Five Keys to Fox Sports’ Production of World Series Game 7
Extreme-slow-motion replays, enhanced audio are again the network’s Fall Classic calling card
As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Fox Sports’ coverage of the 2016 World Series is killing it in the ratings — through six games, the Series is averaging 19.9 million viewers per game on television — and the network has been gifted the dream scenario of a Game 7 between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs.
The World Series is one of Fox Sports’ most technologically advanced productions each year, but, this year, with a special matchup between the two franchises with the longest championship droughts, the network has really dialed up its coverage with added cameras, graphic elements with MLB Advanced Media’s Statcast, and extended onsite-studio coverage.
“We’ve been able to provide our best product to date every single game,” says Brad Cheney, VP, field operations and engineering, Fox Sports, “and to have this many viewers watching at home is icing on the cake for us.”
As a historic World Series reaches its dramatic conclusion, here’s one more look at the some of elements of the production that have contributed to Fox Sports’ successful Fall Classic.
Over the past few years, Fox Sports has established a reputation for excelling in the use of high-speed cameras during the MLB Postseason. Many baseball viewers will recall, specifically, Hunter Pence’s “three hits in one swing” broken-bat replay from the 2012 National League Championship Series for the San Francisco Giants and the replay of his Giants teammate Marco Scutaro screaming into the sky during a driving rain in the clinching game of that same year’s World Series.
Fox Sports has committed more high-speed resources to this World Series than it ever has for a major sports event. Deployed tonight at Progressive Field are four Sony HDC-4300’s shooting at 6X, three Sony HDC-4800’s shooting at 16X, and two Inertia Unlimited Phantom cameras running at above 2,000 frames per second.
Sounds of the Game
Audio is another element of baseball production that Fox Sports hangs its hat on. An effort lead by A1 Joe Carpenter has deployed Fox’s most robust collection of effects microphones ever at a World Series.
Among the 75 effects microphones scattered around the stadium, eight Quantum5X Aqua microphones are buried in the ground on the infield (two on the sides of the mound, two in the infield, and four on the infield edges), and 44 microphones are embedded in the surrounding walls and in the dugouts.
Onsite Studio Team Excels
One of the unexpected highlights of Fox Sports’ World Series coverage this year has been the care that has gone into its onsite studio pre/postgame programming. The new on-air team of Kevin Burkhardt, Alex Rodriguez, Pete Rose, and Frank Thomas has excelled, and Fox has been generous with the amount of on-air time given the show following the game broadcast.
“When we got Kevin, Alex, Pete, and Frank together, we saw how dynamic a group it was,” says Cheney. “It really matches the look and the feel that [Fox has] developed over the years with Fox NFL Sunday. The ability to put them some pretty cool places has been pretty impressive.”
Fox Sports has had onsite sets in the heat of the action in both Cleveland and Chicago. Its location outside Wrigley Field, specifically, was on the street near the Bleachers exit of the stadium and offered a large swath of fans as background.
At each location, Fox has dedicated production trucks to work the pre/postgame coverage. In Cleveland, it’s NEP’s NCP 14; in Chicago, Game Creek Video’s Freedom A and B units.
John Moore Fills in as Director
For the second consecutive World Series, legendary director Bill Webb has been unable to take his traditional place at the front bench. Although the good news is that the brain cancer that kept him out of the 2015 Fall Classic is in remission, he unfortunately suffered a fall at his home, and that forced him into physical therapy and out of this year’s event.
For the second consecutive year, John Moore has filled in for Webb, working alongside lead producer Pete Macheska. Moore works plenty of national baseball telecasts for both Fox Sports and MLB Network and regularly directs Yankees games for the YES Network in New York.
8K Acquisition and Statcast Integration
Fox Sports is working with MLB Advanced Media on an interesting technological nugget at this year’s Series. The duo has positioned an 8K camera from Astrodesign at high home and is running the signal through MLBAM’s Statcast application (designed and supported by ChyronHego), which is tied to an Evertz DreamCatcher to provide a complete 8K image of the entire field.
From there, Fox Sports is provided a downconverted 720p output and is able to do pan-and-scan on the image and even embed Statcast graphics from MLBAM. This method offers Statcast replays embedded on the pan-and-scan. These experiments have made it on-air throughout the Series, and Cheney believes “it tells a pretty amazing story.”
“This allows us to cover the whole field,” he explains, “and choose to tell a story based upon a singular image and move around it and never have to cut to a different angle. We can tell a complete story with Statcast.”
Fox Sports’ coverage of Game 7 of the World Series begins tonight with pregame coverage at 7 p.m. ET on Fox. First pitch is set for 8:08 p.m. The game can also be streamed live on Fox Sports Go.