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Fox and Turner are preparing for their postseason baseball coverage—which starts on Oct. 1—by deploying a number of newer technologies to improve their look and provide announcers with additional features to analyze the action.
“We’ve done a lot of R&D this year and worked closely with [Major League Baseball] to design a lot of technologies and innovations that we’ve narrowed down to the ones we think will create the most enhancements to our postseason coverage,” says Craig Barry, senior VP of production and executive creative director at Turner Sports.
Mike Davies, VP of field operations for Fox Sports, adds that some of the technologies they’ll be highlighting were first showcased last season but have been improved this year during regular-season play. “We’ve had a long period of time and many reps to flesh out some of the technologies that we’ve been working on all season,” Davies says.
The Super-Spin Zone
One example is the Phantom super-slow-motion camera from Vision Research that Fox used in last year’s postseason coverage and Turner will be fielding for the first time.
“It shoots at anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 frames per second, so you can see things that you can’t with other cameras, like the bat bend and the spin on the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand,” Davies says. “We’ve been working all season to build on what we did last year, and this postseason you’ll see some new camera angles.”
Barry notes that the Phantom “provides really great resolution to tell better stories about the pitcher-batter match-up.”
Turner has also been working on what it is calling a “Truss Cam,” which will be mounted on a trolley moving 125 to 250 feet in either direction along the outfield wall at up to 25 miles per hour. “That will give us a whole new perspective on the game from the outfield looking in,” Barry says.
Fox is also hoping to provide a new perspective on the game thanks to an HD “Dirtcam,” which provides a ground-level shot from either home plate or just outside first base. The network tried the set-up at the All-Star Game but was unable to use the shots because of a lens flare from the lights, a problem it has since fixed.
“It will give us something we haven’t seen before, which is the catcher reaction,” Davies says.
An Ultra HD slow-motion camera from Vision Research will also get its postseason debut for use in replays. Fox will be using the system much as it does in NFL football to zoom in on the action and use the extra pixels to provide clear details that would be impossible to see with normal HD cameras.
Hitting It Out of the Park
Both networks will also be making a number of enhancements to their graphics and replay tools.
Fox, for example, has improved the Home Run Tracker that was first deployed in the 2012 postseason. It uses the Hego Paint system from ChyronHego to show the flight path and distance of a homer.
During coverage this year, Fox will be using Hego Paint to place graphics and different bits of information on the field virtually.
“The Hego Paint product uses uncalibrated cameras to map graphic information onto the video, which we have used in the past in football to show things like tackle boxes,” Davies says. “It builds on our Home Run Tracker and is a very versatile tool.”
Fox will also be using the Hego Paint system, along with improvements to the EVS replay system, to “overlay multiple pitches on one [video] clip so that you can see five pitches from the whole at-bat or compare home run swings all at once,” Davies says.
Turner also has used Hego Paint for postseason coverage, to upgrade its Pitch Tracker system to show different types of pitches on the screen. It has also expanded its partnership with Bloomberg so it will be able to show much more data.
“This will give us a lot more historical information on the match-ups between specific pitchers and batters” and is designed to provide its on-air talent with more analytical tools, Barry says. As part of that effort, the network has redesigned its anchor desk to make it easier to show more graphics and images.
“We’re in the business of storytelling,” Barry adds, “and when it comes down to choosing between one technology or another, we’ve been focusing on the ones that help tell a better story.”
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