Fox Sports Hopes New MLS Corner Flag Cams Can ‘Catch Lightning In A Bottle’

ATLANTA—Fox Sports is deploying a series of small, unobtrusive POV cameras for coverage Dec. 8 of the MLS Cup game between host Atlanta United FC and the Portland Timbers as part of its 26-camera setup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The view from Fox Sports new Corner Flag Cams being used to cover the MLS Cup Game Dec. 8.

The view from Fox Sports new Corner Flag Cams being used to cover the MLS Cup Game Dec. 8.

“This is the big, ultimate event for the MLS. We have it covered as an elite game to make sure we don’t miss anything,” said Michael Davies, senior vice president of Field and Technical Operations for Fox Sports. “The new thing is all of the POVs [point-of-video cameras] around the stadium.”

For the game, Fox Sports has added small POV cameras in the goals, the locker rooms and along the tunnels leading from the locker rooms to the stadium floor as well as four corner flag cameras –soccer’s equivalent of NFL and college football pylon cameras. “I think the corner cams fit nicely into that portfolio of small POV cams,” he said.

The corner flag cams are the handiwork of Admiral Video, the Lancaster, N.Y.,-based company that has teamed with Fox over the past few years to design and build a variety of specialty cameras for sports coverage. “I’ve asked Paul Halsey, the principal there, to make these cameras,” said Davies. “We’ve had him do all sorts of strange things.”

“Companies like Admiral Video are able to take apart cameras that exist and reconstruct them in the space that you have available for something like a corner flag, a pylon or a set of NFL chains–whatever you have to work with,” he said.

The corner flag cameras to be used during this weekend’s MLS Cup will feed a 720p HD signal via a modified USB connector and copper cable to Fox Sports’ switching matrix. The connection enables two-way communications providing for control over camera iris and other camera painting functions. Super-wide lenses are part of the corner flag camera assembly as they are with all POV cameras that are being deployed for the game.

“When you are dealing with any type of POV camera –worn or otherwise—it needs to be super wide angle because you never know where the action is going to take place,” he said. “It’s not like a camera that you can pan and tilt.”

Corner Cam

Corner Cam

The POV cameras in the corner flags are the same type of miniature cameras Fox Sports uses as part of its production of Thursday Night Football, Davies said, adding that for those NFL games the cameras are operated in 1080p mode to match the networks’ overall production setup.

Davies looks forward to the day when 4K and higher t frame rates become available in small POV cameras, he said. “That will be pretty cool because you could even get an element of super motion.”

For now, however, Davies is hopeful the corner flag cameras used this weekend can “catch lightning in a bottle.” He fully acknowledges there are no certainties about whether they will capture shots that are airworthy. “Cameras like this don’t get used all of the time. You can’t even guarantee that they will be used at all,” he said.

However, occasionally these POV camera setups can capture some amazing shots. “You may not put these types of cameras out for your garden-variety regular season game, but when you are dealing with something like the MSL final, you want to go out with all of your guns blazing and be ready for anything,” said Davies.

“That’s why we decided to put those corner cams in. Either they play a very minor role, or they end up being the star of the show. You never know.”

Fox Sports coverage of the MLS Cup begins on Fox and the Fox Sports app at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Phil Kurz

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.