Setting the Stage for Super Bowl 2023: Backstage in Glendale, Arizona

Before the crowd descends to super bowl lvii, State Farm Stadium is eerily quiet. I’m here in a kind of liminal space, a vast arena for tens of thousands but currently inhabited by only a few hundred. Everyone here on the ground looks tense, knowing they only have a few days to put together the biggest show in the world.

I traveled to Glendale, Arizona to document how the Fox team prepares to stream the game, and I feel like an outsider. My badge was verified by four people before I even entered the building. I see pockets of activity everywhere as people test lights, sound and of course a myriad of cameras. Do team members who look up to me feel like I’m not there to help them prepare? My job is to take pictures of people doing their jobs.

I try to stay out of their way. After all, everything has to be perfect for the Super Bowl. The Fox broadcast will be watched by millions of people around the world, and it’s all down to a relatively small number of experienced professionals ensuring it runs smoothly. This story is about them.

Taking over a stadium

There are 94 cameras around the massive State Farm Stadium. This includes 44 cameras across the field for the game, 18 in various pre-game areas and 16 robotic cameras. Ten are fully wireless, a rarity for this type of event. There are cameras at the end zone markers. There are cameras suspended by wires from the rafters. There are even cameras in the passageways between the changing rooms and the field. And these are just the ones I noticed.

Most cameras may never be used during broadcast, but ask any director and they’ll tell you that too much coverage doesn’t exist. Michael Davies, Senior Vice President of Field Operations at Fox Sports, gave me a great reason to perform on tour. He was here in 2008 and said that only one camera was able to capture the definitive view of the famous (or infamous, depending on your team) helmet catch by New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree. This camera was on the opposite side of the field from all the others and was not considered “important”.

Walking around with Davies felt a little like following a celebrity. He seems to know everyone. People stop you to say hello or pass on urgent information. This is a big undertaking, but if he’s stressed I can’t tell.

Inside State Farm Stadium.  The field is half in, half out.

The retractable field spends most of its time outside the stadium, entering only when necessary.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Not shot in 4K, but still cutting-edge technology

Despite all those cameras, once again the Super Bowl will not be filmed in 4K. Instead, it will be produced in 1080p with HDR, including dolby visionand then converted up for 4K resolution. That’s a little disappointing for the purist in me, but since most people won’t be able to get a 4K feed anyway, it’s not surprising. It allows Fox to do some technical things that would otherwise be extremely expensive – or technologically difficult in 4K – including special replays, augmented reality (AR) graphics, and more.

And that’s not to say there won’t be 4K cameras. There are eight scattered throughout the stadium, plus one 8K Camera. This will allow digital zoom without loss of quality. Thirty-two of the cameras are also high frame rate “SuperMotion” cameras that allow for super smooth slow motion replays.


One of the stadium’s 94 cameras. The f2.8-5.0 zoom lens alone costs $245,000.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Out of the World Cup, in Daytona

I talk to some people who are preparing. Only those who aren’t obviously busy, of course. These are some of the best in the world at what they do, and it shows. I feel a calm seriousness and absolute focus. For many, this isn’t their first Super Bowl. For everyone, this isn’t even your biggest project. Most of the Fox team was in Doha for months working on the world Cup. The 70 degree weather of an Arizona winter is probably a welcome change. Next week, they’ll pack their bags and head to Florida for Fox’s broadcast of the Daytona 500.


The open roof can create some lighting challenges.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

As I explore the “cheap” seats ($950 minimum), I meet Steve, who describes himself as “a carpenter in a building with no wood.” His main job is to maintain the 66,000 plastic and metal seats throughout the stadium. He is a jovial type and shows me how to remove the seats. He says that in a typical game he might have to replace two to three seats, but that only takes about a minute.

I think of this stadium as new, but Steve always refers to it as old. At 17 I suppose it is, or at least for someone who needs repairs. My first sports arena was the Boston Garden, which I think was 1,000 years old at the time Bird played there. So maybe my perspective is wrong.

A nest of cables in many different colors.

Some of the 37 miles of fiber optic cables.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

A field moves from the sun

State Farm Stadium is one of the few stadiums with a retractable field. It has an innovative way of allowing real grass in an indoor stadium: the entire field rolls out. Riding on a series of rails, it has spent the last few days going in and out, trying to keep the grass alive but also allowing people to rehearse and block in the real field. I got lucky and was there when the field rolled for the last time.

The field will stay here until the Wednesday after the Super Bowl, getting sun only from the open roof, which at this time of year can only provide direct sunlight to part of the field. This partial light makes some aspects of the transmission difficult, as one part of the stadium is significantly brighter than the others. The open roof makes the sound a little better, though.

Coming soon to a Super Bowl party near you

Super Bowl video resolution is going to vary wildly depending on how you get your TV. It will generally be 720p as that is what Fox broadcasts. You can get 4K converted through the Fox Sports app and some providers that offer a 4K upgrade, including YouTube TV, Fubo TV and some cable providers. Comcast customers can view the game in Dolby Vision. It can vary a lot, so check with your current provider.

While true 4K is great, high frame rate cameras and HDR should at least create great looking content, resolution aside. The augmented reality graphics, powered by none other than the Unreal Engine (yes, the one used in games), should also look impressive.

As for the Fox crew, there is no rest in sight. After the game they have to pack up and go to Daytona and do it all over again. And again, and again, and again.

Check out the gallery above to see what it takes to put on a show this big, then tune in on Sunday to see the results.

In addition to covering TV and other display technologies, Geoff does photo tours of museums and interesting sites around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000-mile journeys, and much more. Check out Tech Treks for all your tours and adventures.

He wrote a best-selling science fiction novel about city-sized submarines and a sequel. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *