Fox Sports Amps Up Energy on MLS Pitch With MōVI Stabilizer, In-Goal T-Cams

In an effort to put its own stamp on Major League Soccer, kicking off the first season of an eight-year rights deal, Fox Sports is already providing the marquee-event feel that has become its staple. With a new Sunday-evening game-of-the-week window in place, Fox aims to grow the league’s profile with a host of new production elements, including a roving MōVI stabilizer handheld camera and robo “T-Cam” systems in the goals, on many of the MLS telecasts.

“I think having MLS games on Sunday in primetime is going to be really great in terms of selling [soccer] to the U.S. and promoting the league and the game,” says Francisco Contreras, director of field operations, Fox Sports. “What is unique is, we have a great producer and director that already know how to do soccer for Fox. It is our job to give them the tools they need to take it to the next level. We have the knowledge, and we think we can bring a lot to the coverage of MLS.”

With two weeks of MLS telecasts already in the bag, Fox Sports 1 is already off and running with its weekly Sunday-night slot (primarily starting at 7 p.m. ET). Game Creek Video will provide trucks for all MLS on FS1 shows, which will feature an average of seven cameras.

MōVI Stabilizer Captures In-Stadium Atmosphere
During its MLS primetime opener on March 8, FS1 captured the always raucous atmosphere at the Seattle Sounders’ CenturyLink Field, deploying a roving handheld camera on a MōVI M10 three-axis gyrostabilized gimbal. The Fox Sports team co-opted the MōVI from Fox Sports Netherlands, which has used it for the pregame opening shot, and deployed it during the NFC Championship in January for a similar pregame look just prior to kickoff.

Similar to a Steadicam, the unit allows a single camera operator to create sweeping long-form shots in the lead-up to kickoff or unique low-angle handheld shots from the pitch during the match.

“You can go behind the goal, and, if you use it right, you are going to get great shots that would be impossible otherwise,” says Contreras. “You can get great shots like the behind-the-corner kick. It’s a very different view for soccer because it goes so low and gets such a unique angle. Jibs have that long arm, but you can really bring this almost to the floor and create something totally different.”

Inside the Goal With T-Cams
Fox is also looking to give MLS fans a new angle with the T-Cam, a miniature pan/tilt robotic camera situated behind both goals and intended to shoot the entire goal. Developed by Inertia Unlimited, the system is similar to the company’s Dirtcam, which Fox has used on its Major League Baseball coverage. Having tested T-Cam during its Guinness International Champions Cup coverage last summer, Fox plans to deploy the system on its high-profile MLS matches this season (it made air in both MLS on Fox week 1 telecasts).

“We are going to test it out, and, hopefully, it makes a difference — especially on a penalty kick,” says Contreras. “When we tested it out in Miami last year, you could see the goalie, but you could not see that far to the left or right. Once we get that accomplished, it becomes an awesome, very unique shot.”

USA-Mexico Highlights Friendlies
As part of the rights deal, Fox will also produce U.S. men’s and women’s national-team games, highlighted by the USMNT’s matchup with Mexico on April 15. To put the event in perspective, San Antonio’s Alamodome sold out its 65,000 tickets in less than two weeks last month.

“We are trying to provide the same level of [production] complement on those friendlies, but it’s going to be a very big one in San Antonio,” says Contreras. “We are hoping to add a couple high-speed cameras there as well.”

Gearing Up for the All-Star Game
As the MLS campaign enters the summer, it will look to draft in the wake of Fox’s FIFA Women’s World Cup coverage. Just after the tournament’s conclusion, Fox’s MLS All-Star Game effort is expected to reap the production-tech benefits on July 29 in Denver.

“At All-Star, we are going to try to bring in more tools, and we will be working on identifying those tools leading up to the game,” says Contreras. “It will be right after the Women’s World Cup, so we will take a lot of the things we learn and use there and bring them in for the All-Star Game.”

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