When it comes
to advances in
sports is one of
the ultimate drivers. We
see this every two years
at the Olympics and it
seems that with every
sports season, camera
(and processing) technology
is accelerating. And
the demand for getting ever closer to the
action with high-def video for breathtaking
action as well as sports analysis is increasing.
More than a decade after wowing audiences
with its stop action, 360-angle views,
“Matrix-style” bullet-time action scenes are
now being used to analyze plays on the
baseball field. Earlier this year the YES Network
debuted “YES View,” a nine-camera system
that creates a panoramic vision of a batter’s
swing, a runner’s slide or a baseman’s
This month, NBC Sports will debut a
similar 360-degree feature for “Sunday Night
Football” at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, (check
out our story on the system on p. 22). The
newly installed 24\4K camera system will allow
producers to create a groundbreaking
“tactical view” of football plays, freely roaming
with never-before-seen viewing angles
around the action at both “Red Zones” play.
Both systems deploy technology from Israeli-
based Replay Technologies “freeD” system,
which combines the camera feeds with
high-level processing software to create the
3D images. A similar system was used in the
2012 London Olympics.
Using cameras to analyze the latest plays
in the sports announcers’ booth is one thing;
using cameras to determine whether an official’s
call was correct is another. For years,
most professional sports leagues have used
the instant replay to review controversial
calls (the technology debuted during the
1963 Army-Navy game); some pundits have
noted that the instant replay helped contribute
to the increasing popularity of televised
football in the United States.
Major League Baseball is one sport
though, that has had a somewhat tenuous
relationship with the instant replay, and
much of that has been because of tradition.
So it was, when MLB announced last month
that it would expand the use of the instant
replay beyond home run calls to allow
managers to challenge pretty much every
play—except for balls and strikes—that reaction
was decidedly mixed, although most
acknowledged that its time had come.
“Human error may be a part of the game,
but it doesn’t have to decide a game,” wrote
Tim Dahlberg, a sports columnist with the AP.
Others were concerned that the sport,
already criticized for taking too long, would
take up even more time.
“I fear that baseball games are already
growing too long to attract/keep the casual
fans the sport needs to thrive. This could
exacerbate the problem,” wrote Brett Taylor
in bleachernation.com. (An MLB official
noted that the use of the instant replay
could actually shorten the game because
it would reduce the number of heated arguments
between managers and umpires.)
Others were adamant that using the technology
is just one more step in removing
the “human element” from the game.
It should be noted that technology played
only a part in MLB’s decision, and that we’re
still years away from using 360-degree
“Matrix”-style video analysis to determine
the outcome of challenged plays. Nevertheless,
some fans consider the increasing use
of such technology an intrusion into a sport
that relies so much on the importance of tradition.
What will happen to those flare-ups
between managers and umpires, so many of
which are staged for the fans? Will this just
result in more ad time for the networks?
With the advent of sports in HD (soon to
go Ultra), we’re getting to the point where
the sports TV fan can make their own calls
with super high-resolution, slow-mo cameras
that reveal action down to the granular
level. Some fear that more technology will
overwhelm professional sports, resulting in
an increasing emphasis on analysis.
Whether this is a good thing will be up
to the networks, which will need to strike a
balance between too much blather and just
allowing the game to be played.