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Old November 1st, 2003, 02:06 PM   #1
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Cameras on Fox sports and bad video

Man, I was appalled watching the Univ. of Washington game at how totally blown out the footage was, and I chalked it up to lousy camera work. But this week, watching the Stanford/UCLA game, the long shots are out of focus, the color is lousy, and there are "jaggies" everywhere. Now admittedly I'm watching things with a different eye these days, and most people aren't going to care. My hubbie isn't noticing anything but the plays. But I'm wondering why it looks so bad. Anybody know what they're shooting with?
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Old November 3rd, 2003, 04:28 PM   #2
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The good cameramen & women work the big time games, like MLB playoffs, WS, NFL. The apprentices and junior people do college. It's like that in any business. The network has to go by ratings and ad dollars.

It takes years to master a high-end video camera. Even my low-end cameras take a lot of practice, like finding the right button without taking my eye off the viewfinder, knowing when to trade-off iris setting with shutter speed, and so on. For all we know the network hired freelance cameramen with a PD150. That would explain the jaggies and image deterioration depending on field motion and panning speed.
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Old November 6th, 2003, 07:55 PM   #3
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Ouch, Marc!

I shoot freelance, but for the past year I've had an exclusive arrangement with Fox. I did stuff mainly for CNN before that. And I shoot with an XL-1s. Granted, I do news and news features, not sports, but...

I've seen horrible video shot with very expensive cameras. When I see my stuff broadcast, it looks as good if not better than the stuff the full time guys are shooting on the $40K rigs. That's because I try to set up my shots in my head before I shoot them and I pay attention to detail.

But sometimes you just have to run and gun and hope for the best.

Marcia: Camarrillo used to be broccoli fields and lemon orchards... way back when I was going to Oxnard High School, about 30 pounds ago.
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Old November 6th, 2003, 09:34 PM   #4
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As a cameraman for the Miami Heat and the Florida Panthers for the last three years, I can tell you that all of the camera settings are handled by a technician in the control room. All of the shading, white balance, etc., is handled through the CCU and the only switch the operator has to concern him/herself with is the power switch.

If there is anything that takes years to master is the camera operation itself.

The camera operator's abilities lie in being able to stay with the action, mostly shooting on a very long lens and following focus accordingly. It requires alot of speed on the controls and instinctive shooting to be in the right place at the right time as the game progresses.

If you are shooting for "in-house", AKA, the "JumboTron", there is a very specific script that is followed during the course of the game. Every event prior to game start is scripted to the second as well as all of the scripted time outs and breaks during the game. The operators must follow this script without fault in order to cover all the action in the arena such as time outs, fan cams, promotions, etc., in between the action on the court or rink.

If you ever have the opportunity to tour a TV sports truck, check it out, I seriously think you'd change your tune about the equipment. Although I can't explain the poor quality of the video that Marcia is talking about, I can attest to the fact that it is very unlikely to be caused by prosumer equipment.

While the guys shooting the college games may not be the same ones covering championship events, I can assure you that they are not apprentices.

By the way, all of the In-House camera operators for the above mentioned teams, are freelancers!

"The future ain't what it used to be." Yogi Berra.
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Old November 6th, 2003, 09:37 PM   #5
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Hope I didn't sound insulting to freelance cameramen. The vast majority are very good, but sometimes the network hands the assignment over to the lowest bidder, or someone who is able to fill a last-minute call.

A great cameraman is like a great conductor. He is always thinking, and what's more, he thinks ahead. No matter what camera he uses, he knows its limitations, and also where it shines. I studied under Minor White in college, and let me tell you, he could do more with a brownie or a polaroid camera than most well-heeled yuppies could do with a carload of leicas and hasselblads. Call it the art of dynamic composition, or becoming one with your camera, but whatever you want to refer to it as, it is talent and artistry that distinguishes the pro from the amateur.
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Old November 7th, 2003, 01:22 AM   #6
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Marc, my new hero. I have been one of those network/freelance camera operators for (ahem, cough, cough) years, and I appreciate those very nice words.

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old November 7th, 2003, 07:52 AM   #7
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I would like to add a word about how CBS has destroyed televising pro football games for me. I turned off the last game I saw because of: (1) the insipid use of of instant replays that over-ran the beginning of each new play, (2) use of whirley-twirley-zoom-spin camerwork (if I wanted to watch MTV then I would change the channel to MTV), and (3) a half-time program that used one and two second strobing clips that created virtego and nausea. I prefer to see the real action on the field, not what the producers want to "spin" the action to be.

Pro football now means ABC for me. Nick
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Old November 7th, 2003, 08:40 AM   #8
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To move away from the freelance/camera operator/technician discussion...


could it be your television that you have and the signal being sent out that could be causing the problem?

We have a very high end television (not HDTV, but HDTV ready), and I notice that on some commercials, television shows, and even sporting events that the resolution tends to go to hell.

It doesn't happen alot, but during regular television viewing (Alias for example), the network feed looks great for the show, but network commercials will drop in quality, and even during local news I will see image quality drop on certain stories, commercials and shot, and not others. Granted for local news this may be a photog issue, but...

I also notice on certain national commercial spots that aliasing problems show up quite a bit and graphics look horrible. I say this is due to the quality of our high end television because our "lower end" Sony doesn't show these problems at all. I think it has to due with lines of resolution, etc.

I'm not an engineer, but that is just what I've noticed over the last year. Not the problem of the camera operator, but in the signal the television is receving.
Stephen Schleicher
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Old November 8th, 2003, 09:41 AM   #9
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Stephen, the TV in question is a Mitsubishi 45" (think it's about 5 years old) which is also "HDTV ready" and, yeah, now that you mention it there is a difference in the aliasing at least if we watch the same game on the Sony 19" up in the bedroom. But the only time I've noticed such overall lousy footage on the big TV (poor focus on long shots, blown out color where the stands are largely "white," etc.) is during the aforementioned college games. It's never looked like that on network TV, HBO, or any other feed. But you're gonna have me making mental notes as I change channels from now on. :-)
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Old November 27th, 2003, 04:27 PM   #10
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Freelance Crews

If anyone has ever worked at a cable company especially in a smaller market, you will know how many shortcuts they take just to get by.

The engineers in the production trucks and at the broadcast facilities make sure that a clean feed is sent and received respectively. All of the engineers that I have spoken with are very serious about their craft. These production truck providers and studios don't spend all that money on paint & shade bays for nothing. I believe it is the last leg of the broadcast, the cable companies, that is where the picture quality issues are occuring. A lot of these cable companies are short handed, cheap or both. If the engineers could see what is delivered to the viewer they would be nauseated. I'm sure they are aware and also that they can't do a damn thing about it.

This a production truck company out of Birmingham, Alabama that hires freelancers for the college games in the southeast. You just sign up and they send you a call sheet if you are hired.
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Old November 27th, 2003, 07:06 PM   #11
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hey rick....

rick bravo - can you email me? i have a miami question (or two) for ya.
Brian Young - Los Angeles -
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