FSMW to use Phantom Cam's super slo-mo capabilities in Dodgers series

BY foxsports • August 5, 2013

ST. LOUIS -- Remember that incredible slow-motion replay of Hunter Pence's broken-bat, bases-clearing double from Game 7 in last year's National League Championship Series? For Cardinals fans, the memory isn't pleasant because Pence's hit gave the Giants a 5-0 lead and essentially ended the Cardinals' chances of reaching the World Series.

As the replay showed, Pence's bat hit the ball not once, not twice, but three times on one swing. Perhaps no other camera used in sports telecasts could have captured that play in such detail except the one pointed at home plate that night. It is known as the Phantom Cam, and it was recording action at 5,000 frames per second. Typical slow-mo cameras record at 380 fps or less.

If a Pence-like play happens at Busch Stadium during the Dodgers-Cardinals series this week, viewers will be in luck. The Phantom Cam will be on hand for all four games.

"I can't wait," says Tom Mee, longtime director of Cardinals telecasts for FOX Sports Midwest. "Viewers are going to be in for a special treat. That camera is fantastic."

"You see things you've never seen before," FSMW executive director Kevin Landy says. "That's just cool."

The Phantom Cam has been making the rounds at FOX Sports affiliates this season, and this week is FOX Sports Midwest's turn. Phantom Cam also will be used in Cincinnati when the Cardinals visit the Reds in early September, though it will be controlled by the home team's production crew.

The Phantom Cam doesn't zoom and isn't used to following the action, which makes it ideal for baseball, but of limited value for other sports. FSMW plans to place it in the photo well on the outside side of the first-base dugout for the series opener. From there, the Phantom Cam will be in an ideal position to shoot the batter's box, the mound and first base.

"The game will dictate how many good replays we get out of it," Mee says. "Something like (the Pence hit) you need a little bit of luck, but that really showed what the Phantom Camera can do."

Even if viewers don't see another multiple-hit-in-one-swing picture, they can expect to see some unusual replays, such as the baseball being misshaped when it connects with the bat. When Phantom Cam was used in Kansas City last month, it twice proved the wrong call had been made, once when it showed an indentation on Mike Moustakas' pants from where he had been skimmed by the ball. The umpire did not see the hit by pitch.

Phantom Cam reviews have been so positive that FOX expects it someday to become a standard part of baseball telecasts. "I don't know how quickly it will be incorporated to every game," Landy says. "I think next year you'll see more opportunities for each team to have a look at it."

The Phantom Cam actually has the capability to record at 20,000 fps, but you're not likely to see such a super-duper, slow-mo replay. "To replay one second of action takes 45 seconds," FOX technical executive Mike Davies says.

For Cardinals fans, the Pence replay was painful enough at a mere 5,000 fps.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.