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Fox Sports Enhances `Cinematic Look' for Field of Dreams Game Coverage

Fox Sports
(Image credit: Fox Sports)

DYERSVILLE, Iowa—Fox Sports is upping its game for production of the August 11 Field of Dreams Game, hoping to build on the success of its telecast of the 2021 inaugural game from the cornfield ballpark built to celebrate the Oscar-nominated film of the same name.

This year, the broadcaster is building on the cinematic approach to the production it took covering the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox last year—the most watched regular season baseball game in 17 years for Fox Sports. 

For this year’s game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs, Fox Sports is adding a roving Sony HDC-F5500 camera system. Using the company’s Super 35mm 4K CMOS image sensor, the camera can create the shallow depth of field commonly found in cinematic productions.

“Sony launched the new F-5500 camera late last year, and we are lucky enough to have one of those with us,” said Brad Cheney, Fox Sports vice president of field operations and engineering. “For this game, we are going to run it as an RF camera."

“Because the game is not tied into the stadium or ballpark structure itself like it would be at Yankee Stadium, for instance, it is great to have that kind of cinematic camera that has the ability to be wireless and can take in the amazing cornfield and have that cinematic feel to continue to tell the story of the movie," he continued. 

(Pregame coverage of the Field of Dreams 2 Game begins Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. EDT. Game coverage starts at 7 p.m. EDT. Fox Sports coverage will be available on Fox Television stations, Fox affiliates, Fox Deportes, the Fox Sports Live App, and from MVPD and OTT partners.)

Cameras and coverage
The focus on creating a cinematic look doesn’t end with the HDC-F5500, however. “We are going to continue to have a cinematic look on our drones along with our FlyCam [capable of moving between the movie set and the primary field], and we are going to continue to leverage HDR production, as we did last year, and continue to push that forward,” said Cheney.

Field of Dreams

(Image credit: Fox Sports)

These cameras in particular, given their range and freedom of movement will help to set the scene. “The ballpark just continues to extend past the walls, so they really allow you a lot of room to tell a story, and obviously that story is not just the game—although that’s of the utmost importance—but its’ also about celebrating the movie and celebrating that connection between parents and children,” he said.

Besides the Sony HDC-F5500, Fox Sports will rely on nearly 40 cameras for its coverage. Sony this week released a list of its cameras to be used, which besides the HDC-F5500 in an RF configuration included: 

  • HDC-4300 4K HDR/SR camera systems with High Frame Rate (HFR) for coverage inside third, high home, centerfield, inside low first, high third, talent in the booth, player introductions and the studio for pregame coverage.
  • HDC-5500 4K Global shutter HDR/SDR camera system with super slow mo support, used at 6x speed for high first, tight center, mid first and mid third and in standard mode from the centerfield platform.
  • HDC-P50 compact 4K HDR/SDR POV camera with up to 6x HFR to capture over-the-shoulder booth shots and serving as the first base robotic camera for virtual applications.
  • HDC-P31 compact 1080/60p-capable HDR/SDR POV camera used robotically at mid-home, in the booth and to capture beauty shots.

The camera lineup also includes two DirtCams, and the audio setup will leverage more than 50 microphones, including multiple mics buried in the field and one at each base, to pickup game sounds. MLB revealed this week that Cubs outfielder Ian Happ and Reds first baseman Joey Votto will wear mics during the game to talk to Fox Sports announcers Joe Davis and John Smoltz. 

Fox Sports will continue its production strategy of acquiring HD 1080p HDR, using Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), and transporting its production from the venue to network center where it will be upscaled to 4K HDR for select distribution partners, says Cheney.

Viewers can watch 4K HDR coverage on Cox Contour TV, DirecTV [DBS only], Comcast Cable [STB only], Altice Optimum, DISH, FuboTV, MTC Cable, Service Electric Cable, Verizon FiOS, Armstrong, RCN Grande, EPB, YouTube TV and Jackson Energy.

On-site and Remote Workflow
Last year’s game was played during the COVID pandemic, and to ensure the health and safety of its production crew Fox Sports reduced the number of people on site involved in coverage. The broadcasters relied on its production team at the “Vault” production center in Los Angeles where members could be separated by a safe distance to run replays and create graphics.

It will use the same strategy for this year’s game—no small feat given the location of the venue. “Amazing as it is, we still have interconnectivity in a field in Iowa,” he says.

Fox Sports will use two C-band satellite trucks for the primary and backup paths for contribution of the production to its network center. The local internet service provider also is supporting required connectivity with a couple of IP lines, says Cheney.

“The IP link helps provide a lot of the connectivity from MLB’s partners, including what helps power our drones,” he says. “T-Mobile is providing a lot of cellular connectivity. So we are excited to have that kind of outward connectivity in a cornfield in Iowa.”

While it may have taken extra effort on the part of Fox Sports and MLB to ensure that level of connectivity in a cornfield, that setting and its splendor is the lynchpin that makes the Field of Dreams Game special, says Cheney.

“The beauty of this game—something we learned last year—is quite remarkable,” he says. “We’re committed to delivering that beauty to viewers.”

(Editor’s note: On Aug. 10, Fox Sports also will produce a youth baseball game of teams from the Chicago Cubs RBI and Cincinnati Reds RBI programs playing on the field from the movie set. The game, presented live on FS1, begins at 5 p.m. EDT.) 

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.