Guest Comment: Camera Corps’ Paul McNeil discusses how camera innovations are changing our view of sport

Paul McNeil, senior project manager, Camera Corps

Paul McNeil, senior project manager, Camera Corps

Live sport is often viewed as the most influential genre of broadcasting in terms of advances in technology, and the resulting programmes have long been leaders in the field, says Camera Corps’ senior project manager, Paul McNeil.

TV sports fans have become accustomed to more dynamic and creative coverage, and have continually demanded innovations that will make their viewing experience ever more informative and immersive. Audiences no longer just want to watch sports, they want an all-consuming experience that brings the excitement of the event directly into their homes.

The fast pace of change in technology, generally, has had a dramatic impact on the sports broadcasting industry. The emergence and prevalence of multi-screen content has influenced the coverage of virtually every sporting fixture. Broadcasters now have the option to stream one match via a range of different media, with the potential to focus on different aspects of the same game. Every event can be accessed in multiple ways. However, this has only been possible because of the innovation in camera systems from manufacturers, alongside investment from broadcasters as they increase the number and type of cameras allocated to each production.

As a result, the role of cameras in live sports has changed dramatically in recent years. Moving away from providing a range of generic views and close-ups from the side of the pitch, cameras are being placed much closer to the heart of the action. These demands inspire the key broadcasters to consistently raise the bar to make their coverage stand out from their competitors. With the latest innovations in the sector we are starting to see a shift; new camera products are actually shaping the way audiences view and consume sport.

Innovation in the coverage of live sporting events is not the only driver of audience expectation and product development. The ‘hidden’ nature of speciality remote camera systems introduced by Camera Corps, like the Q-Ball, within reality TV programmes such as Big Brother, have sparked a similar demand for flexibility and viewer access from live sports audience. Other innovations with camera placement have been used across a range of sports globally, from the annual Isle of Man TT race to major cricket tournaments.

Wearable camera innovation

Camera Corps and its fellow Vitec Group brand, The Camera Store, have provided specialist equipment for hundreds of sporting productions – including arena, field, stadium and major motor sports tournaments. One proven camera trend that has already delivered hours of special camera footage is wearable cameras. These are deployed with the latest high-performance RF video links and are part of Camera Corps portfolio of remote camera solutions that acquire more exciting and unusual television from these types of extremely challenging environments.

Winter sports broadcasting, in particular, seems to champion advancements in camera technology. Helmet cams have been used in events such as board cross and unique pop-up cameras, rigged in the track floor,  are also frequently used to capture action shots during the bobsleigh, skeleton and luge events.

Away from the slopes, live or recorded on-board mobile applications have been in operation when covering live sports for several years, with a range of special-purpose cameras developed to shoot specific activities. Whether it is specialist aquatic camera systems bringing the viewer an underwater perspective, or solutions such as the Cricket Stump Cam which captures close up bat-on-ball action from each end of the wicket, speciality systems have been adopted by some of the world’s biggest broadcasters.

The innovation continues: robotic cameras that have been used in live sports for several years are being updated with additional features which develop and expand their capabilities. The new Camera Corps Q3 head, designed around the original Q-Ball system, is one of the most powerful miniature robotic systems on today’s market and has a larger zoom, a more sensitive camera and even smoother movement. When live sports viewers are looking for shots with more ‘wow factor’, these innovations in camera technology are able to capture clear footage from a completely different perspective.

It is an exciting time for the live sports broadcast industry and it is clear that the innovations in today’s camera systems are playing a pivotal role in changing the way audiences view sport. The biggest winners are the sports fans, who can now turn to their TVs or smart devices and experience the next best thing to actually being there.

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