It’s not that the 85 mics, 28-plus cameras and three production trucks aren’t noteworthy when it comes to FOX Sports’ production of this year’s MLB World Series. It’s just that they aren’t the real story in the eyes of FOX Sports vice president of field operations Jerry Steinberg.
The big news from Chicago and Houston is that live production of HDTV has come of age. “The technology is now really TV,” Steinberg said from Houston before the White Sox clinched the series Wednesday. “What was a science project has become television.” Nearly all of the HD pieces are in place for the production crew to do their job. As recently as a few months ago “there was a lot of drama and people scratching their heads,” he said, because some production equipment was HD and others were SD.
With the conclusion of the series, Steinberg said, FOX Sports has one World Series, one NASCAR and one football season under its belt where 90 percent of the production was done in HD.
A surprising consequence of mainstreaming HD production is fun. “If you spend your life in the technical end of this business, it’s exciting to bring high definition home to the viewer,” he said.
Steinberg pointed to FOX Sports’ attention to 5.1 digital surround sound production as an example. “What we do from an audio and video standpoint is bringing viewers closer to the play. Now they can hear an outfielder diving for a ball and hear the breath leaving his chest. It’s a lot of fun.”
All of this isn’t to say that a few HD pieces aren’t still missing. Most notably, according to Steinberg, are a three-times super-slow-motion playback device and an HD RF link for portable cameras that doesn’t introduce a delay greater than 2 frames per second. However, Steinberg acknowledged that he and FOX Sports are willing to test any new solutions - even in beta - that come along in those areas to overcome any remaining HD hiccups.