Baseball telecasts technology

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The following is a chronological list of the technological advancements[1] of Major League Baseball television broadcasts:

1930s and 1940s[2][edit]

1939[edit]

On August 26,[3][4] the first ever Major League Baseball telecast (the Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds from Ebbets Field) aired by W2XBS, an experimental station in New York City which would ultimately become WNBC-TV.

Red Barber called the game without the benefit of a monitor and with only two cameras capturing the game. One camera was on Barber and the other was behind the plate. Barber had to guess from which light was on and where it pointed.

In 1939, baseball games were usually covered by one camera providing a point-of-view along the third base line.

1949[edit]

  1. Equipment: Three black-and-white cameras,[5] all located on the Mezzanine level.
  2. Camera lenses: Fixed, no zoom capabilities.
  3. Replays: None
  4. Graphics: None
  5. Audio: One microphone on the play-by-play announcer.

1950s[6][edit]

1951[edit]

On August 11, 1951, WCBS-TV in New York City televised the first baseball game (in which the Boston Braves beat the Brooklyn Dodgers by the score of 8-1) in color.

On October 3 of that year, NBC aired the first coast-to-coast baseball telecast as the Brooklyn Dodgers were beaten by the New York Giants in the final game of a playoff series by the score of 5-4 (off Bobby Thomson's now-legendary home run).

1953[edit]

  1. Equipment: Four black-and-white cameras, all located on the Mezzanine level.
  2. Camera lenses: Fixed, no zoom capabilities.
  3. Video: Quality of picture has improved since the 1940s.
  4. Replay: None
  5. Graphics: White-text containing one line of information.
  6. Audio: One microphone on the play-by-play announcer and one mic is suspended from the press box for crowd noise.

1955[edit]

1955 marked the first time that the World Series was televised in color.

1957[edit]

[7]

  1. Equipment: Four cameras on Mezzanine level while a fifth camera is added in center field.
  2. Camera lenses: Three fixed lenses on each camera that's manually rotated by a camera operator.
  3. Video: Quality of picture is a very sharp black-and-white.
  4. Replays: None
  5. Graphics: White-text only; information about the balls and strikes are added.
  6. Broadcasters: Analysts added to broadcast alongside the play-by-play announcer.
  7. Audio: One mic is suspended from the press box for crowd noise.

1960s[8][edit]

1961[edit]

  1. Equipment: Five cameras: Four on the Mezzanine level and one in center field.
  2. Camera lenses: Zoom capability existed albeit, limited.
  3. Video: Black-and-white picture quality has improved.
  4. Replays: Yes; regular speed; no longer than thirty seconds long at a line angle only.
  5. Graphics: White-text only including two lines of text.
  6. Audio: Improved - Audience can now hear the crack of the bat.

1962[edit]

On July 23, 1962, Major League Baseball had its first satellite telecast (via Telstar Communications). The telecast included portion of a contest between the Chicago Cubs vs. the Philadelphia Phillies from Wrigley Field with Jack Brickhouse commentating on WGN-TV.

1969[edit]

By 1969, the usage of chroma key (in which the commentators would opening up a telecast by standing in front of a greenscreen composite of the stadiums' crowds) became a common practice for baseball telecast.

  1. Equipment: Five cameras: Four on the Mezzanine level and one in center field.
  2. Camera lenses: Zoom capability existed albeit, limited.
  3. Video: Color became an industry standard.
  4. Replays: Yes; regular speed; no longer than thirty seconds long at a line angle.
  5. Graphics: Electronic graphics introduced.
  6. Audio: Improved - Audience can now hear the crack of the bat.

1970s[9][edit]

1974[edit]

  1. Equipment: Seven cameras: One at first and third base each, one at home plate, one at center field, one at left field, and each in the dugout.
  2. Camera lenses: 18×1; the batter can now be seen from head to toe.
  3. Video: Color quality has improved since the 1960s.
  4. Replays: Slow-motion from all camera angles.
  5. Graphics: Video font with two color capabilities.
  6. Audio: Mono. - much improved quality; an effect microphone is placed near the field.

1975[edit]

In the bottom of the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Boston's Fenway Park, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk was facing Cincinnati Reds pitcher Pat Darcy. Fisk then hit a pitch down the left field line that appeared to be heading to foul territory. The enduring image of Fisk jumping and waving the ball fair as he made his way to first base is arguably one of baseball's greatest moments. The ball struck the foul pole, giving the Red Sox a 7-6 win and forcing a seventh and deciding game of the fall classic. During this time, cameramen covering baseball games were instructed to follow the flight of the ball; reportedly, Fisk's reaction[10] was only being recorded because NBC cameraman Lou Gerard had become frightened by a rat.[11] This play was perhaps the most important catalyst in getting camera operators to focus most of their attention on the players themselves.[12]

1980s[13][edit]

1983[edit]

On July 6, 1983, NBC televised the All-Star Game out of Chicago's Comiskey Park. During the telecast, special guest analyst, Don Sutton helped introduce NBC's new pitching tracking device dubbed The NBC Tracer.[14] The NBC Tracer was a stroboscopic comet tail showing the path of a pitch to the catcher's glove. For instance, The NBC Tracer helped track a Dave Stieb curveball among others.

1985[edit]

In 1985, NBC's telecast of the All-Star Game out of the Metrodome in Minnesota was the first program to be broadcast in stereo by a television network.

  1. Equipment: Eight cameras: One at first and third base each, one at home plate (a low home angle is added), one each in right field, center field and left field, and one in each dugout.
  2. Camera lenses: 40×1; tight shots of players are routine.
  3. Replays: Super slow-motion replays became a new technology.
  4. Graphics: Computer generated in multiple colors.
  5. Audio: Mono. - much improved quality.

1987[edit]

For the 1987 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals, ABC utilized 12 cameras and nine tape machines. This includes cameras positioned down the left field line, on the roof of the Metrodome, and high above third base.

1990s[15][edit]

1990[edit]

In 1990, CBS took over from both ABC and NBC as Major League Baseball's national, over-the-air television provider. They in the process brought along their telestration technology that they dubbed CBS Chalkboard. CBS Chalkboard made its debut eight years earlier during CBS' coverage of Super Bowl XVI.

1992[edit]

For CBS' coverage of the 1992 All-Star Game, they introduced Basecam,[16][17][18] a lipstick-size camera, inside first base.

1993[edit]

During CBS' coverage of the 1993 World Series, umpires were upset with the overhead replays being televised by CBS. Dave Phillips, the crew chief, said just prior to Game 2 that the umpires want "CBS to be fair with their approach."

Rick Gentile, the senior vice president for production of CBS Sports, said that Richie Phillips, the lawyer for the Major League Umpires Association, tried to call the broadcast booth during Saturday's game, but the call was not put through. Richie Phillips apparently was upset when Dave Phillips called the Philadelphia Phillies' Ricky Jordan out on strikes in the fourth inning, and a replay showed the pitch to be about 6 inches outside.

National League President Bill White, while using a CBS headset in the broadcast booth during Game 1, was overheard telling Gentile and the producer Bob Dekas:

1995[edit]

  • April 1995 - ESPN debuted in-game box scores during Major League Baseball telecasts. Hitting, pitching and fielding stats from the game are shown along the bottom of the screen three times per game.

1996[edit]

  1. Equipment: Ten cameras: Eight manned cameras plus two robotic cameras. Six tape machines plus one digital disk recorder.
  2. Camera lenses: 55×1
  3. Graphics: Computer generated and in high resolution; the FoxBox is introduced.
  4. Audio: In Stereo and surround sound; wireless mics are placed in the bases.

1997[edit]

On July 8, 1997, Fox[19] televised its first ever All-Star Game (out of Jacobs Field in Cleveland). For this particular game, Fox introduced "Catcher-Cam" in which a camera was affixed to the catchers' masks in order to provide unique perspectives of the action around home plate. Catcher-Cam soon would become a regular fixture in Fox's baseball broadcasts.

In addition to Catcher-Cam, other innovations (some of which have received more acclaim than others) that Fox[20] has provided for baseball telecasts have been:

  • Between 12 and 16 microphones throughout the outfield, ranging from Sennheiser MKH-416 shotgun microphones to DPA 4061s with Crystal Partners Big Ear parabolic microphones to Crown Audio PCC160 plate microphones.
  • The continuous "FoxBox" graphic, which contained the score, inning and other information in an upper corner of the TV screen. Since 2001, the FoxBox has morphed into a strip across the top of the screen which would later be used by other sports networks.
  • Audio accompanying graphics and sandwiched replays between "whooshes."
  • Scooter, a cartoony 3-D animated talking baseball (voiced by Tom Kenny) that occasionally appears to explain pitch types and mechanics, purportedly for younger viewers—approximately the 10- to 12-year-olds.[21]
  • Ball Tracer, a stroboscopic comet tail showing the path of a pitch to the catcher's glove.
  • Strike Zone, which shows pitch sequences with strikes in yellow and balls in white. It can put a simulated pane of glass that shatters when a ball goes through the zone (à la the computerized scoring graphics used for bowling).
  • The "high home" camera from high behind home plate. Its purpose is that it can trace the arc of a home run and measure the distance the ball traveled. The "high home" camera can also measure a runner's lead off first base while showing in different colors (green, yellow, red) and how far off the base and into pickoff danger a runner is venturing.

2000s[22][edit]

2000[edit]

For a Saturday afternoon telecast of a Los Angeles Dodgers/Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field on August 26, 2000, Fox aired a special "Turn Back the Clock"[23] broadcast to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the first televised baseball game. The broadcast started with a re-creation of the television technology of 1939, with play-by-play announcer Joe Buck working alone with a single microphone, a single black-and-white camera, and no graphics; then, each subsequent half-inning would see the broadcast "jump ahead in time" to a later era, showing the evolving technologies and presentation of network baseball coverage through the years.

2001[edit]

  • April 15, 2001 - ESPN Dead Center debuted on Sunday Night Baseball with the Texas Rangers versus the Oakland Athletics. This new camera angle, directly behind the pitcher, is used provide true depiction of inside/outside pitch location and is used in certain parks in conjunction with K Zone.

2002[edit]

  • April 7, 2002 - ESPN became the first network to place a microphone on a player during a regular-season baseball game. "Player Mic" was worn by Oakland catcher Ramon Hernandez (who also wore "MaskCam") and taped segments were heard.

In October 2002, Fox televised the first ever World Series to be shown in high definition.

2003[edit]

2004[edit]

Starting in 2004, some TBS telecasts (mostly Fridays or Saturdays) became more enhanced. The network decided to call it Braves TBS Xtra. Enhancements included catcher cam, Xtra Motion, which featured the type of pitch and movement, also leadOff Line. It would also show features with inside access to players.

In October 2004, Fox started airing all Major League Baseball postseason broadcasts (including the League Championship Series and World Series) in high definition. Fox also started airing the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in HD the following year. At the same time, the FoxBox and graphics are upgraded.

2005[edit]

  • April 13, 2005 - "SkyCam" premiered during Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN. "SkyCam" is mounted more than 20 feet above the stands in foul territory and travels down a designated base path (first or third base line, from behind home plate to the foul pole), capturing overhead views of the action. The remote-controlled camera can zoom, pan and tilt.

2006[edit]

  • April 2, 2006 - A handheld camera brings viewers closer to the action for in-game live shots of home run celebrations, managers approaching the mound and more.

2007[edit]

For their 2007 Division Series coverage,[24] TBS[25] debuted various new looks, such as the first live online views from cameras in dugouts and ones focused on pitchers. TBS also introduced a graphic that creates sort of a rainbow to trace the arc of pitches on game replays. The graphic was superimposed in the studio so analysts like Cal Ripken, Jr. for instance, could take virtual cuts at pitches thrown in games.[26]

2009[edit]

During their 2009 playoff coverage, TBS[27] displays their PitchTrax graphic full-time during at-bats (with the center field camera only) during the high-definition version of the broadcast in the extreme right-hand corner of the screen.[28]

Meanwhile, for their own 2009 playoff coverage, Fox announced that they would occasionally include this stat on replays: Speed of pitches as they leave pitchers' hands as well as their speed when they cross home plate.[29]

2010s[edit]

2010[edit]

  • YES Network and NESN integrates the pitch count on to their on screen graphics. ESPN would follow suit, while also re-hashing their score bug akin to Monday Night Football, now featuring dots instead of numbers to represent the balls, strikes and outs.
  • On September 29, Fox announced that their plans to use cable-cams[30] for their coverage of the National League Championship Series and World Series. The cable-cams according to Fox, can roam over the field at altitudes ranging from about 12 to 80 feet above ground. They will be able to provide overhead shots of, among other things, "close plays" at bases and "managers talking to their pitchers on the mound."

2011[edit]

With the start of the 2011 postseason, TBS planned to introduce the following[31]

  • Bloomberg Stats: TBS would use Bloomberg States as means to integrate comprehensive statistical information into each telecast.
  • Liberovision: This is an innovative 3D interactive telestrator meant to give fans a new perspective of instant replays.
  • New graphics that intend to feature improved functionality with a nostalgic feel.
  • Pitch Trax:[32] An in-game technology that illustrates pitch location throughout the games.

The screen on TBS's standard definition 4:3 feed now airs a letterboxed version of the native HD feed to match Fox's default widescreen SD presentation, allowing the right side pitch tracking graphic to be seen by SD viewers.

For the 2011 World Series, Fox debuted infrared technology[33] that's designed to pinpoint heat made by a ball making contact — with, say, bats, face masks, players' bodies — and mark the spot for viewers by making it glow. During Game 1, Fox used "Hot Spot" to show that a batted ball was fouled off Texas Rangers batter Adrian Beltre's foot.[34]

2012[edit]

Fox's 2012 World Series coverage would include a camera whose replays could generate as many as 20,000 frames per second, the most ever seen on Fox—and up from about 60 frames per second on regular replays. The camera would allow viewers "to see the ball compress" when batted, similar to how cameras now show golf balls getting compressed when struck. The technology for the camera, originated with the U.S. military looking at replays of missile impacts.[35]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ James R. Walker; Robert V. Bellamy (2008). Center field shot: a history of baseball on television. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 279–296. 
  2. ^ Baseball's Best: 1930s-1940s
  3. ^ 70 years ago today, the Dodgers made TV history
  4. ^ Major League Baseball made TV debut 70 years ago today
  5. ^ Walker said Red Barber was among the announcers to handle the play-by-play duties of the games in Boston and critics complained the cameras often didn't show the part of the action he was describing. A regular-season game typically used two or three cameras, Walker said, but that would increase to four for special events such as the Series. (Fox is using 26 cameras this year.)
  6. ^ Baseball's Best: 1950s
  7. ^ As Bob Costas mentions on the MLB Network show, the great part about watching this game now is there's no center field camera, no replays, no different angles, very few graphics (except to put the players names in all caps with white letters), the announcers work alone, there's maybe something missing without any close-ups of the players and no bullpen shots. For a black-and-white telecast, it's pretty stark.
  8. ^ Baseball's Best: 1960s
  9. ^ Baseball's Best: 1970s
  10. ^ In 1975 baseball announced a new kind of TV deal. Coverage of the World Series, playoffs, and All-Star Games would alternate between NBC and ABC. The networks saw the advantages: postseason baseball play was the perfect time to begin promoting the new fall TV season. Dual network coverage also brought an element of competition without economic overtones-quality of coverage. Then came October 21, 1975. The Boston Red Sox, unable to win a World Series since 1918, were on their way to a loss in six games to Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine". But a three-run pinch-hit homer by Bernie Carbo tied the game in the eighth, and in the twelfth (by then it was 12:34 a.m.) Carlton Fisk hit a solo shot over the "Green Monster" to win the game. Sixty-two million people saw it, and television couldn't have planned it better, because as Fisk hit his homer, the camera in the left field scoreboard followed him, not the ball, and on replay the audience saw Fisk furiously trying to wave the ball fair. It was the first-ever home run reaction shot. The next night, 75,890,000 people watched the seventh game, and baseball was definitely back. In 1976 baseball received revenue from radio and television approaching $51 million. Lou Harris said in 1977, "For the first time since 1968, more sports fans in the country follow baseball than football." Ten years later baseball received $350 million.
  11. ^ Bruce Lowitt, "Rats! Fisk's homer" St. Petersburg Times, November 23, 1999
  12. ^ Seth Mnookin, "Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts and Nerve took a Team to the Top" pg. 40
  13. ^ Baseball's Best: 1980s
  14. ^ Take a look at the latest in technology, as the NBC Tracer tracks a curveball (from the 1983 Major League Baseball All-Star Game).
  15. ^ Baseball's Best: 1990s
  16. ^ Jul 7, 1992 - For two years, CBS' baseball telecasts have been criticized for missing steals of second base. No longer. Meet Basecam. MLB officials have approved producer Ric LaCivita's request to install Basecam, a lipstick-size camera, inside first base in the July 14 All-Star Game in San Diego. ...
  17. ^ Jul 8, 1992 - At baseball's All Star Game on Tuesday night CBS will introduce the basecam a lipstick size camera planted in first base The camera will give ... live CBS asked for live microphones but major league baseball turned the network down insisting on editorial control of the managers comments ...
  18. ^ Jul 12, 1992 - CBS television's coverage of Tuesday night's All-Star baseball game will offer a new viewing perspective -- a camera implanted in first base. ... runners taking their leads and breaking for second base,` said Ric LaCivita, lead producer for CBS Sports coverage of Major League baseball. ...
  19. ^ FOX SHOWS UMPS AT BEST
  20. ^ But thinking about the current state of video-computer trickery, I'm reminded of a Patton Oswalt routine: just because science can do something doesn't mean it should. ("We've made cancer airborne and contagious--you're welcome!") Fox Sports' baseball coverage is almost unwatchable, with all the stupid exploding graphics, robotic pitchers and talking baseballs. Not to mention the endless shots of fans in the stands, which some idiot in Fox's production department thinks the viewer at home loves to look at. If I wanna see some maniac in face paint, I'll go to the Ren Fair.
  21. ^ thedartmouth.com
  22. ^ Baseball's Best: 2000s
  23. ^ Turn Back the Clock (2000) home page at Hollywood.com
  24. ^ TBS juggles broadcast teams after Mets disappear
  25. ^ Where TBS deserves plenty of credit is allowing the games to be the star. Unlike Fox, TBS did not bludgeon the audience with an overabundance of crowd shots or fan interviews. Much of the camera work was exceptional. The close-ups of insects feasting on the neck of Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain were so creepy that they could have been filmed by Wes Craven. For the most part, TBS did a nice job of letting the pictures work for them. Some of the graphics proved problematic, though. As SI's Tom Verducci pointed out, the Leadoff Line, the nine-foot arrow that measured the lead a runner gets off first base, overtly gimmicky and intrusive. Some SI.com readers complained that the graphic at the top of the screen showing how many runners were on base was too small. (To its credit, Behnke said that TBS adjusted it prior to the final game of the Indians-Yankees series by deepening the border and edgings.) Look for the same graphics to return for the LCS -- the Leadoff Line is sponsored by Travelers, not that most fans would know -- including the addition of microphones placed in the bases. "It's always a work in progress and we are our own worst critics," said Behnke, who averaged four hours of sleep during the Division Series. "We have this package for many years but I would say this: We are overwhelmingly deeply proud of what we have done through the divisional series and I can assure you that it will only be better when we done through the divisional series and I can assure you that it will only be better when we crank it up on Thursday."
  26. ^ "He'll be standing at a home plate with a bat," Behnke says. "Balls will come in just like at the games. It will be very real." In a vaguely hallucinatory way.
  27. ^ Spying on TBS' Dodgers-Phillies NLCS
  28. ^ Hiestand, Michael (September 30, 2009). "TBS ready to roll out postseason MLB coverage". USA Today. 
  29. ^ ESPN taking a cut at virtual pitches
  30. ^ Fox to fly cameras over NLCS and World Series
  31. ^ Fang, Ken (30 September 2011). "Turner Sports Unveils Coverage Plans & Announcing Teams for MLB Postseason". Fangsbites.com. Worldpress.com. 
  32. ^ Hoffarth, Tom (19 October 2011). "FoxTrax vs. TBS' PitchTrax vs. ESPN's K-zone, and why the network covering the World Series won't be confusing viewers with a live fake strike zone graphic". Los Angeles Daily News. Los Angeles Newspaper group. 
  33. ^ Hiestand, Michael (30 September 2011). "Fox to use infra-red technology in World Series coverage". USAToday.com. Gannett Co. Inc. 
  34. ^ Imber, Gil (20 October 2011). "Fox Celebrates New Technology at Expense of Texas Rangers". bleacherreport.com. 
  35. ^ Hiestand, Michael (10 October 2012). "Hiestand: Costas' 12-year MLB playoff absence ends". USA Today. Retrieved 10 October 2012. 

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