Live From Men’s Final Four: Double-Headed RailCam Debuts For CBS Sports, WBD Sports

A Sony P43 shooting at 6x and a Sony F55 acquiring shallow depth-of-field imagery ride on the rail

When the calendar turns to March and college hoops hit its postseason, it’s RailCam’s time to shine.

This year, at the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in Houston, the teams at CBS Sports and WBD Sports are debuting a new, two-headed version of the track system to offer more options to the production team.

CBS Sports and WBD Sports are debuting a new double-headed version of their RailCam system at the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in Houston. (Photo: CBS Sports/WBD Sports)

The two cameras on the RailCam are a Sony P43 shooting at 6-time slow motion with a Canon CJ15ex8.5 BKRS-V S lens (with built-in stabilizer) – which pulls the traditional RailCam angle – and a Sony F55 with a Canon Cine Servo 17-120 or a Canon 25-250 PL lens, which is tasked with shooting in shallow depth-of-field.

This new edition of RailCam is making its debut for CBS Sports/WBD Sports here at the Final Four. It did not get the traditional test run at a regional site that new tools typically do. Instead, the two sides set up the system in a warehouse in New Jersey in late February and felt good about how it operated and the shots it acquired.

“We thought this could provide some terrific, new compelling versions of shots both live and replay,” says Jason Cohen, VP, Remote Technical Operations for CBS Sports. It isn’t until you set it up in this type of environment in this big stadium that you get a sense of how it will work. To their credit, the NCAA reviewed it and approved it because they deemed it not to be in any kind of major obstruction of eyesight. Hopefully, it adds another dynamic of capturing that courtside perspective that hasn’t been done in basketball before.”

The added unit makes this version of the RailCam a four-person job. There are two PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) operators, a track pilot, and a focus-puller for the F55.

The F55 is supported by an ARRI SRH-3 (stabilized remote head). According to Chris Brown, VP, Production Operations and Technology for WBD Sports, the gyrostabilizer is required because while the P43 has an image-stabilizing lens, the F55’s lens does not and the trip along the track can, at times, get a little bumpy.

All Mobile Video and Blackcam team up on the design of the full RailCam system that runs along the nearsideline of the playing surface. The system has been a fixture on CBS Sports/WBD Sports live coverage of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four since it first appeared on this event in 2015.

The desire of adding a shallow depth-of-field-capable angle on the RailCam emerged last year but the Cohen and Brown didn’t want to compromise on the traditional camera coverage that the system provides. That’s when AVS informed them that the dolly attached to the cameras could actually support two systems.

“So we went and did some testing, shot some video, and presented that for the NCAA,” says Brown. “We’re excited to see it.”

CBS Sports and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports will provide exclusive coverage of the 2023 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship from Houston, Texas. CBS will televise the NCAA Final Four National Semifinals on Saturday and the National Championship on Monday, April 3. Saturday’s Men’s Final Four features Florida Atlantic taking on San Diego State at 6:09 p.m. ET on CBS, followed by Connecticut vs. Miami approximately 40 minutes after the completion of the first game.

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