More Than a Blackout to Worry About With Next Year’s Super BowlBy Simon Mounsey
A week after the Super Bowl, there’s one thing people are still talking about: the power outage. With next year’s game taking place in East Rutherford, New Jersey – an area of the country where harsh winter weather is commonplace – there are even more unknowns when it comes to preventing a repeat of the blackout. While certainly players, coaches and fans were impacted by the delay, what’s more intriguing is how it affected IT professionals behind the scenes and what it’ll mean for preparations next year.
New Jersey is known for having some wicked winters, whether it’s extreme cold or excessive amounts of snow. In fact, over the weekend the area saw upwards of two feet of snow. Keep in mind this is only a week removed from Super Bowl weekend. What could happen next year if New Jersey gets this weather?
Although the power failure in New Orleans’ Superdome had nothing to do with the weather and was most likely a failure of the electrical relay device, blackouts are more likely to occur when the temperature drops because of the increase in electricity demand. While stadium officials can try to ensure plenty of backups to prevent it, the truth of the matter is that it’s pretty much impossible to be risk-free in this scenario.
“The cost of backing up every system at any stadium would be exorbitant, and the best that stadium operators can do is to examine the power systems before the contest and prepare for every eventuality,” says University of Pittsburgh energy expert Dr. Gregory Reed. The best thing IT personnel can do to prevent or fix a power outage is to plan ahead of time to ensure they get the most efficient backups possible.
Another area where IT comes to play during the Super Bowl is with the film crew. Whether it’s the cameramen or the audio crew, bad weather can be a TV crew’s nightmare. Cold weather is known to affect battery power greatly with batteries dying off much quicker in tough climates. Crews at the New Jersey Super Bowl will likely need to bring extra batteries and also let the camera breathe before the game begins, so it can adjust to the weather.
“I find that I must be better prepared for the unexpected …especially when it comes to lights, sound and video,” says Greg Bizzaro, founder and owner of Jaffe Films. “Variables like cold or hot weather, windy or cloudy, rainy or snowy conditions can affect your ultimate outcome.”
Another problem with video production is the effect condensation and moisture can have on the camera and audio. Snow or rain can get inside a camera or microphone and damage its electrical components. The crews will need to bring some sort of protection, such as garbage bags, ponchos or wind screens, to carefully cover cameras. On the audio side, cold air can damage sound quality and effectiveness in a terrible way.
“Moisture is the culprit, shorting out, crackling, etc. Some mics are very sensitive to moisture,” says sound designer Jeffrey P. Fisher of Fisher Creative Group.
Perhaps the most talked about issue regarding technology and the production of the Super Bowl is with the halftime show. In fact, some people speculate that the show might not take place next year. Why? Think about it. How many amphitheaters do you see open all year, especially in the Northeast? Obviously cold climates are hard on the musicians themselves, especially for singers; however, there are additional technological problems. For one, instruments do not take kindly to the cold. Wooden instruments, like guitars, can increase and decrease in shape, which ultimately can cause them to get out of tune. A guitar neck for example can get warped from contracting strings, thus adding more tension to the instrument.
Cold weather can also make electronics expand and contract, so it’s very possible for electronics to get misaligned and break apart. A hard drive for example, which may be used to generate screens as part of the show, can get warped and heated quickly, causing a complete malfunction.
Harsh weather may also affect setup time. While IT personnel can get to the stadium extra early to set up for the game, what will the solution be for the halftime show?
Bottom line, IT professionals have their work cut out for them for Super Bowl XLVIII. They’ll have to contend with possible power outages, pay careful attention to battery power and how condensation affects equipment, and be prepared for lengthier setup times. Will the proper preparation be enough to prevent another blackout? There’s no way to be certain, so consider this a warning for the announcers to rehearse some filler conversations to avoid sounding like this:
About the Author
Simon Mounsey graduated in 2006 from Benedictine University with a B.A. in communication arts and film studies. He has written for several publications covering the topics of travel, technology, business, sports and politics with specialties in film and music. Currently, he runs two blogs entitled "The Chicago FIlm Snob" and "Chicago Metal Head." You can find him on twitter at @chicagofilmsnob and @chicagometalhd.
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