Thursday, January 05, 2006

Seeing By Sky Cam Is Believing

I sure take Sky Cam coverage for granted these days when I watch football. Sure, it's very videogame-esque, but I expect to see these angles now. Almost demand them. So I decided to find out when networks started using Sky Cam, and I thought I would share two excerpts with you in today's retro technology entry.

From Kevin Mulligan (Philadelphia Daily News, 31 Aug 1984)
It stands 4 feet, 6 inches high, weighs 38 pounds and can do the 100 four seconds faster than Carl Lewis.

It took $1.8 million to get the first and only one off the ground - where it spends 99.9 percent of its time hovering at anywhere from 20 to 100 feet or zipping around at speeds as high as 20 mph - and is controlled by a joy stick similar to the one hooked up to your Atari 5200 home computer system.

Its name is Sky Cam, a radically new TV camera that last Friday made the 50-yard line the second best seat in the house at the Raiders-Jets NFL preseason game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Sky Cam, a computer-controlled camera suspended by cables over the playing field, took an NBC-TV audience places it never had been during the game, when the remarkable invention made its national TV debut.

From Bill Carter (The Seattle Times, 13 Jan 1985)
NBC did use Skycam more extensively at one other event, a World Cup soccer match between the United States and a team from the Netherlands Antilles. ''Nobody noticed because the game got a 1.9 rating,'' Monaghan said.

NBC director John Gonzalez was intrigued with Skycam, however, and he and one NBC cameraman worked long hours with the Skyworks technicians to polish the skills necessary to make the device work. The result was the Orange Bowl coverage, where the exceptional shots provided by Skycam exceeded NBC's greatest expectations.

It almost had to be the Orange Bowl, Aagaard said, because of the free rein that bowl usually allows. NBC calls the Orange Bowl ''the bowl of innovation.''

In this case, that may mean the bowl will be remembered not for having more people on the field than in the stands during its halftime show, but for giving the first real exposure to the next step in the revolution of sports coverage on television.

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