FSN Prime Ticket Dodger Diamondcams make leap to high definition

By Ken Kerschbaumer
SVG Editorial Director

During the past four years the Diamondcam has become a standard feature of Los Angeles Dodgers telecasts by FSN Prime Ticket, giving viewers at home a sense of what it is like to, literally, be on the field thanks to its field-level images captured in front of home plate, first base and the pitcher’s mound. But last week the Diamondcam made the leap to high-definition and 16:9 for FSN Prime Ticket, giving viewers at home a truly life-like on-the-field viewing experience. “”Now you can actually see the particles of dirt and the faces in the crowd behind home plate,” says Tom Feuer, Prime Ticket/FSN West executive producer. “I would rather watch baseball on home in HD than go to the ballpark.”

The new Diamondcam is derived from the Gophercam HD in-track camera system that has become a hit on Fox NASCAR telecasts. Designed by Inertia Unlimited’s Jeff Silverman, the system delivers a much wider viewing angle than the Gophercam because MLB fields are free and void of the steep angles that can be encountered on a racetrack.

“That is more important for baseball because the action is much closer to the camera,” says Silverman. “In NASCAR the cars can be more than 100 feet away from the camera but in baseball the action is usually six-to-10 feet away from the camera.”

Conduit runs to each camera location, terminating in a waterproof connector. A cable in the dugout next to first base connects the cameras to the stadium infrastructure and a video engineer in the production truck has control of the camera.

The camera in front of home plate looks at the batter, catcher and umpire while the one in front of the pitcher’s mound looks at the pitcher. The one at first base is located on the dugout side of the bag and comes in handy on pickoffs and other first base action.

“Everything we’ve designed brings the game closer to the viewers at home,” says Feuer. “It’s a different perspective but in a competitive market you need to do things differently and stop viewers as they are flipping around the dial.”

Silverman says the new HD cameras move the Diamondcam’s away from being a gimmick and towards becoming a true part of the telecast. “The SD cameras had compromises in picture quality and you honestly couldn’t even tell there was chroma in the image,” he says. “Now we get a much more cutable camera that is legitimate and less jarring.”

With home plate and first base already covered the logical question is when do cameras get installed at second base and third base? “It would be wonderful to see the closeup for a tag at second base,” says Silverman. The problem? While conduit actually runs out to both second and third no one knows where the conduit terminates. That means that hooking up the cameras will require digging up the areas around the bases, something that isn’t easily done during the season. “We’ll need a large break in the schedule,” says Silverman.