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Super Bowl XXXIX Review

Breast-free broadcast scores big By Charlie White

Super Bowl XXXIX was a stellar group of commercials punctuated by a  better-than-average football game. Although the breast baring and crotch kicking of years past was noticeably absent, a first-rate raft of advertisements presented themselves to the broadcasts 86.1 million viewers, occupying time bought by advertisers at a record $2.4 million per 30-second spot. In this review, DMNs Charlie White takes a look at the technical and aesthetic qualities of the broadcast itself, and also picks commercial winners in the categories of humor, editing finesse, and special effects.

As usual, there were enough cameras situated around the field to shoot five bobsled runs. Perhaps one of the largest configurations of HD cameras yet, there were 54 cameras of all shapes and sizes provided by NEP Sharpshooters, which supplied four production trucks linked to 36 Thompson LDK 6000 HD cameras and six LDK 6200 HD slo-mo cameras. One of the innovations this year were the new Turf Cams, tiny lipstick cameras buried in various places around the field and also mounted on the end zone pylons. They turned out to be a non-factor in the broadcast. In fact, the only time viewers got a glimpse of the blurry video emanating from these cutesy cams was when the announcers were making fun of what they called Pylon Cam. Even though these buried cameras were a bust, placing them on the field was certainly worth a try. The Fox crew, who reportedly placed the odds of actually using any of these cameras at 100-to-1, hoped for a fortunate accident where we might be graced with an awesome view looking up the nostrils of a huge football player. Alas, it was not to be.

In addition to that attempt at innovation, Fox rolled out its best effects, which started with its unique player intro idea. Looking like a camera shot arcing around a scoreboard, keyed into the middle of the animated scoreboard effect were group shots of the players in various candid poses. I thought it was highly effective. Also contributing to the broadcast were creative ways to get into and out of the various commercials. Fox presented environmental bumps at some junctures, showing a Fox Sports logo which looked like it had been projected onto coastal scenes, some of which were more visually appealing than others. In fact, a few of the shots looked like toxic waste dumps, while others showed more interesting angles of bridges and coastal areas around Jacksonville. Perhaps the fault for the deficiencies of these beauty shots lies with Jacksonville rather than Fox Sports.

Another well-executed idea was the masterfully edited quick highlight reels that served as lead-outs from the commercials back into the game. Accompanied with tasteful effects such as vignetting, the sequences served as a mini wrap-up of whats happened in the game so far, and were a good lead-in into the next segment. By far the best bump of the entire game happened right after the two-minute warning just before halftime, where we rode a SkyCam shot from the end zone past the 50 yard line at what seemed to be a speed of about 25 mph. This was a chance to experience the full effect of the power of an HD SkyCam. Magnificent. 

Adding to the overall entertainment value were the excellent play-by-play announcers and commentators, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Chris Collingsworth. As usual, Joe Buck was solid, informative, and not too intrusive. The standout throughout the entire game was Chris Collingsworth, whose frequently insightful comments actually informed viewers of something that they didnt already know. For example, at one point after a receiver had been hit so hard that he fumbled the ball, Collingsworth pointed out that after a receiver catches the ball, his opponents are actually trying to hold him up, rather than tackle him in order to cause a fumble. This kind of comment was one that could only have been made by someone such as Collingsworth who has first-hand experience playing as an NFL receiver.

Then came the halftime show, where unlike last years breast-fest which gave new meaning to the term ?Boob Tube, it was time for viewers to experience genuine entertainment. Former Beatle Paul McCartney showed us why hes perhaps the richest, most famous and most well-respected pop star on the planet, and he was accompanied by some of the most elaborate staging yet seen in the Super Bowl. McCartney, with his voice still in top form, appeared on a stage that was shaped like a Swiss cross with each arm of the cross consisting of a huge array of video panels. The panels displayed appropriate visuals, and sometimes live camera shots, but always were perfectly coordinated. At opportune moments, fountains of fire and fireworks surrounding the stadium exploded into view. The entire halftime show was exquisitely directed, with cameras flying everywhere and shots changed at exactly the right moments. There were even cameras positioned at a distance from the stadium so one could see the magnitude of the fireworks display in a couple of perfectly-timed cutaways. The only flaw was a one- or two-frame audio delay, which made it appear that McCartney was lip-syncing, when he actually wasnt. 

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