Showtime Boxing Rings Bell on Inertia Unlimited 4K X-Mo

Showtime Sports has added a new ultra-slow-motion weapon to its boxing coverage arsenal with Inertia Unlimited’s new 4K X-Mo system, based on the Vision Research Phantom Flex 4K camera. The ultra-slo-mo camera system, in conjunction with an Evertz Dreamcatcher replay system, was used extensively throughout Showtime’s Mayweather-Maidana pay-per-view fight at The MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 3.

“Extreme slow motion is very important in boxing; you don’t need it quite as much in other sports, but when it comes to punches, head-butts, or low blows, they can be a lot more dramatic with extreme slow motion – and this new camera offered exactly what we were looking for,” says Showtime VP of Production Gordon Hall. “It worked out extremely well for us and we used it several times throughout the show.”

4K and ultra-slow-motion cameras are nothing to new to Showtime boxing, which has long utilized a traditional HD X-Mo on its coverage (an X-Mo was positioned in the far neutral corner for the May 3 fight) and has experimented with FOR-A’s FT-ONE and Sony’s F-55 4K cameras. However, Hall says Inertia Unlimited’s new 4K Flex X-Mo offers the best combination of sharp picture and slow-motion controllability to date.

“You want to have the ability to do extreme slow motion, but you also want great video quality – and had trouble finding [a camera to do] both,” says Hall. “We were able to get some amazing replays – like the mouth piece getting punched out of the mouth – but it was never at the level that we saw [with the Inertia Unlimited camera].”

The camera, which is capable of 1,000 fps 4K video but ran around 300 fps during the Mayweather fight, was outfitted with a Fujinon 85-300 mm Cabrio PL-Mount lens and placed opposite the game camera outside the ring.

“We ran it a little bit slower and came up with 300 fps at the Mayweather fight as a standard,” says Inertia Unlimited President Jeff Silverman. “We could have shot faster, but we would have had short, shallow depth of field and that would make the replays more difficult to use. We wanted a balance between frame rate and depth of field.”

The 4K video was output from the camera via a Telecast Copperhead transceiver over standard SMPTE fiber into the Evertz Dreamcatcher in the truck (NEP’s NCP 14). The Dreamcatcher operator then zoomed in on key plays and extracted an HD image from the larger 4K frame, providing perfectly visible images of key moments during the fight.

Prior to the fight, Showtime Technical Producer Colin DeFord arranged to bring the 4K X-Mo camera up to Evertz headquarters in Burlington, ON, to help integrate the two systems. Inertia Unlimited’s system was then brought to Las Vegas (with a Sony F55 as a backup) and successfully tested the week of the fight – clearing it to be used for Showtime’s production.

According to Hall, the 4K X-Mo and Dreamcatcher workflow will be utilized once again at its next PPV fight – Canelo Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara – on July 12.

“They got some really nice results,” says Silverman. “I definitely believe that fighting sports – boxing and UFC – are perfect for this camera. The combination of 4K combined with high frame rate, I think, is going to be extremely important for replay in this area and beyond.”