Fox Sports Embraces Hawk-Eye, Dirtcam for Postseason MLB Coverage
Fox Sports is in the midst of coverage of two MLB American League Divisional Series that each feature technologies that will be deployed for the American League Championship Series and World Series coverage. The Fox team is also in the midst of a first for the network: postseason baseball in Canada.
“We very seldom go up there, even for the regular season,” says Mike Davies, SVP, field operations, Fox Sports. “But we’re excited to do a big game up there.”
An army of production units are involved. For the ALDS series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers, Game Creek Video’s Dynasty is in Toronto, and and NEP’s EN2 is in North Arlington. For the Houston-Kansas City series, Game Creek Video’s Apollo is in Houston, alongside its Edit 1 unit, and NEP Iridium is in Kansas City. Dome Productions is providing some local crew to complement the Fox production team in Canada.
One of the exciting innovations this year is the expanded use of the Inertia Unlimited Dirtcam, a small camera that sticks up only 0.1 in. above the dirt and can pan. It is buried in the infield near first base, home plate, and, for the first time, second base.
“At second base, it will be in the perimeter of the grass and can pan into the base as a player is sliding in,” says Francisco Contreras, director of field operations, Fox Sports.
Unfortunately, the infield in Toronto is not deep enough to allow the Dirtcam to be installed at second base, but the ALDS games there will have Dirtcams at first base and in front of home plate. The infield in North Arlington is suitable for installing the camera at first or second base.
The Blue Jays-Rangers series also features an Inertia Unlimited Super Slo-Mo and two X-Mo cameras. The Astros-Royals production team has Sony Hawk-Eye systems, to offer more analysis of pitch locations, as well as a locked-off X-Mo.
“We’re excited to see the Hawk-Eye,” adds Contreras. “It will give a different perspective.”
According to Davies, the technical components will ramp up considerably for the League Championship Series, and the production team will number about 175. Sony HDC-4300 cameras running in 8X mode will be added to the mix, with new EVS codecs that will conserve channel capacity. Five X-Mos will also be in use for the LCS along with a Phantom high-speed camera and a Vision Research 4K flex camera that will be paired with an AJA Corvid 4K scaler to provide hyper-zoom functionality.
“These are all things we first used at the All-Star game and during the regular season,” says Davies, “but the playoffs gives us a chance to collect all the meaningful technologies and bring it all together.”
The use of both X-Mo and HDC-4300 cameras this year is indicative of what will most likely be the high-speed–acquisition template for the future.
“The X-Mo will always have a spot in the production for a variety of reasons, including that the 4300 cannot record at 1,000 frames a second and do what the Phantom camera can do,” says Davies. “But the 4300 looks and acts just like any other camera.”
The end result is a situation that viewers will experience during the ALCS and World Series with respect to the centerfield cameras. Three cameras will be used: a regular shot at a normal frame rate, then a tight shot with the 4300 at a higher frame rate, and then a “tight-tight” shot using the X-Mo at an even higher frame rate.
The World Series game coverage will be pretty similar to that of the ALCS, with the addition of a pregame studio from Filmwerks and a pregame production truck.
“It’s a huge event, and there is no substitute for being onsite,” observes Davies. “Like the NFC Championship or the USA-Mexico CONCACAF playoff, the World Series is one of those things you need to be onsite for.”