X Games Live: In 2D or 3D, Fletcher Sports Has Extreme Slo-Mo Mastered
After several months of blood, sweat, and experimentation, it seems that ESPN and Fletcher Sports have finally mastered the art of extreme slow motion in 3D – and it is on full display at Summer X Games this week in Los Angeles.
Last year, ESPN 3D coordinating producer Phil Orlins called extreme slo-mo “the biggest single struggle” during ESPN 3D’s first six months of existence. However, the current system, which utilizes I-MOVIX high-speed cameras and was engineered by Fletcher and the Cameron-Pace Group, is now a key tool in every ESPN 3D production, especially the slo-mo-friendly Summer X Games.
“It has become a camera that the 3D team now counts on at every show for both live and replay,” says Ed Andrzejewski, manager of sports operations, Fletcher Chicago. “They expect it to work now, it’s no longer just an extra camera where they hope for the best.”
All a Matter of Trust for ESPN 3D
Using twin I-MOVIX SprintCam Vvs HD systems with a Cameron-Pace 3D rig, the Fletcher system is being deployed in a hard camera configuration at the Staples Center for ESPN 3D’s coverage of the Moto X events. Unlike last year, when the system depended on a fixed lens, Fletcher’s system now has full zoom and focus capability.
“The big difference between last year and this year is that the crew is now more comfortable with the system,” says Andrzejewski. “The crew has had the system in their hands for a full season now, so they have really gotten used to it. It’s leaps and bounds over where we were last year. They can now do the higher speeds; 300 fps will be their goal [during X Games].”
Nonetheless, he admits that there is always more work to be done in the ever-evolving world of 3D production.
“In all honesty, it is still a work in progress just like everything in 3D. There are still improvements to be made and we are still making those improvements.”
…And Now for the 2D
Not to be forgotten, Fletcher also has a significant 2D presence at L.A. Live this year, deploying two I-MOVIX SprintCam Vvs HD systems for ESPN’s coverage. This marks the first year that all Summer X Games events will feature I-MOVIX extreme slo-mo (last year, Fletcher provided one I-MOVIX system and one NAC Hi-Motion system).
“This year, we have enough of the I-MOVIX cameras where we can supply two of them,” says Andrzejewski. “Last year, we had the older version of the NAC camera and one I-MOVIX – that gave us a great opportunity to see what a difference there was between the two camera systems.”
One extreme slo-mo system is located at the Street & Park Event Deck, where it is covering a variety of skateboard and BMX events in a hard camera setup. In addition, the same system is periodically switched to a handheld configuration and moved inside to the Nokia Theater at L.A. Live for the Skateboard and BMX Vert competitions.
“That is one thing that has made ESPN very happy – they can easily change it from hard camera to handheld,” says Andrzejewski. “And we’re also able to be at high frame rates, not just outdoors, but also indoors. At [the Nokia Theater], they are able to achieve 300 fps and still give the camera operator enough depth of field to be able to hold his focus. That’s a big improvement over last year.”
The second system will be utilized as a handheld and equipped with a wide-angle lens during all four days of X Games, covering the Big Air and RallyCross competitions at the outdoor Lot 7 venue.
From I-MOVIX to I-Robotics
Fletcher is also supplying a total of 11 robotic camera systems to ESPN, including three 3D systems that utilize Cameron-Pace 3D rigs. Also present are two robotic cameras at the Street & Park Events Deck and six systems for the Big Air and RallyCross competitions at Lot 7.
“One of our biggest challenges at X Games is always our basic robotic systems,” says Andrzejewski. “It’s not like a basketball game where you know the ball is always going to go into the same hoop. At X Games, the course builders will come in and change the layout. So the big thing is for us to change and adapt to keep the directors happy as the courses change.”
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