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Weekend What's Next: Controversial UK game sky cam a component to future basketball broadcasts?

Weekend What's Next: Controversial UK game sky cam a component to future basketball broadcasts?

by FMD danb@whas11.com

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 18, 2011 at 11:47 AM

Have you heard, read, tweeted, facebooked? ESPN tried out a new camera at the Mississippi State/Kentucky game Tuesday. It was not very popular. I have never seen a camera placement or selection garner such reaction. 

Everyone was talking about it, even AD Mitch Barnhardt felt compelled to issue a statement that the University will not allow that camera placement in the future. I had never heard administration comment on something like this before- it was crazy.
If you didn’t see it, or don’t have twitter or Facebook somehow yet you have found your way to this page, the ESPN Crew decided to put a camera directly below the center court overhead scoreboard at Rupp arena. The camera showed about half the court at a time and was able to spin to show each end. Really it was like the best version of the nosebleed seats near the top of Rupp.
If you are a new reader, I am a television director first and obviously foremost, (who has worked on a number of sporting event crews) and a sports fan, so this topic is especially interesting to me. The reason I got into behind the scenes television work was so I could help bring the experience of a live sporting event home. 
So here’s my take. It didn’t work. (hardly an original take). Here’s why. First of all it trailed the play sometimes, leaving parts of the court important to the action out of the picture.  Also, the quick spins and camera moves required to follow the action left some feeling akin to motion sick.  Also, you couldn’t tell a 6-10 guy from a 5-9 one. Overhead, all you saw was heads, shoulders and uniforms. You couldn’t read numbers, you couldn’t tell if the post match-up was big on big, all you knew is a UK player had the ball or didn’t.
Even if there were no issues whatsoever with this camera, just the uproar (really it was an uproar)over the camera would mean it was a failure. TV is an industry that measures itself based on popularity and this was very unpopular. 
And here’s what I don’t understand: didn’t they test this shot in other games and just not use it? Shouldn’t they have known it wasn’t working for the reasons listed above? They should have, but maybe they saw some good in it.
Because here’s what I liked about it: First it illustrated the speed of the action. Players move much faster on the court than the staid familiar sideline cam lets on, but the overhead camera was able to grab a little of that. Also, you can really see a team run its offensive sets from this angle. The sideline angle shows the player movement, but it’s hard to see spacing, this camera showed this well. 
Secondly, it had its moments. It was really interesting on some of the longer range shots (thinking of a first half Bost 3 pointer), it got some interesting reactions and on inbound plays you could see what was going on really clearly.
The last thing I liked, and this I REALLY like, is that they aren’t afraid of experimentation. It is easy to say “this is the way we show basketball.” They said “Is the way we show basketball the best way to show basketball?” Then they tried to improve upon it. I would hope that they are constantly trying to improve the product.
One of my personal dreams in the broadcasting business is to come up with a way to provide a “virtual arena” experience where a consumer at home could somehow experience being at a game, while comfortably situated at home. Everyone would have great seats and you could watch with whomever you like. With the emergence of 3-D technologies, as well as internet based communications(currently used in online gaming) I can see a way to make this happen. If TV Execs are content showing games the way they always have, nothing like this will happen. 
I hope they continue to experiment on into the future.   
You know what I would really like to see?  This can be done right now. I would like to see them do stuff like this for college football. My single largest TV production related complaint as a viewer of any sport is that you can not see the receivers run their patterns during a football game. This is largely because when broadcasting football “back in the day”, offenses were run-oriented and the action at the line of scrimmage was all the action in a game.
Well we just had a Super Bowl where the winning team threw the ball on all but 10 plays. It is time to let us see the players run downfield. If I were given complete control of a game, I would use the end zone cameras (the ones they show the field goals on) to show the field once the ball is snapped and pass is the play. 
So the sequence would go: sideline cam for the snap, stay on sideline for run or switch to end zone cam for pass. I know that there will be mistakes as crews miss-diagnose plays from time to time, and there would also be an issue with getting used to the “new” way to watch football on TV, but I think in the long run viewers would really benefit from seeing the receivers.
In the end, the overhead camera for basketball broadcasts as current should be classified as epic fail. Mostly because very few people liked it, and even those who liked it view it as incredibly flawed. 
I do think they could incorporate it on some situational levels, and think it has high use in an internet type platform where you can watch multiple angles at once. For all we know, that is their eventual plan with this and other experiments, maybe multi-angle telecasts incorporating new camera placement is What’s Next for sports television on all platforms.
With that we dive into our Weekend What’s Next local sports preview.
Let’s stay with the Cats to start. They play host to South Carolina Saturday at 4:00 PM. The two teams met January 22 in Columbia, and Kentucky cruised to a nine point victory in their only conference road win of the season.  The gamecocks come in losers of four straight, all in the SEC East, and have fallen into last place by two full games in the division. 
In the first meeting South Carolina’s 6-9 forward San Muldrow had a season high 23 points and 13 rebounds, which I guess is OK for Cal and the Cats all things considered since UK won easily by 9. Darius Miller had a season high 18 for UK and will look to build off both that and the decent 13 point game Tuesday. 
In fact, the Cats as a whole looked good in stretches Tuesday, unfortunately there was still too many times where the team kicked the ball around, failed to get out to open jump shooters and chose poor shots or difficult passes over easy ones. The young squad is running out of time to mature in order to make a tournament run, and a solid performance against South Carolina Saturday would really help get that process rolling.
The Cards take the court in a rare Friday night contest in downtown Louisville at 9.(ESPN). This is another rematch from earlier in the season and this one will be hard-pressed to match the excitement of the first game, a 2 OT thriller in Storrs on January 29.
UL comes off one of their worst games of the season Wednesday, where they got off to a slow start in Cincinnati and were never able to get out of the hole before falling by nine. Connecticut also played Wednesday, but were considerably more successful, ending Georgetown’s eight game win streak.
This game, once again, is huge as far as Big East placement is concerned. These two are each one of eight teams with either 5 or 6 losses in conference. A loss sends you spiraling towards an 8 or 9 conference tourney seed while a win could tie you for third.
As far as individuals go, the Cards will look for Siva to play another solid contest like he did last time. His numbers were every bit the equal of UConn super-guard Kemba Walker in the first meeting. The Cards also got a nice performance from Jennings in the first meeting and will have Rakeem Buckles in the line-up after the forward missed the first meeting.
This should be a good one, as UConn and Louisville are similar at the guard position. Louisville guards were exposed a bit on rebounding Wednesday. Could it be that Pitino disciple Mick Cronin exposed a weakness? Inside, the Cards have held their own in conference play and will need to do it again against a rugged Huskie front line.   
The U of L Women took a tough loss in Syracuse Wednesday and now head from one of the northernmost Big East locations to the southernmost- South Florida. USF has just one conference win and this is pretty much a must win for the Cards to stay in the upper half of the Big East standings and as they push for an at large NCAA bid.
The Hoosiers play at home against Northwestern Saturday at 7:00 in a game the Hoosiers should win if they are to continue their re-development. The Hoosiers are one spot behind the Wildcats in the Big Ten.
Two more big sports are happening this weekend that locals are sure to be glued to. First, is NBA All-Star weekend featuring Louisville’s own Rajon Rondo suiting up for the East. 
All star weekend is not what it once was for the viewers at home, though I understand it is one of the best events to attend in the world. 
It starts in earnest Saturday evening when they will have the dunk contest. It will get some new life breathed into it this year with the scintillating rookie Blake Griffin taking part. If you have not seen his act yet since he plays for the Clippers and all, just google his name and enjoy. 
They will still have the three point contest, with star power being provided by Celtics’ vets Ray Allen and Paul Pierce as well as young star Kevin Durant.
Wildcat John Wall will take part in the Skills Competition which is an NBA obstacle course and a pretty interesting event. Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook make this the most star-studded event top to bottom.
There is also something called the Haier Shooting Stars Competition where WNBA, NBA and retired stars compete to see which city has the best combo of shooters. No local interests are participating this year.
Finally, the first Nascar race of the season- which that sport considers to be its most important- the Daytona 500 takes place Sunday. 
In the off-season, Nascar made some tweaks to their point system that simplifies the way points are awarded. I am all for simplifying what was a complicated system, but it seems all they did was reduce the numbers, which I guess still is something.
The big story out of qualifying was Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualifying first on the 10 year anniversary of his father’s passing at this track. He subsequently gave up that starting position with a wreck during practice this week, but in a sport looking to juice it’s profile once again, the success of the son of the most popular figure in the sport’s modern times would be a good thing.
I have a hard time getting too excited for Daytona since the season is sooo long and I am not a “car guy” per se and more of a sports fan, but I understand its role as a premier event on the national sporting calendar. 
I suppose I would be untrue to my hockey-playing roots if I didn’t mention Sunday is something called Hockey Day in America. There is going to be a whole day’s worth of television dedicated to the event with hockey–related programming from NHL games to pond hockey. Sounds like a train wreck in the description, but I saw some of Canada’s version of this last weekend, and it was pretty OK. May be worth checking out.
As for me, I have a big weekend planned- a trip to Home Depot … sometimes that’s a joke from the movie Old School, sometimes it happens. A lot of paint coming up for me.

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