Fletcher Chicago hits home run with HD slow-motion system

Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies may have been hitting the biggest home runs on the field during Major League Baseball’s Home Run Hitting Contest that aired June 10 on ESPN but it was Fletcher Chicago that had the biggest one off the field with a new HD slow-motion system.

Deep in the bowels of PNC Park in Pittsburgh the company had a special HD slow-motion system set up that could record images at up to 1,000 frames per second, giving ESPN a chance to let viewers see some of baseball’s quickest swings appear to be slow as molasses. Located near the American League dugout it was such a hit that players like Vernon Wells from the Toronto Blue Jays and Michael Young from the Texas Rangers stopped by to see slow-motion versions of swings by competitors.

The system offered by Fletcher Chicago is based around a camera from NAC called the Memrecam fx K4. “It’s used for crash tests and 1,000 frames per second is its upper limit when recording at HD resolution,” says Grainge. Light sensitivity is ISO 2400 (color) and resolutions can be recorded up to 1280×1024 pixels at 1,000 pps.

Because the camera records in computer files Fletcher needed to write software that would take the computer data and convert it to video. “It took us about a year-and-a-half to develop a back-end for the camera that would play HD images back at near realtime,” says Dan Grainge, Fletcher Chicago vice president. “Once it does that it’s effectively like an EVS clip and be scrubbed and played back,” says Grainge. Playback is controlled using a joystick so the user can adjust the speed slower or faster for critical moments.

Even without the new HD slow-motion system the Home Run Derby is very much a Fletcher show. The company’s robotic cameras located near the batter’s box and behind the pitcher’s mound capture most of the key footage during the event (Grass Valley hand-held cameras supplement the coverage with fan and player reaction to the monster home runs).