MLB Postseason: MLB Network Readies “Speed Cam” for NLDS Debut; World Series Plans Shape Up
In an MLB season that has been unlike any other MLB Network has produced more than 500 hours of live studio content, 26 MLB Network Showcase games, four games for YouTube, and more than 450 interviews. And on Wednesday it will once again deliver MLB playoff baseball as it has exclusive rights to one game each from the two National League Division Series: game two between the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves at Houston’s Minute Maid Park on Wednesday and game three of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres from Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX on Thursday.
“We’re super excited about the division series and what we will do in the World Series,” says Susan Stone, MLB Network, SVP, Operations and Engineering. “This is a different year, but it gives us a chance to pivot and try things a little bit differently.”
Topping the list of innovations will be “Speed Cam,” making its MLB playoff debut on Wednesday. The system was used at the end of August for an MLB Network Showcase game and the system was built out by Jib Tek. It combines sophisticated cinema hardware and technology from Sony, Shotover, Agito Trax, Ross Video, Wave Central, Canon and Fujinon.
Chris Pfeiffer, MLB Network, senior coordinating producer, Live Events, says the system will be able to operate more freely than at the earlier game given the configuration of the dugout.
“At the earlier game we were limited because the low-first camera was in part of the dugout,” he says. “It gives a whole new look down on the field level where we can help viewers appreciate the speed of the game. It’s also great for pre-pitch shots and giving a more intimate feel. And it also works well when the runner gets out of the box as you can see the speed and movement of the infielders. We’re excited to have it there for game use.”
This is the ninth season that MLB Network will have exclusive coverage of two postseason games and they will once again be partnering with Fox Sports on sharing resources.
“It’s been a great partnership and Game Creek Video Yogi is in Arlington while NEP M15 and Super B will be in Houston,” says Stone.
With respect to COVID protocols, unlike the NBA and NHL bubbles, only those in contact with players or who needs to be on the field of play will be in the bubble. Everyone else on the crew will be “Tier 3.”
Jason Hedgcock, MLB Network, Director, Remote Technical Operations, says four super slo-mo camera systems will be in use: one each at low first and third and then another at mid first and then the fourth at tight centerfield. There will also be additional cameras at the foul poles and additional robotic cameras.
“I’ve been impressed with the production team as there are a lot of interesting engineering challenges and to solve those problems it often comes at a cost to production,” says Hedgecock. “It’s been really impressive watching the announcers and production team react and adapt with little or no impact on the product.”
MLB Network is also working on plans for World Series coverage and as always it will have an on-site studio show and set.
“It will mean a ton to everyone involved,” says Tom Guidice, MLB Network, VP, Remote Operations. “We will be on site with a set for the first time this season and everyone has done a great job.”
Filmwerks has built a set that will be located on the left field concourse in Globe Life Field and will be home to Intentional Talk and MLB Tonight.
“We can only have two people at the desk for interviews so we will also set up outside the press box shooting to the field,” he adds. “And there will be a second set behind the main one to provide another look.”
One huge advantage is that the MLB Network team already knows where the World Series will be played so planning is locked in well ahead of the usual schedule.
“There is also a roof, so we won’t have to worry about rain,” says Guidice. “The world feed will still be produced at MLB Network in New Jersey so we will send seven cameras back as well as 12 cameras for the pre-game show.”
The broadcast teams are comprised of Matt Vasgersian, Jim Kaat, Buck Showalter and reporter Tom Verducci from Houston. Vasgersian will then be joined by Hall of Famer John Smoltz and reporter Jon Morosi for MLB Network’s telecast of NLDS Game 3 featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Diego Padres this Thursday.
MLB Network will televise more than 200 hours of live Postseason coverage with special editions of its studio shows, including MLB Central presented by Citrix and co-hosted by Robert Flores, Mark DeRosa and Lauren Shehadi, High Heat presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance and hosted by Christopher Russo, The Rundown, MLB Now presented by Fisher Investments and hosted by Brian Kenny, and Intentional Talk presented by Taco Bell and co-hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar.
“This is huge for us,” adds Stone. “It’s a gigantic accomplishment that we’ve made it this far and making sure all the employees are safe. And the adaptability and resiliency of the MLB Network team and for baseball as they’ve had to pivot and change the schedule…everyone has done an amazing job.”