Countdown to the Final Four

I’m standing with Jim Nantz, who will call his 28th Final Four and National Championship this year.

Greetings from Atlanta! We’re here along with the CBS Sports crew and the countdown to tip-off is under way.

Here are a few shots from behind the scenes at the Georgia Dome as the CBS Sports crew prepares for its 32nd consecutive year broadcasting the national semi-final college basketball games live on CBS. Take a look, check your brackets, and as always, stay tuned!

Be sure to check out the games: Wichita State vs. Louisville on Saturday, 6:09 p.m. ET; Syracuse vs. Michigan on Saturday, 8:49 p.m. ET.

Follow George on Twitter at @georgetv.

A look at some amazing entertainment technology

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In the category of “one day people, will ask, ‘How did you ever exist with just an iPhone?’,” I recently visited the Old Town Music Hall, a little movie theater built in 1921 in El Segundo, Calif., which is near Los Angeles, and marveled at the technology and talent that went into playing live music for silent films.

That technology was the mighty Wurlitzer. That’s right, before talking pictures, audiences were entertained by silent films that used title cards and, in many theaters, live music accompaniment. The Wurlitzer is a brand of organ, but also much more. The instrument is a beauty. It has four keyboards and 1,600 pipes as well as some key-operated instruments (cymbals, castanets, drums) in order to provide the right type of sounds for playing background for a silent movie.

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It also can play sound effects like car horns, bells, and whistles. It relies on the talent of the player to master such a device. In this case, the player was Bill Field. Along with a partner, Field, who has made his living as an organist for various entertainment spaces, purchased and rehabbed an old Wurlitzer organ to bring the experience to life for contemporary audiences.

Before the show, he played a short concert. The pipes and instruments are outlined with fluorescent paint. Thanks to a black light in the darkened theater, the audience can tell which pipes and instruments are working at various times. They are all controlled via keys and pedals on the organ.

That day, they showed a Tom Mix cowboy adventure. Mix did all his own stunts. The piece was filmed at the Grand Canyon — the real Grand Canyon, with sweeping vistas minus any CGI or green screen. No stunt men, miniatures, or computer effects; Tom and his horse did all the tricks. The live Wurlitzer that accompanied the silent film was perfectly in time with the film, and I felt totally transported to that dusty canyon and enjoyed Tom Mix and the musical ride!

Where were you when the lights went out?

CBS News was inside the NFL operations booth when the lights went out.

CBS News was inside the NFL operations booth when the lights went out.

Where was I when the lights went out?

I was at my post for the game in the CBS operations center inside the Superdome, sitting next to our head of NFL sales and our director of operations. As with every Super Bowl, we stayed in constant communication with the production truck to make sure all the commercials and promo spots played as scheduled. There are formats, rules, and procedures, and our job is to oversee them. We are there for quality control, and usually it all goes right.

Nothing prepared us for what we heard over the director’s intercom: “The lights just went out in the stadium! Standby!”

Then we lost power in our area and the TVs went out. We did not know what was on the air — or not on the air.

Did you ever see your life flash before your eyes? Childhood. School. Friends. The ’60s (nice!). Marriage. Kids. Ice cream. That was it.

So many questions ran through my head: What was happening? Why? What would this mean? How long until it’s fixed? What if it’s not fixed? Are we safe? What happens to the commercials? And importantly: how does this affect CBS?

I left the trailer and headed inside the stadium tunnel; there was confusion, tech people running, bewilderment. But ultimately, and most importantly, there was calm.

It seemed that people were thinking, “What can I do, and how can I help?” And it showed.

I went back into our control room and we were on the air, reporting from a field camera that had power. I later learned that we had never gone off the air. The cause of the power outage is still unknown. But in the end, we had two football games separated by a mystery drama — just what CBS does best!

Editors’ note: CNET is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.

Want another look at the promos that aired during the big game?

The final numbers are being tallied, but based on overnight ratings, it looks like Super Bowl XLVII had record viewership. We’re thrilled to know that tens of millions of people saw our promos.

In case you missed them, here they are for your viewing pleasure:

“2 Broke Girls – Spectacular”

The making of the “2 Broke Girls – Spectacular”

“Under the Dome”

David Letterman and Andrew Luck

“The Big Bang Theory”

CBS comedies

“We are the Champions”

“Thank you”

 

Super Bowl from the sidelines: Tech readiness is priority No. 1

View from main CBS control truck at the Superdome.

View from main CBS control truck at the Superdome.

It’s always a treat to watch the game coverage by the peerless NFL on CBS team, which is the very best in the business. And backing up our amazing group of analysts and experts in front of the camera is a trained crew of CBS Sports production and technical pros behind the scenes.

Their No. 1 priority is to deliver the perfect angle of every play, along with the sophisticated replays, zoom, and hyper-broadcast detail that TV viewers have grown to love. The production logistics and technical complexity associated with broadcasting the Super Bowl are astounding. This year, CBS Sports will have 62 cameras at the Superdome covering the game, along with dozens of replay devices. When you are able to capture virtually every detail of the action, the hard part becomes choosing the angles and replays wisely and making sure you don’t interfere with the broadcast.

In the mix will be some 4K cameras, which allow for stunning zooming capabilities, as well as the CBS sky cam, which glides over the field on a cable, capturing all. Orchestrating and syncing all the associated gear — including switchers, audio consoles, graphics gear packages, servers HD cam decks, and a whole lot of cable — is a massive undertaking. Beyonce is not the only one rehearsing ahead of Sunday — there have been production rehearsals every day this week to get ready.

I’m in awe of the process and all of my colleagues at CBS Sports who make the magic happen. The final countdown has begun, so follow me on Twitter¬†and stay tuned!