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NCAA Men's College World Series 2024: ESPN's Cameras Take Viewers Deeper Into Wild Atmosphere in Omaha

17/06/2024

NCAA Men's College World Series 2024: ESPN's Cameras Take Viewers Deeper Into Wild Atmosphere in Omaha MindFly BodyCam, UmpCam, live drone, and aggressive mic placement highlight a loaded production plan By Brandon Costa, Director of Digital

Monday, June 17, 2024 - 3:37 pm

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June in Omaha is a sports television tradition.

The relationship between the NCAA Men's College World Series and ESPN traces back to the roots of live sports on cable TV. The Worldwide Leader has been broadcasting games of this event since 1980 - less than a year after the network first went on the air. And yet, one could already make a strong argument that this 2024 edition might be the most exciting MCWS ever.

Camera operator Shane Marshall captures North Carolina's Vance Honeycut following his walkoff home run at the NCAA Men's College World Series on Friday. (Photo: Josh Lavallee/ESPN Images)

Walk off winners in the first three games of the dual double-elimination bracket tournament for the first time ever.; the second cycle in series history; and iconic defensive plays in the outfield lit up the opening weekend. And that's not even touching on the innovation that ESPN has brought to cover all of the excitement of this star-studded field.

College baseball and the Men's College World Series as a whole continue to thrive, says Phil Orlins, VP, Production at ESPN. Viewership and the scope of the production continue to increase each year. The long run of MCWS has always made this a great place to try new technology and in recent years the NCAA and the umpires have been great partners in allowing us to bring the coverage closer to the action than ever before.

On Board With Blue A wealth of resources has been made available at Charles Schwab Field Omaha Schwab for the production team headed up by Scott Gustafson, ESPN's production lead for college baseball. Most notable among the specialty camera lineup at this year's MCWS are the return of the RF UmpCam worn on the mask of the home plate umpire and the debut of the Mindfly AI BodyCam on the chests of the first and second base umps.

An umpire wears the Mindfly AI BodyCam during a game at the 2024 NCAA Men's College World Series. (Photo: Josh Lavallee/ESPN Images)

The MindFly BodyCam gets us unprecedented access and intimate views, says Orlins. The chest mount with AI stabilization provides a comfortable and smooth viewing experience while bringing the viewer onto the playing field like never before.

Here's a clip of the Mindfly AI BodyCam in action:

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The Mindfly BodyCam vest, which is worn underneath the umpire's top shirt, is a system that has become increasingly popular at ESPN over the past month. It was worn by a backup goalie during pregame skate prior to a Stanley Cup Final game and by a referee during a UFL Playoff game.

UmpCam - which is proved by 3G Wireless - is being made available on the UmpCast AltCast on ESPN+ for all games, before getting the promotion to ESPNU for the Finals.

On the Field and In the Skies The front bench working in the truck in Omaha producer Bill Palladino, directors Scott Johnson and Jeff Evers, technical director Bob Yodice, and associate directors Brian Zwolinski and Heather Wilson are also painting gorgeous pictures all week long thanks to continued expansion of cameras that has established themselves at this event.

An angle that has become a staple at this event - and made its debut at the Women's College World Series earlier this month - is the on-field shallow depth-of-field cinematic camera.

On-field camera operator Shane Marshall with his rig on the field during the 2024 Men's College World Series.

(Photo: Joshua R. Gateley/ESPN Images)

This year's rig, which is operated by cameraman Shane Marshall, is a Sony A7 on a Ronan gimbal. It has permission from the NCAA to be in the dugouts and make its way out onto the field to track action during moments when the ball isn't live, including following a home run hitter around third and to home plate and pitchers coming off the field after closing out an inning.

The College World Series offers a unique stage where the stakes are so high and the players are so animated, and the Shallow Depth' is the perfect camera to bring this high drama home to the viewer, says Evers. [This] is a special setting for this camera because Shane is allowed to operate the camera in the dugout while play is going on. This gives us the ability to capture unique angles and images of players and coaches that we would not be allowed to capture in an MLB game.

A pair of NEP Fletcher Nucleus 4K pan-and-scan robotics are recording at 240 fps (frames-per-second). This one pictured is shooting down the third baseline. (Photo Courtesy: Phil Orlins/ESPN)

Meanwhile, up in the Omaha skies, a live drone returns as part of the arsenal, acquiring atmosphere from the city, as well as the stadium. Its most aggressive move has been in being able to fly above the playing field and escort in a pitcher entering from the bullpen.

We were successful in launching that initiative last year and the results were spectacular, says Evers. The images were incredibly powerful. This year, with the help of the NCAA, we are going to try a couple of additional drone movements inside the stadium to further bring the viewer at home closer to the experience of being in the stadium.

The drone, which pilot Mike Shea operates, is a product of ESPN's internal drone group.

ESPN's camera plan at the 2024 NCAA Men's College World Series includes seven super slow-mo cameras and four large lens manned cameras. (Photo: Joshua R. Gateley/ESPN Images)

ESPN operations has secured three hotel rooftops, as well as space at the Omaha Convention Center, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridg
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2024/06/17/ncaa-mens-college-world-series-...
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