ESPN, Fletcher Sports Deploy Sony HDC-4800 Cameras With FUJINON Lenses for Monday Night Football
Throughout the season, ESPN has used its Sony 4800 cameras with FUJINON lenses live.
An ESPN staple for more than 10 years, Monday Night Football is known for pushing the technological envelope. This season, ESPN worked with longtime partner Fletcher Sports to deploy Sony HDC-4800 4K ultra-high frame rate cameras outfitted with FUJINON PL 20-120mm Cabrio lenses in each stadium’s end zone for close-up shots of the goal line.
At each MNF game this season, ESPN has positioned two Sony 4800 cameras on each end zone, pointed at the goal line. Because ESPN’s NEP EN-1 truck uses all Sony cameras, the Sony 4800 cameras easily integrate into the complement, enabling the director to cut to the 4800s live.
“We chose the Sony  camera because it matches the other Sony cameras on Monday Night Football,” says ESPN Senior Operations Specialist Jim Munn, “so it’s easy to integrate and the operators on both the camera end and video end are familiar with its capabilities.”
According to Fletcher Sports Program Manager Ed Andrzejewski, ESPN previously placed its high-speed cameras higher up in each stadium, where they would be used for replay angles. The location required a longer lens. Now, with the Sony 4800 cameras located on the same level as the main game cameras and used for live-game action, ESPN required a wider lens. After testing out a variety of lenses at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis prior to the Monday Night Football season opener there on Sept. 11, ESPN landed on the FUJINON PL 20-120mm Cabrio lenses.
Says Munn, “We chose the FUJINON lens because, in this zoom range, the lens has a flat f-stop from wide point to zoom point, which met our needs.”
The combination of the lens’ wide angle, clarity, and speed, meant that ESPN could zoom out to capture all 22 players in a live cut as well as zoom in to determine if the ball crossed the goal line for touchdown. For Fletcher Sports, a company that has worked with ESPN since 2006 on the development of specialty cameras, the most exciting part of the Sony 4800/FUJINON lens combination is that, now, cameras that were once considered “specialty” can now be used live, and enhance the quality of the live-game production in real time.
“In the past, a lot of the 4K and high-frame-rate camera systems – once you get up to the ultra-high frame rates, they’re pretty much only there as a replay tool,” says Andrzejewski. “Now with the camera quality that Sony brings and the quality of the lenses that the lens manufacturers have brought on for the 4K cameras, specialty cameras can be cut in live to your regular production.”