‘Unique’ Phantom Cam to be used on Twins-Tigers telecasts
MINNEAPOLIS — Pete Kozma had a perfect line on Hunter Pence’s routine-looking grounder, perhaps even a chance to throw home and keep the Giants from plating a run with the bases loaded and no outs showing on the AT&T Park scoreboard.
What the Cardinals shortstop hadn’t seen, though, was that Pence’s bat splintered as he swung, making three separate points of contact with the ball and putting some bizarre sidespin on it as it fluttered into left-center field.
More than 8 million television viewers caught it, though, thanks to FOX Sports’ revolutionary video capture unit known as the Phantom Cam.
Starting with that strange, seminal moment in Game 7 of the 2012 NLCS, the super-slow-motion camera has drawn rave reviews from fans and analysts at its ability to pick up the slightest details with high-definition clarity. After an inaugural run during select Twins telecasts last year, Phantom Cam is back for this weekend’s homestand against the Detroit Tigers.
"It really is something that stops you in your tracks," FOX Sports North/FOX Sports Wisconsin executive producer Tony Tortorici said. "It’s hard to say how valuable it is to have the technology like that."
That technology is in a mechanism that allows the camera to capture up to 5,000 frames per second; a typical slow-motion camera records at 380 frames or fewer per second. Every major sports network boasts some type of innovative slow-motion capture interface, but few are using them to generate the razor-sharp replay video and still imagery for which Phantom Cam has gained acclaim.
"It’s unique because of its high frame rate," said Bob Rohde, FSN and FSW’s director of operations. "There are other flavors of this out there, but this is a little bit of a unique animal."
First used by FOX regional sports networks periodically last season, that animal affords viewers a unique look at the game’s smallest minutiae: the bend of bat on ball, a pitcher’s arm angle, how a broken bat impacts a ball’s trajectory (with Pence’s hit serving as the most stark example), and so on. FOX first used the camera — its full name is the Vision Research Phantom v642 — at the 2012 NLCS and has slowly introduced its local markets to the technology.
In addition to appearing during select Twins telecasts last summer, Phantom Cam was used during Timberwolves, Wild and Hockey Day Minnesota coverage in the past year.
Last summer, FOX had one unit to send from city to city. This baseball season, there are three.
Phantom Cam is scheduled for use at nine Twins home games in the next two months. In addition to Detroit’s games at Target Field on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it will be back in the Twin Cities May 26-29 when Texas is in town and June 4-6 when Minnesota hosts Milwaukee.
"Really, it’s up to your imagination how to use it," Tortorici said. "It’s a cool tool."
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