Durham company’s super role in Super Bowl
Lauren K. Ohnesor
Staff Writer- Triangle Business Journal
You know that yellow line marking where either the Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers will have to take the ball for a first down in Sunday’s Super Bowl? Well, that virtual “first-down line” has Triangle roots.
Durham-based SportsMedia Technology, the company responsible for that line, has been involved with every Super Bowl since 1996, and that continues Sunday in New Orleans. Through a partnership with CBS, SMT’s graphics and virtual technology has already been showcased on NFL offerings, as well as the Master’s Golf Tournament.
But the Super Bowl is on a different scale - a much, much bigger scale.
Along with developing a new graphics presentation with CBS - a move that required the company to start updating its system as early as November – the company has already sent five Durham-based employees to New Orleans to prep for the big day.
“As you can imagine, with the Super Bowl, it’s just magnified,” says Don Tupper, vice president of business and client development. “We essentially more than double the number of systems that we support at the Super Bowl.”
Take that yellow line I told you to pay attention to. In a regular season game, three smart configured cameras capture the field image to allow you to see it.
“But for the Super Bowl, there’s five of them,” Tupper explains.
And, while the field is usually accessible to SMT’s crew during regular games, at the Super Bowl they have to compete with rehearsals of half-time entertainment for that accessibility.
And the halftime show isn’t the only thing in need of a rehearsal.
“Super Bowl is such a high-profile event for us, and our technology is always on the screen,” he says. “So we have to be ready with full redundancy. If something is not working correctly, we have to have a full redundancy system so the fan doesn’t know there’s an issue.”
SMT spends a lot of time rehearsing worst-case scenarios, he says, all so the fans can have their day.
Founded in 1988 by Gerard Hall, SMT employs 230 people, including 105 at its Durham headquarters.
You’ll recall the company, which was also involved in last year’s NBC-produced Super Bowl, acquired Jacksonville, Fl.-based Information and Display Systems last February, a move that more than doubled SMT’s head count.
Lauren Ohnesorge covers technology, biotechnology and Durham County.