MIRA Mobile, SportsNet LA Boost Dodgers Coverage With FUJINON 99X Lenses

When SportsNet LA launched its Los Angeles Dodgers coverage this spring, MIRA Mobile Television was brought in to provide its M12 HD mobile unit and production equipment for home games and NL West away-game shows. In the post–All-Star–break period, one tool has emerged as major differentiator in SportsNet LA coverage: FUJINON 99X lenses.

“The colors are amazing, and the 99X allows us to get the most intimate shot from across the entire stadium,” says Sportsnet LA’s Dodgers telecast director Dustin Denti. “[It allows] our camera operators to get that extra zoom when they need to shoot between two players on the field without looking awful. Though there is a minor drop-off in iris at the end of the lens, it is far less obvious than other camera combinations I have worked with.”

M-12 is carrying six FUJINON XA99x8.4 lenses and four 77X lenses. The 99X lenses — the first ever on a MIRA truck — are outfitted on Sony HDC2570 studio cameras and positioned at high left center field, mid first base, tight center field, high right field, and high third (in conjunction with an I-MOVIX ultra-slow-motion system provided by Fletcher Chicago).

“The clarity of the lens is like nothing we have seen in this market,” says Stuart Wesolik, senior video engineer, SportsNet LA. “As a 99X, it is obviously tighter, but the lens also tracks very well with its zoom range. The speed of the lens is very good as well. And there is not as much drop-off on the end of the lens. So all of that combined makes for an awfully nice image.”

MIRA opted to purchase the 99X lenses after testing it on Portland Trailblazers coverage for CSN Northwest last season.

“The guys really liked it and were looking for an alternative to the 101X lens,” says Frank Coll, director of operations and business development, MIRA Mobile Television. “Usually, the trucks carry one or two of those as a requirement, but the drawback to the 101X was on the wide side, and that limited the lenses’ versatility. The neat thing about the 99X is, it actually went slightly wider than a standard field lens but you still had that good long throw on the telephoto side. The lens is really versatile in terms of its ability to snap back and get a nice wide perspective of the stadium but also be able to go in super tight and get that reaction shot in [a player’s face].”

The ‘Golf Shot’ on Home Runs
The far-reaching 99X lenses are able to go wider than the 101X lenses previously used for Dodgers coverage. This fact is particularly obvious in the high–left-field position at the highest corner of the upper deck, where SportsNet LA is able to capture not only ultra-wide beauty shots of the ballpark but also golf-style tracking shots of home runs.

“It’s a great perspective right down the third-base line,” says Coll. “[In a couple of  shots,] home runs launched off the bat, and the operator stayed tight with the batter and pulled wide as the ball headed out. It’s almost like a golf shot coming down the fairway, and that lens really shined there. We have heard a lot of kudos from the production crew and operators specifically for those shots. But it is also able to go wider so you get this great perspective of the entire stadium, which is a great shot for bumpers and intros coming in and out of an inning.”

Says Thom Calabro, director, marketing and product development., Optical Devices Division, FUJIFILM North America Corp., “The production team at SportsNet is truly pushing the limits of what’s possible in live sports coverage. The 99X lens has far-reaching telephoto capability yet also goes wide enough to provide panoramic shots. Camera operators can be more creative and go for shots they hadn’t been able to get previously.”

Kicking Up the Ultra-Slow Motion
The other key camera position where the 99X is deployed is the I-MOVIX ultra-slo-mo system at high third. As a result of the lens’s fast light transmission, Sportsnet LA is able to run the slow motion at higher speed even during night games, when flickering issues traditionally come into play.

“It’s so fast that we are able to really bump the frame rate up on the camera during night games, so we are getting an amazing slo-mo image out of it without comprising it as a standalone camera for live action,” says Coll. “The camera has gotten even better during night games. In the past, with a lens that wasn’t so fast, you would have to bump the shutter back, [and] you couldn’t get the great frame rate on the super-mo. He was using the exact same camera last year on a different lens, and the video operator says it’s like night and day.”

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