I have been working in sports television for over a decade. I have seen standard definition turn to high definition and technology improve to help live remote broadcasts bring the action from the field into your living room. I have the honor of using cutting-edge equipment working all over the country.
I also do quite a bit of shooting detached from the live television truck and capture sports history with a camera that is recording to on-board tape, disk and hard drives. I shoot promotions, features and sport documentaries. Most of this is shot 720p, 1080i and 1080p, but I have been pushing sports television stations to consider off speed and higher resolutions.
Currently, shooting 4k is way beyond most of their broadcasting capabilities. However, most television stations are using powerful non-linear editing systems, and 4k can be manipulated in-house with the free RED CINE-X PRO software download. The raw high res footage gives the editors much more creative power in post with color space and frame size. Even though the final cut is exported in high definition, the resulting footage pops off the television screen.
Recently, I was hired to shoot feature video for a television station and Major League Soccer. I shot a New England Revolution soccer game from the sidelines, it was an uneventful tie. I somehow managed to get enough stuff in that single day to keep the client happy. But for the first time at a pro sporting event, I was shooting in 4k and at higher frame rates…ENG style. I shot off a Vinten Vision 10 AS tripod. Some of the dailies are in the edit above.
“ENG” stands for electronic news gathering and it is a generic term used to describe off the shoulder or tripod camerawork captured to tell a news/sports story. Nothing fancy, just record what you see in 29.97 frames per second and wrap sound around it. Production value is often compromised, using on camera lights and built in wireless systems. ENG is what you get when you are a one-man-band. You have to fight to bring back good looking stuff.
Digital cinema cameras like the RED (and even DSLRs) do not work well in fast paced ENG environments. These type of cameras are not “news” cameras and tend to be hard to operate run-and-gun style. I find my self taking much more time composing a shot using a RED with prime lenses because of the shallow focus, fixed focal length and accessories you need to pull it all off. Time is not always available in ENG Shoot mode.
I have seen NFL Films cameramen operating RED, ARRI and Phantom cameras with traditional 2/3 inch HD television lenses. Yes, they do shoot film with cine lenses zooming manually with their finger tips, but some are “cheating” a bit. Using the b4 adapter, they have the ergonomics of an ENG camera with electronic zoom control and ease of use. I found that a few companies like Century Optics, use to make adapters to go from PL to B4.
With help from Rule Boston Camera and Mike Sutton, I purchased a rare super 16mm to 2/3 inch b4 transformer adapter and I can use it on all my PL cameras. The 2/3 Fujinon 17×7.6 HD television lens I own covers the RED crop sensor in full at 2k. If I want to shoot at 4k on the RED, I have to engage the 2x extender on the Fujinon lens to cover the larger scanned RED sensor size.
This adapter is hard to find, but the closest thing that I have seen is the Abakus 132 Converter Lens. This is one of the adapters that I saw on the NFL Films cameras. MTF also makes one that I have never tested!
The footage is not tack sharp using the adapter at 4k, but it looks pretty good. I have full control because I can shoot with a familiar lens with full motor zoom. I bring back footage shot in higher frame rates not possible on a broadcast television camera. Slow motion and shallow depth of field….clients love that. They call it “cinematic” and anything that looks different from all the other interlaced stuff on TV makes them smile.
I am getting nearly 2.5 hours of non-stop shooting using the RED ONE MX and the 190 watt/hr Bebob Engineering lithium batteries. These things are powerful and only weigh 3 lbs. I am using the v-mount BeBob Rouge ML-120 hot swap adapter. This mini battery is always at the ready so I have a buffer to keep the camera powered even when the main battery dies or I do a battery change. As for the Bebob 190s, be sure to only carry them on airplanes (up to three if one is connected to the camera), you cannot check lithium batteries that are over 100 watt/hr. For more information on airline regulations and batteries please click here.
I can even operate the RED ONE MX camera off the shoulder using the Letus Master Cinema Series DSLR hand held kits. I modified them to hold the larger camera and used the shoulder pad directly on the bottom of the RED.
I shot some “ENG” feature stuff for the NBA and MLB…just a taste above.