Fox Sports finds dual use for XMO Super Slow-Motion systems at ALCS

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Fox Sports is using Inertia Unlimited’s XMO super slow-motion system to not only capture intense replays at 120 frames per second but also as a live switched camera during the American League Championship Series and, soon, the World Series. “Having it used for live action is what’s so exciting,” says Jeff Silverman of Inertia Unlimited. “Everyone has been perfectly happy with what the camera output looks like.”

Silverman says the cameras don’t yet have the color matrix or dynamic latitude of the traditional HD broadcast cameras but that is something that will change as the camera technology evolves.

By using the camera, which is located behind home plate for games in the ALCS, to capture both live and replay action Fox Sports does not need to have two cameras at one position, saving both money and space. The trick right now is dealing with the camera’s one output, requiring some tricky footwork to ensure a replay is properly played out before it needs to cut back to live action. A single button allows the operator to quickly exit replay mode.

“The next big step is a camera that has dual output so we can have uninterrupted live pictures and, simultaneously, a slow-motion replay,” says Silverman. “Other slow-motion cameras can do both but at 120 frames per second we’re generating too much data for one output.”

Silverman says game four of the ALCS will feature some on-screen improvements as the crew ran into a gameday challenge for game three. After setting up the cameras the Jacobs Field crew installed a one-inch thick glass pane in front of the camera that had two half-inch pieces of glass glued together. When the camera was zoomed in for a tight shot the result was a double image and distortions that made it look like looking out of a submarine porthole.

“We received permission to yank the glass out so there will be a mesh netting behind home plate tonight,” says Silverman. He’ll also be shooting at 1080p and downconverting to 720p to maximize the quality.

Big shows like the World Series and Super Bowl allow Inertia Unlimited to drive the technology forward. “It really helps us convince the manufacturer of the camera body that this is for real,” says Silverman.