Cooperation by Rival Production Companies, New Tech Highlight Fox Sports’ World Series Coverage

The 2013 World Series is approaching its denouement, heading back to Boston for game 6 tomorrow and a possible game 7 Thursday. And to date the experience for Fox Sports has been a success on the production side as the cooperation among rival production and introduction of new technologies have gone very well.

“What’s very cool about this situation is, we always have had separate remote-production companies do each city, but the communications between Game Creek and NEP this year has been fantastic,” says Mike Davis, VP of field operations, Fox Sports. “Bryan Rule at Game Creek and Nick Romano and Nick Smith on the NEP side have worked diligently to come up with a solution that allows two wildly different companies and facilities to meet in the middle.”

Game Creek’s Dynasty A and B unit in Boston have been joined by the Fox D unit, which houses the Hego and specialty-camera operations, and Bexel’s BBS1, which handles editing and ancillary video operations.

“Every year has more third-party cameras like the Dirtcam, Phantoms, and robotic cameras,” says Davies. “A third of the cameras are now third-party so we need space for those.”

In St. Louis, those third-party cameras were controlled out of NCP 12, a former NESN truck that has had its production switcher, audio console, and communications systems removed and become a “very decent” support unit, according to Davies, operating alongside the NCP 10 A and B units.

From a technical perspective, the Inertia Unlimited Dirtcam located in front of home plate has been the star of the show, capturing up-close images of bunts being dragged, strikes being made, and grounds blasting by the camera.

“They have been a long time in the making,” says Davies. “This is by far the smallest camera we have come up with. The profile sticking above the ground is mere millimeters high, and, quite honestly, you cannot see it with the naked eye unless someone shows you where to look.

The main advance has been that it is now wireless, removing the need to dig trenches from the side of the field out to the camera. Wireless high-gain antennas are threaded in the grass, and a 3-ft. dish points at the camera and is able to grab a fairly weak RF signal and turn it into a rock-solid image. The Sony OEM camera (the same one used for Gophercam during NASCAR races) is also now fully paintable from the remote-production unit.

“We have also made some augmentations to the actual lens to knock down any lens flares from the lights,” Davies notes, adding, “I think we have gotten a lot smarter with how to use it.”

While the Dirtcam gives director Bill Webb a new option, the Inertia Unlimited Phantom cameras continue to become business as usual.

“The Phantoms are big parts of the show now, and they are also allowing us to know how good the lighting in the stadiums,” says Davies. “St. Louis and Boston both have very good lighting.”