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ESPN's Monday Night Football Crew Tests Rare S35 PL Mount FUJINON Lens on Near Sideline Cart Camera

11/10/2021

ESPN's Monday Night Football Crew Tests Rare S35 PL Mount FUJINON Lens on Near Sideline Cart Camera On the field, camera operator also finds comfort zone with new wireless rig By Brandon Costa, Director of Digital

Monday, October 11, 2021 - 9:44 am

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Much like other broadcasts across the National Football League, ESPN's Monday Night Football has gotten off to a rip-roaring start in 2021.

During the Week 3 game in Dallas between the Eagles and Cowboys, ESPN's Monday Night Football tested an 8K lens from FUJINON on the near-sideline cart camera. (Photo: Matthew Kwok, ESPN)

Through the first four weeks of the season, ratings for MNF game coverage are up 24% compared with the same stretch from last last year and up 26% over the first five games of 2019.

Thanks to competitive games (like the Week 1 overtime thriller in Las Vegas), the new Monday Night Football With Peyton and Eli simulcast on ESPN2 (with ratings increases in each of its first three weeks), and noticeably rising interest in the league across the board, the historic Monday-night franchise has thrived this season. Even the Week 3 game, a decided blowout of the Philadelphia Eagles by the Dallas Cowboys, was the most-watched Week 3 MNF game since 2012.

This season of Monday Night Football has also seen notable, innovative acquisition tools added to the production, from a new take on the on-field wireless-camera system to the latest: the testing of a rare 8K S35 PL Mount broadcast lens during the Week 3 game in Dallas.

Keen-eyed viewers might have noticed a higher-quality image from one of the main broadcast cameras on the sideline. It was coming from a FUJINON SK 20 35 full-sensor Cinema Box lens affixed to a full-sensor Sony HDC-4800 positioned on the higher perch of a dual near-sideline cart camera.

This lens fills the need for a sports-style broadcast lens that has a PL mount, says James Munn, senior operations specialist, ESPN. That has been the key. We've had PL lenses that have been designed for Hollywood but none designed for sports. This dials it in for sports with familiar controls, an extender, familiar mounting to a camera on a sled the way you'd expect it. It's a very big, very fast lens. There are longer PL lenses, but they aren't fast enough. So it hits all of the points that we need from a sports lens. It's pretty impressive what we have seen so far.

Innovation is a staple of #MNF

Thanks to a new 8k lens paired with a cinematic camera, fans watching from home are seeing tighter images of the QBs, sharper slow-motion replays and cinematic background images in tonight's game

Well done, @ESPNNFL Remote Operations team! pic.twitter.com/PJXp2KrhPH

ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) September 28, 2021

The lens is pretty rare as a small bundle was sold to the Japanese broadcaster NHK about five to six years ago to support their 8K work. Its reemerging in a big way as broadcasters have made a hard shift to cinema-style tools over the past year. ESPN got to use it for the first time at NBA Summer League this past August when Senior Remote Operations Specialist Eddie Okuno and his team tested it during some games in Las Vegas at the low slash position.

The fact that we were able to get our hands on it was quite remarkable, says Monday Night Football Director Jimmy Platt. It looked just awesome. The crispness of the image in super-mo was incredible. Seeing that image in high speed and how clear it was opened my eyes.

This has potential, he continued, and it may change how well we view the game and the level of detail that a camera can produce.

According to a representative from Fujifilm/Fujinon, the native PL-mount cinema broadcast zoom lens shoots out to 700mm with an aperture rage of f2.8 to f4.8. It is also a 220mm front element. Compare that with FUJINON's Cinema Premier Zoom 75-400mm T2.8-3.8, which is a staple for high-end shooting of concerts, and that is a 136mm front element. It has a 1.4x extender and weighs 69 pounds, making it the heaviest box lens the company has ever made. It's about 10 pounds heavier than the company's UA125X8. It's also 28 inches long, which is three inches longer than the UA125X8.

ESPN first tested out the lens during its coverage of the NBA Summer League this past August. They are hoping to use it again later this Monday Night Football season, including on the network's playoff game on Wild Card Weekend. (Image Courtesy of Eddie Okuno, ESPN)

The ESPN folks note that this was a bit of a one-off test, although they are hoping to use it again during a couple more regular-season games, as well as during the network's game on Wild Card Weekend in January. Although they didn't identify specifics, Platt adds that, for selected MNF games throughout the remainder of this season, the crew will deploy and test out new tools with the goal of further blending the lines between broadcast and cinema-style techniques.

This will all be done with the mindset of the cinema and broadcast worlds and how they potentially weave together, says Platt. Is that the future of broadcast? Can we do things with cinematic tools but adapt and modify them to suit our needs? There's a difference between film and live TV, and depth of field is a large difference. There are use cases for depth of field, and there are use cases where you don't want it. We need to be able to get in and out of it just like a movie gets in and out of it, but we don't have time to reset the scene, relight it, and ask the player to make that touchdown run again.

Naturally, Monday Night Football is not delivered to homes in 8K or even in 4K. ESPN transmits game coverage in 1080p at 59.94 fps. So, outside of zooming in on replays, what does a 4K-capable camera shooting with an 8K lens contribute to the show.
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2021/10/11/espns-monday-night-football-cre...
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