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The Sports Footage You Won't See Today On TV 277

Hugh Pickens writes "As sports nerds settle in today after Thanksgiving dinner for NFL and college football Reed Albergotti writes that there is some footage you will never see as he argues that the most-watched game in the US is probably the least understood. During every NFL game there are cameras hovering over the field, lashed to the goalposts and pointed at the coaches, but you will never see a shot of the entire field and what all 22 players do on every play which is considered proprietary information available only to teams and coaches. For decades, NFL TV broadcasts have relied most heavily on one view: the shot from a sideline camera that follows the progress of the ball. Anyone who wants to analyze the game, however, prefers to see the pulled-back camera angle known as the "All 22." While this shot makes the players look like stick figures, it allows students of the game to see things that are invisible to TV watchers: like what routes the receivers ran, how the defense aligned itself and who made blocks past the line of scrimmage and gives fans a 'bird's eye view' of the game to dissect team strategies, performances, and keys to success. Without the expanded frame, fans often have no idea why many plays turn out the way they do, or if the TV analysts are giving them correct information."
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The Sports Footage You Won't See Today On TV

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  • by pinfall ( 2430412 ) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:06PM (#38161480)
    How do they keep the 50,000 fans who attended the game from seeing the full 20?
    Reasons for not showing it on TV are poor at best.
    • Because it's easier to PVR something than it is to sneak in a high quality video camera with a wide angle lens?

      • The point is that the TV coverage is focused on the ball, while there is a lot outside of the 16:9 frame that affects where the ball is going. There are many "official" cameras pointed at static locations that could show all 22 players and all in bounds territory at once, but those aren't available to the fans at large.

        • We got that. Most people only care about following the ball. Anyone who wants more for "tactical" purposes, can go watch and even record a game for themself. This is a dumb conspiracy theory

          • Following the ball in football is a great way to miss most of the game. The struggle at the line of scrimmage is crucial to the success of the backfield, and a ball-focused view often overlooks why the quarterback threw into double coverage - if you can see every player on the field, you can see that the QB couldn't see defensive back #2 because he a 350 lb tackle in front of him.
    • More generally, how do they keep somebody from livestreaming it -- or, at the very least, recording it and streaming it later.

      We have cameras that are the size of a pack of cards that record very high quality 1080p video, after all.

      • Re:proprietary? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DarwinSurvivor ( 1752106 ) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:30PM (#38161640)

        More generally, how do they keep somebody from livestreaming it -- or, at the very least, recording it and streaming it later.

        We have cameras that are the size of a pack of cards that record very blurry 1080p video, after all.

        You can put as many megapixels as you want into a camera, but the 1/4" lens is still going to make it look like it was taken by a disposable camera and digitized at the local 7-11.

        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @10:15PM (#38162578)

          They are far more important than senors, and hence why even back in the days of SDTV professional companies used big cameras.

          Even once you go past cell phones, lenses are often the limiting factor. At work we have a couple of Panasonic HDC-TM900s for videoing classes and so on. Not professional cameras, but not cheap things either. About $1000 each when we got them, full 1920x1080 60p recording at 28mbps and so on. A good bit of their cost are in their Leica lenses.

          Well for all that, they aren't good enough for 1080 resolution. When you downsample their video to 720p it looks flawless. You can examine it very close up and everything looks as clear and crisp as the pixels allow. The resolution is the limiting aspect, not the source. However when you view the full 1080p stream, well you can see some minor defects. It isn't huge, it still shows more detail than the downsampled 720p version, but you can see that the resolution is capable of more detail, the source is limiting it (and to a lesser extent, the compression).

          To truly get 1080p it would take better lenses (and less compression).

          You need a large, quality, lens if you want to get truly high resolution photos, where each pixel actually shows distinct detail.

          • by syousef ( 465911 )

            They are far more important than senors, and hence why even back in the days of SDTV professional companies used big cameras.

            That is like saying air is more important than water for a trip to Mars.

            Both the sensor and the lens need to be good amongst a lot of other things. The quality of still or video is limited by the weakest link - the least suited aspect of the equipment taking the photograph and the circumstances it is taken under. That includes the ability of the photographer.

      • More generally, how do they keep somebody from livestreaming it -- or, at the very least, recording it and streaming it later.

        We have cameras that are the size of a pack of cards that record very high quality 1080p video, after all.

        How about using a quadrocopter with a camera as was used at the Poland Independence Day riots? []

        Is the NFL going to install miniature anti-aircraft guns/missiles at stadiums nationwide, or maybe lobby to have laws enacted that ban all civilian model aircraft?

        O/T, but can you imagine the crapstorm resulting from dozens of quadrocopters with cameras swarming someplace like the White House, Pentagon, and/or other sensitive government installations, live-streaming video t

      • by st0nes ( 1120305 ) on Friday November 25, 2011 @01:01AM (#38163318) Homepage
        Most of the footage we see follows the ball. But every so often, when there's a break in play, the camera zooms in on chicks in the crowd with great hooters, or players picking their noses, spitting or scratching their crotches. Could these folk not get something for their extra performances?
    • Ultimately, it's silliness. It would change things if coaches had access to other games, but before long things would reach a new equalizer and things would be fine.

  • Whiners (Score:2, Insightful)

    All 3 comments so far are AC whining about a football article on his precious slashdot. If you don't like it, don't read it. It's really that easy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      News for Nerds, not news for jocks. I guess calling them sports nerds somehow makes it OK.

      • I know you're trolling, but what about us nerds that were jocks? Having played highschool football, I'm always interested in this stuff.

      • There's a popular thing, called X. The people who produce and market X allow one view of it to their fan base, but deny them another, potentially more interesting and informative view.

        If you can't shoehorn that into some kind of 'evil megacorps are destroying our freedoms', you're not trying hard enough.

        More seriously, the nerdiest guy I know (and that's saying a lot, I'm a developer and I've worked with a TON of nerds) once considered getting into football for the sheer joy of statistical analysis on all

  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:07PM (#38161488)

    John Madden said once that the TV people wanted their coverage to look more like his video game, and the video game people wanted the game to look more like TV coverage. This led to the use of the wire-suspended camera for most kicking plays.

  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:11PM (#38161516)

    ESPN's daytime SportsCenter block has a system they call ESPN Axis which is based on a 3D composite taken by multiple cameras that the TV crew that does the game doesn't have time to compute, these things show up on Monday and Tuesday based on when the computers finish the rendering.

  • by bhagwad ( 1426855 ) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:11PM (#38161524) Homepage
    When broadcasting a chess match, the camera should only zoom in on the piece the player is actually touching at the moment. Allowing a bird's eye view of the board will expose the various strategies the player uses and is considered proprietary information by the player and his or her team.
    • Woah woah woah, chess gets broadcasted?
    • by PPH ( 736903 )
      Nah. Keep the camera on the cheerleaders between moves.
    • by Rennt ( 582550 )
      A cynical person could be forgiven for guessing the coach's problem with a bird's-eye view of the game - it will expose that their super-secret strategy involves running a line of meatheads at the other team.
  • In baseball, the only thing deemed important to cover is the ball. There may not be as much politics associated with it but you don't really get to see the shifts; what the pitcher and catcher do on most plays, etc.. If you aren't in the ball park seeing it in person, its a pretty intellectually dull sport.
    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      It's not any better in person. My wife likes it, but it's even more boring to watch than golf (live or TV).
    • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

      The thing with baseball is that, as you've said, you really need the whole park view to see the strategy involved. But at the same time, the TV angle lets you see the individual pitches so much better. It's so much cooler when you can actually see the movement on the breaking balls, or see the batter swing to early on a changeup. You miss out on that stuff if you go in person. There really doesn't seem to be an optimal way to view the games.

      • I once had upper deck seats to a Greg Maddux game, where I was lined up directly with home plate, the mound , second base, and the center field distance marker. I was behind a camera well that wasnt in use, so there was no obstruction at all. I was looking straight down, and could possible call balls and strikes better than the ump. This was an amazing way to watch someone who has that level of control.

  • by KazW ( 1136177 ) * on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:17PM (#38161564)
    I'm Canadian, Thanksgiving was last month!
  • ...this one has to be the single least important.
  • The rules are arbitrarily created to make for the best viewing experience. There's also a zillion of them.

  • Jesus H. Christ, (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:45PM (#38161742)

    a writer for the WSJ is giving opinions on viewing NFL games??

    OK. here's the deal for those of you, including Reed Albergotti, who don't *really* watch NFL or NCAA football.

    As the players line up for a play, the camera typically shows all 22 players. As the ball is snapped, the camera begins to zoom in slowly (allowing for some lead room by putting the ball in the rear third of the frame, as it relates to the direction of play) and as the play progresses it may or may not zoom in closer depending on how the play develops. The players can become so spread out during the course of action that to watch it all on a screen would not show much detail, including who has the fucking ball, or the path the ball takes through the air during a pass play. Some quarterbacks can throw the pill for 70 yards, for fucks sake. Pull the camera back to show the entire field and see how easy the game is too watch. You will lose sight of the ball, and won't be able to tell if the reciever caught the ball for a completion, or was nabbed by the defensive back for an interception. The camera operators even lose sight of the ball every once in awhile as it is.

    As for being a "student" of the game, there is plenty of opportunity for those who care. Every network that broadcasts football has a staff of former coaches and players who's job it is to teach fans about how the different teams operate on the field, and how effective they are against opponents. There are hours of shows dedicated to this. The film used to dissect play often shows all 22, but it sometimes isn't necessary as some on field play isn't relevent. Sure, downfield blocking by wide receivers on run plays is important, but on a 3rd and 1 attempt, they are sometimes just going through the motions; it's basically a scrum in trying to move the ball forward a yard.

    Ok, I'm done being pissed, back to the games!

    • Fox Sports once had the glowing hockey puck. Many Canadians were upset at the idea because we are bigger hockey fans than the US. So maybe if American networks implement the glowing hockey pucks again, Canadians will have football broadcast with glowing footballs! I don't know if this will ever extend to other sports. Golf would be my main complaint. Just don't show Tiger's balls glowing!

    • You will lose sight of the ball, and won't be able to tell if the reciever caught the ball for a completion, or was nabbed by the defensive back for an interception.

      Right, because with all the technology used today to highlight the field and overlay graphics,
      we certainly wouldn't be able to work out a good system for tracking and highlighting the ball.

    • The camera will probably show the 11 offensive players on almost every snap, but you will very rarely see a safety for more than a quarter of a second. And after the ball is snapped, the camera is stuck in the pocket until a pass is thrown, so you won't know which specific route was ran. Heck, receivers on the other side of the pass probably won't be shown at all.

      There are sports where the TV coverage is better than what you'd get on a mid-priced ticket on the stadium, as far as following the action goes. W

      • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

        I have a friend who has been to every Giants home game for at least 20 years. After every game, he goes home and watches the game he recorded on TV. His take is that being at the game is a lot of fun, but the one thing you can't really do is tell what is happening with the game. He also says that the new stadiums are better, because they have giant TV screens showing the TV coverage.

  • ...but you will never see a shot of the entire field and what all 22 players do on every play which is considered proprietary information available only to teams and coaches..."

    I hope someone can take up this matter to defeat the nonsense. In any case, it sound ripe for a video-mounted RC helicopter project.

    I am sure release of such video can make way for serious profits. On the other hand, the so called project manager is likely to attract a barrage of lawsuits as he's labeled an 'infringer' if such a term

  • Anyone who has watched for any length of time knows the plays anyway and knows when a given team is running one of them. Its not like the routes the receivers run are somehow more interesting than the blocks. If you watched the game with a full field view showing all of the players, you wouldn't see any close-up drama at the line of scrimmage. Football is more complicated than any one camera angle can show. If all you know about a sport is what you have seen on television, then you really don't know tha
    • You're right. What's more is that even when you're in the stands watching from a good seat, you still can't keep up with all the action at one time. You tend to focus on one thing or another, some keep up with the ball and some watch various players.

      I've been to too many games to remember in my 58 years, and I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather watch it on television. You can see things on television that you'd never see in person.

      It's all about perspective. The players have theirs, the fans at the g
      • The thing is that, without the 22 player view, It's extremely hard to judge a QB or a coordinator's performance. The TV can't tell you if the quarterback stinks, the receivers stink, or the offensive coordinator stinks.

        Now, if a guard is having a horrible game, TV will make it far easier to find out, but that's arguably a far less interesting question unless you've spent half of your young years as a lineman.

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @08:57PM (#38162196) Homepage

    ...for the no-fly zone over the superbowl.

  • by buybuydandavis ( 644487 ) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @09:08PM (#38162294)

    I don't understand why the NFL isn't selling access to video libraries containing all these streams. With all the football fans, fantasy football and otherwise, obsessively analyzing the game, don't you think they could sell subscriptions? I'd buy. Give me a searchable archive. Let me find all targets at a receiver in a given year, or all fumbles of a players, or all INTs, etc.

    The problem of delivering video on demand is already solved. They've got the content. It's just money in the street, waiting for them to pick up.

  • ... not just in the rules and play, but in the TV coverage.

    Soccer is insanely popular the world over, and TV coverage of soccer seems to provide a wider view of the field, which is crucial. Soccer covers a lot of ground on a regular basis, where American football doesn't so much. And those long plays tend to be easier to zoom into. Zoom into a decent penetration in a soccer match, and you'll miss everything important.

    And I love both. I'd love to have a wider view of football.

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