FOX Sports is using Sony’s F55 4K camera to give television viewers a better look at close plays during the 2013 Baseball World Series by positioning a manned 4K camera high over first base to cover all three bases and the home plate and extracting HD replays from the result.
When the sports production community first started looking at 4K this is one of the aspects of it that excited them most: being able to extract a centred HD picture from a larger 4K one for replays and therefore not miss any of the action. Indeed, FOX used a Sony’s F65 camera for one game each week during broadcasts of 2012's NFL season. to capture ultra-high resolution images for its “Super Zoom” technology.
Sports cameramen tend to be specialists with an intricate knowledge of the game and an innate understanding of where the ball and the action is going to be. That said they do sometimes miss plays (mishit balls and fielders doing something unusual and/or stupid can often throw them off the scent) so having this wide field of view is a fantastic insurance policy, as well as giving a director another compelling view of the action for replays.
The camera signals are sent over fibre to the game production truck and put through Sony’s BPU-4000 baseband processor unit, allowing FOX Sports to do multiple cut-outs and zooms of 4K images and extract HD images with no pixel degradation.
“There’s more flexibility with 4K content,” said Jerry Steinberg, senior vice president, technical operations, of FOX Sports. “You’re starting with such a high-resolution image and more picture information to work with. Our cut-outs and zooms end up in much higher quality and we can really zoom in on a shot and still get a completely clear image.”
Other companies have solutions on the market to do this, but Sony's claimed USP in combining the F55 camera and BPU-4000 unit with its CA-4000 camera control unit is that it creates an easy-to-use system that makes operation similar to HD cameras. Running the Quad HD signal from the camera through the Sony CCU lets operators shade the 4K camera the same way they would with an HD camera, all of which minimises disruption to the OB.
“FOX’s use of the F55 is a perfect example of how 4K is fast becoming an everyday broadcast reality and a must for television production,” said John Studdert, vice president of strategic sales, Sony Electronics. “The 4K workflow closely resembles what operators are used to doing in HD, and the end result is ultimately a better-looking, more immersive viewing experience.”