It wasn’t Seahawks wideout DK Metcalf or Washington lineman Chase Young who broke out Sunday but a camera following them, one nicknamed “The Megalodon” by the Fox Sports team that created it.
“It’s a bit of a Frankenstein,” Fox Sports senior vp of technical and field operations Mike Davies said Sunday, explaining that the kit consists of a high-end Sony consumer camera, a gimbal (which keeps the camera steady while on the move) and a backpack transmitter that sends the video back to the production truck. The results were anything but monstrous.
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The images appeared novel to viewers (many of whom incorrectly identified them as 4K or 8K) largely because of the camera’s unusual depth-of-field effect, which often led to blurry backgrounds and up-close subjects seemingly popping off the screen. But there’s nothing groundbreaking about the components, many of which are used by social video creators. A similar stabilizer was used to create a viral video of then-LSU quarterback Joe Burrow last year. Transmitting the images live—and in an NFL broadcast, no less—is what’s new.
While a single broadcast lens can cost over $80,000 alone, Davies said this unit could be assembled for less than $10,000, meaning it could also bring a cinematic feel to smaller events. “We’re just scratching the surface,” he said. “In fact, I’m somewhat surprised it made the kind of splash it did.”
Davies said elements of the rig had previously been used during XFL games early this year as well as off the field for the network’s NFL coverage. Fox Sports technical director Jarrod Ligrani deserves the credit for putting it together and adding it to the live mix this week, according to Davies. The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled broadcast innovations as viewers grow accustomed to less-than-perfect presentations and producers deal with budget cuts as well as safety protocols.
“There is almost always something under the hood that is going on,” Davies said. “Whether you see that on TV or it’s just something that helps us make TV behind the scenes, innovation is always going on.”