CBS, Turner Plan To Deploy Specialty ‘Rail Cam’ at the Final Four

March is always a time for production innovation during the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. One of the highlights coming to this year’s Final Four is Rail Cam, a robotic camera that runs along a track about 6 in. up from the court alongside the sideline.

MarchMadnessLogoThis week, Turner Sports SVP, Production/Executive Creative Director Craig Barry offered a preview of the key tech enhancements that will be seen at the National Semifinals and the National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis on April 4 and 6, respectively.

“I believe in access,” says Barry. “The more access, the closer you bring the fan; it’s one of my primary philosophies regarding sports production. [Rail Cam] will give viewers a ground-floor look at the entire court, very different from anything they have seen.”

According to Barry, the track will be built between the press table and the raised platform holding the playing surface. The device can travel up to 25 mph, making it plenty fast enough to keep up with a fast break. The device will also feature a safety sleeve to protect players from falling onto it or kicking it.

The device is robotic, but a human operator will control it from a courtside position.

How much that angle will be used remains to be seen, but the enhancement promises to provide fans a unique view of the action.

“It’ll be interesting to see how much [the director] actually uses it,” says Barry. “Are they going to work it into play-by-play? Is it just for free throws? That’s the X factor. It’s up to the director to determine where it works the best. We still have an obligation to have great coverage. Just because we have a new toy, we’re not going to sacrifice the coverage. But continuing to add dynamic looks at the coverage is something that both [CBS Sports EP/SVP, Production] Harold [Bryant] and I push for.”

There are plans to install and test the system at the South Regional at NRG Stadium in Houston on March 27 and 29.