Inside Pitch: Motion Impossible’s AGITO a Home Run for MLB’s Speed Cam
By Patrick Kligel, Owner of JIB TEK
Every so often an innovation comes along in the field of sports broadcasting that really helps bring the fans closer to the action. And this year, the stand out introduction of new technology that I was involved with probably goes to the Major League Baseball Network’s Speed Cam; a rail mounted camera that rides on specially constructed tracks built on top of the first base dugout.
Its ability to track a runner as they head from home out of the batter’s box to first base has brought fans closer to the action than ever before and manages perfectly to convey the sheer speed and athleticism of the players involved, as the camera keeps pace with the athletes. And at the heart of the nightly drama is Motion Impossible’s AGITO modular dolly system.
This has been MLB Network’s dream shot to do and they’ve been working on it for a long time. When I met with the producers of MLB’s Game of the Week and discussed what our options were, I thought of several platforms that could do the shot, but I picked the one that could do it the best. And for me that was the AGITO.
I chose the AGITO for a number of reasons, notably the lack of tether, its higher top speeds, its modular design, and its adaptability. The result is a new perspective on a venerable game as it shows the speed of the game at a lower eye level than anybody has ever seen before. That makes the audience feel like they are a part of the game, and not just a spectator. It was also used for interstitials to show the beauty of the Park, the interaction of the fans, and other new angles at replays during the game.
The AGITO is used in its tracks formation and runs on 80-feet of effective track, with a bit more at either end for stopping. Payload can vary, but is typically a Shotover G1 gimbal mounting a POV camera, such as the Sony HDC-P43. Aside from the fact that JIB TEK’s AGITO unit can, of course, be used on the productions in its wheeled configuration, the main reasons it was chosen for this particular job was the low profile that would not bring in the spectre of seat kill once fans were allowed back into the stadium, and a crucial combination of wireless operation and speed. We had speeds that were faster than the player and were only really restricted by the limited space to stop.
It was the wireless ability that made this happen, because when you’re moving at speed, and you’re dragging a cable, that cable can get caught on a number of things. Even if you build a trough for it, with 100% managed cable, it can still twist, bind, get kinked up, and jump.
The worst thing that can happen is for the system to come off the track. But, while the AGITO does have the ability to deliberately come off the track with its free moving version the AGITO Sports, it comes with a lot of safety features that help the gravity-based trolley stay safely planted on the track.
As for the AGITO, nobody matches its versatility in being able to go from track to sport mode as it can track the pitcher on and off the field, catching meetings on the mound, following the pitch to the plate, and more.