech company, staging company, pyrotechnic experts, film crews, etc.
Each of these have their own role that is rehearsed for weeks so completing the tasks is down to a science on game day, Longwill, a TBA producer, said. When it comes to executing some of these tasks, like putting together the stage for the halftime production, people are literally running around.
The halftime show alone, Longwill estimated, would take 25 trucks worth of production equipment — and that doesn’t include the video and audio equipment that’s already in place to capture the action of the actual game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. There is reported to be about 120 cameras from CBS alone to film the event in New Orleans’ Superdome.
There are anywhere from 300 to 500 technicians for the halftime show, Longwill estimated. Something a logistical fact that might surprise people, Longwill added, is that all the materials brought onto the field for the event is most likely shuffled through a 10 by 15-foot door all during the commercial break before the show.
“That’s the magic of what we do in production,” Longwill said. “This stuff is rehearsed four to six times minimum with people running these pieces into place while people with stop watches time them.”
And what if something goes wrong? There’s a backup.
“There is a replacement for everything short of the artist themselves,” Longwill said. “Everything else is replaceable, pretty much.”
And what about worst case scenarios? DiLorenzo said they always have a plan. She said weather would be one of the worst of the worst, but Longwill noted that’s why so many Super Bowls are hosted in domes, so weather is less of a factor. As for security and emergencies, Longwill said the precautions taken and the unseen presence ensuring safety “would boggle your mind.” Last year, TheBlaze reported on pictures supposedly showing a sniper’s nest at the big game. Facial recognition technology is also used to peg known criminals.
“The Super Bowl has some of the tightest security and best minds working on it,” Longwill said, noting it’s probably at a similar level to that of the recent inauguration.
Longwill and DiLorenzo said as event production professionals, they’ll be watching the Super Bowl, especially the halftime show, for new technologies that they could then use in their own work. For example, at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, some of the latest in LED technology was displayed with column projections and in floor tiles. Here’s footage showing that event:
And something Beyonce used at the Billboard Awards a couple years ago involved 3D projection mapping that DiLorenzo wonders if the singer will use again, perhaps at the halftime show Sunday. Check out what this technology looked like:
Even with all the organized madness of such a production that is the Super Bowl, everything is designed in a way that you’ll never see the “gag” on TV, Longwill said. Even people in the stadium who have the opportunity to see how it’s put together are often distracted by big screens or going to grab a snack that they might not notice the full extent of the production.