MLB Embraces DSLRs for Largest World Series Film Production Ever

Game 6 of the World Series will be played tonight in Kansas City, and, while the San Francisco Giants seek to win their third World Series in five years, a small production team from MLB Productions will be busy using Canon DSLRs, a Canon C300EF camera, and two Arri Amira cameras to capture core footage for the official MLB World Series film.

“We’re shooting the most coverage in our history,” says Rob Haddad, coordinating producer, MLB Productions. “When MLB Productions took this in-house in 1998, we had two cameras. and now we have five cameras shooting. We added a third camera in 2010 and then a fourth and, this year, a fifth.”

The team is capturing footage that will quickly be turned around for a 60- to 80-minute film to be released 10 days after the World Series ends.

“We have to take into consideration that the storylines are constantly evolving,” says Haddad. “And we certainly give the winner of the World Series more airtime.”

The camera crew is deployed in different locations in each team’s home stadium. In Kansas City, a team comprising one camera operator and a producer is located in the first-base camera well, another in the third-base camera well, one in left centerfield, a fourth in centerfield, and a fifth is roaming. In San Francisco, the left-centerfield position is another roaming camera.

“In San Francisco, we shot more wide handheld shots to get crowd reactions,” Haddad notes.

The camera crew is complemented onsite by a team of three media managers, an archivist, and a chief media manager. For each game, that team delivers an average of 10 hours of footage to editors in New Jersey. Each game also has an individual editor, who cuts down a mix of the TV broadcast produced by Fox Sports with the MLB Productions content. There is also an editor creating the open and close and another one cutting down the earlier rounds of the playoffs.

Haddad says the production team began using the Canon DSLRs in 2010 and fell in love with the look. This year, the lens lineup includes two Canon CN-E 30-300 zoom lenses, two Canon EF 200-400 f4 lenses, and a “rookie”: the Canon Cine-Servo 17-120mm lens.

“The 17-120 has exactly the kind of flexibility we need. During batting practice, we can shoot wide for conversations of guys talking and then push in to get a tight shot of their hands once they get into the batting cage,” he explains. “There is so much media on the field we have to be nimble.”

Haddad also speaks highly of the 200-400 lens that is coupled with a 1.4X extender.

“Some of the photographers roll their eyes when they see we aren’t using prime lenses. But, for as much as we vary the shooting, switching lenses all the time would be brutal,” he points out. “We even have a doubler on the 30-300 lens.

The Amira camera also proved to be a strong addition to the production because it is much less cumbersome than the Arri Alexa camera.

“We like the Amira’s dynamic range,” Haddad adds, “and it gives us the cinematic ENG style we were looking for.”

He and many others who are shooting video with a DSLR are reaping the benefits of an explosion that motivated camera manufacturers to ensure that video needs were front and center when developing DSLR camera bodies.

“I love that DSLRs are discrete, and we can roam around and shoot video and not have a large footprint,” he says. “And you set the white balance, and then the camera does a lot of the work for you. In a lot of ways, they match what you can do with a bigger and more expensive camera. This is really a renaissance period for cameras.”

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