MLB Network Puts Defense in Focus, Adds 4K in Postseason

How many times have you seen a hitter make good contact with a fastball that you think is headed up the middle for a sure base hit, only to have the camera cut to the shortstop making the play because he had the shift on the entire time?

This season, MLB Network has looked to tackle this issue with the introduction of Shift Trax, an on-screen graphical enhancement that monitors and displays the defensive alignment during a given at-bat. Shift Trax is displayed through MLB Network’s regular on-screen score bug, which is built through Bug Box from TV Graphics. The feature will be a unique part of MLB Network’s third consecutive year of live Division Series coverage this postseason.

“[Using technology from Orad,] two years ago, we started showing defensive alignment … with our version of the “All 22” shot, which you don’t really see in baseball,” says Susan Stone, SVP, operations and engineering, MLB Network. “It’s important, though, to show what’s going on on the field that way, especially when the trend in baseball has been this shift. We realized we need a more current way to show that shift.”

MLB Network's Shift Trax (seen top right) is a graphical enhancement that shows viewers the defensive alignment of players on the field.

MLB Network’s Shift Trax (seen top right) is a graphical enhancement that shows viewers the defensive alignment of players on the field.

MLB Network gets two LDS games again this October, both on the National League side. The network will carry Game 2 between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers in L.A. (Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET) and Game 3 between the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants in San Francisco (Monday, time TBD).

In both cases, MLB Network will partner with Fox Sports to use its production facilities and resources to broadcast the game. Given the proximity of the two sites, MLB Network will work out of Fox’s Game Creek Dynasty in both L.A. and San Francisco but will bring along its own C unit, Game Creek Apollo, to facilitate its own graphics, EVS and file-transfer workflows, and transmission.

According to Director, Remote Productions, Tom Guidice, MLB Network will add 4K elements to the 20 Fox cameras already in place. MLB Network will deploy two Sony F55 camera systems with FUJINON Cabrio 85-300 lenses. Their feed will be recorded on one EVS XT3 server with Epsio zoom extraction software. The cameras will be controlled robotically via Fletcher robos in the B unit.

MLB Network will also supplement the Fox mics, placing microphones in all the bases. Both games will be produced by Chris Pfeiffer and directed by John Moore.

On the postproduction end, MLB Network will offer new versions of its Emmy-nominated opener, “A Field of Dreamers,” and the Emmy-winning piece “The Scrapbook,” which will air prior to both NLDS-game telecasts. Using rotoscope technology, “A Field of Dreamers” brings players from postseason teams — including Miguel Cabrera, Clayton Kershaw, Adam Jones, and Andrew McCutchen — to life on the famous Field of Dreams baseball diamond. “The Scrapbook” creates an animated collection of iconic images from postseasons past, updated to include David Ortiz’s grand slam from the 2013 ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.

From its Secaucus, NJ, studios, the network will air 200 hours of live coverage of the 2014 postseason, including game previews, highlights, analysis, interviews, and press conferences across all studio programming. MLB Tonight will air before and after every postseason game with reporters Scott Braun, Kristina Fitzpatrick, Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal, Sam Ryan, Heidi Watney, and Matt Yallof onsite at each ballpark. MLB Network’s daily postseason programming schedule includes High Heat With Christopher Russo, The Rundown, Intentional Talk, MLB Now, and MLB Tonight.

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