Dead Center Camera

Slate has a good article up arguing the superiority of the dead-center camera over the traditional, slightly-offset camera. I’m in favor of the dead-center, which ESPN toyed with for a year or two and which the Red Sox, Cardinals and Twins use now. This dissent from the article is understandable, however:

There are also television folk who believe that the offset shot is simply better. Tom Adza, who directs Oakland A’s telecasts for Fox Sports Bay Area, says the old-fashioned viewpoint offers a more intimate view of the game. “When ESPN started doing [the dead-center shot], the distance from the top of the pitcher’s head to the plate was fairly great sometimes,” he says. “It was a really wide shot with a lot of dead space. As a viewer, you’re kind of looking at it going, I feel the need to be closer. The offset shot is more compact and fits the screen beautifully.”

I’ll admit, I certainly felt disoriented by the dead-center view when I first saw it for exactly those reasons. It’s a composition thing. When watching it, I felt like I was looking at my friends’ vacation photos and was wishing I could teach them how to properly frame a shot. I got over it, of course, and right now I’d prefer it if everyone went to the dead-center shot. In addition to location, you can see movement on a pitch better. Finally, and this may seem a little weird, you can time pitches better (please don’t tell me I’m the only one who occasionally rips off a practice swing while watching a game).

I guess the big question is what the casual fan thinks. Are they watching enough baseball to get past the compositional problems? Do they know or care enough about the game to appreciate the subtleties of pitch movement and location and stuff?

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Comments

  1. APBA Guy said...

    The dead-center helps locate strikes more accurately, but at the cost of intimacy as described in your post. With the widespread use of pitch replays into a simulated strike zone box, the need for a dead center shot is lessened.

  2. themarksmith said...

    Can’t they zoom in? I know nothing about cameras and such, but when I watched a Cardinals game, that was all I could think about. Just zoom in. However, my response to such a thing seems too simple to be legitimate.

  3. Tim Kelly said...

    When ESPN toyed with the idea for a year or two I did not like it.  The view from dead-center was disorienting, but more importantly, it was different.  But now I find myself wishing that I had that view back when I see a questionable pitch called(WGN/Comcast do not use the “boxed” strikezone on replays). 

    My far biggest complaint with the off-set view is that LHPs look to have the most extreme platoon advantage vs. left-hand hitters.  Click through to the Slate piece and view the Pedro Feliciano thing and you’ll see what I mean.  On the off-set view, it looks like the hitter has no chance, from straight-on though you can see that it’s not nearly that dramatic.

  4. SteveG said...

    I think we are getting closer to not having to choose.  Either the broadcasters will take advantage of the big new wide screens and give us both with the dead on one taking 1/4 to 1/3 of the screen or we will be able to pick which camera to watch.

  5. Jeff said...

    I definitely prefer the dead center camera.  If I’m going to get all riled up about a pitcher getting squeezed or an ump calling pitches in the other batter’s box a strike, I would like to be right.  With the off-set, it is a crapshoot if I’m getting all fired up over nothing.  I wish the Yankees and YES had set it up that way in the new Stadium.

    (And Craig you’re not alone in busting out a practice swing now and then, though my wife finds this habit quite hilarious…)

  6. Glen L said...

    The vast majority of casual fans do not pay particular attention (if any at all) to pitch movement and location.  Sure they’ll notice a truly nasty breaking pitch (see Zito’s curve circa 2003), but, beyond that, every casual fan I watch games with doesn’t notice pitch movement or location until I (or another hardcore fan) make mention of it and plead and plead and plead for them to pay attention to such things, as they are what truly makes baseball amazing to watch.  If you can enjoy watching a pitch’s movement and watching a pitcher hit (or miss) his spots, you’ve got something to watch on every single pitch and a cure for what bores the casual fan

  7. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    We’ll never see it, but if given the choice, I’d prefer to see the camera shot from behind home plate. Even slightly askew, it’s a better shot and it easy to tell if a pitcher hit his spot or nt (watch the catcher’s shoulders; if they move, he didn’t).

  8. Paul said...

    I prefer the offset as the dead center shot feels too far away.

    I do wish they would show the pitchFX graphic more often though, and not just when it makes a case for the home team.

  9. Aaron Moreno said...

    Yeah, the dead-center shot did seem far away compared to the offset, but once I got used to it, I could see strikes and pitch movement a lot better. I ended up preferring dead-center.

  10. Ron said...

    People who think that the umpire can’t get the call right from 2 feet behind the plate think the dead on camera angle is accurate?

    Seriously? 

    Really? 

    A camera 450 feet away and 50 feet above the playing field gives a better look than what the umpire sees?

    Unless it’s the Hubble right behind the rubber, no camera will ever give an accurate reading of the strike zone. Regardless of what Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox think.

  11. formerlyanonymous said...

    It all depends on the angle of the camera as well.  With the Red Sox version, the pitcher could theoretically block your view of the plate because the angle is low.  If the angle is raised like it was with ESPN, you lose the ability to accurately see the top and bottom of the strike zone. With the current view, you lose the left hander’s breaking ball, but you have the height and a VERY good (albeit not perfect) view of the corners.  If you go to

    http://www.twinsballpark2010.com/BetterView.html

    They detail a few different angles from other ball park cameras.  While I enjoy the closeness of the offset view, I don’t think I’m gaining anything from the dead center. That’s just my thought.

  12. Andy H said...

    I like the offset view, but then I really haven’t watched enough from dead center to compare fairly.  But why not show the offset view live, and dead center, or behind home plate in between pitches rather than a crowd shot or the pitcher walking around the mound?

  13. Jake said...

    agreed, SteveG. 

    I personally prefer the offset view since I am a traditionalist, but appreciate the better pitch tracking of the dead-center.  If I could switch between both during the broadcast, that would be ideal, and the ability to do so is just a matter of bandwidth. 

    Then maybe I could review a few pitches instead of watching the next commercial break …  okay, maybe the broadcasters, and their proud sponsors, won’t be so keen on me doing that!

  14. formerlyanonymous said...

    They could reduce the amount of TV commercials by supplanting the backstop with more ads.  The dead center view opens up the right side of the batter for ads.  Not sayin’, just sayin’.

  15. Slugger O'Toole said...

    Dead center vs. off set is really a matter of taste in my opinion. The impact that such a stylistic difference in shot has on the game is not wildly significant. The dead center shot has a real advantage (Ron) on the assessment of the strike zone for the viewer. Cameras shooting at such long distances flatten the 3D spaces into 2D with dramatically decreased sense of depth perception, meaning that the difference between a pitch which appears to be outside the zone and one on the corner is highly dependent on the ANGLE of the camera when it is zoomed in from 400 feet away.

    The most interesting thing here for me, as someone of lives in the media creation world, is the effect that the angle has on the experience of watching the game. One of the big downsides to showing nearly the whole game through the “centerfield shot” (as it is called) is the fact that most of the time you are left with little clue of where the other 8 players are positioning themselves. I always take note of the time when I can see a SS or 2B sneaking in behind a runner from the CFS, because thebroadcast style has given us a dearth of base runner and fielder action.

    Personally, I would rather see a greater use of the behind home plate wide angle coverage proceeding the pitch to help us place the runners and fielders and then the dead center shot at delivery. There is no real reason that this couldn’t be implemented in place of the constant close ups on hitters playing with their batting gloves of pitchers fussing with the mound. Baseball on television today is shot as the story of the battle between hitter and pitcher almost exclusively. It would be an improvement to recognize that while pitcher vs hitter is the central action many subplots are being played out off camera. Simply making more frequent use of an existing camera angle would solve that problem and increase the enjoyment and comprehension of the game for the fans.

    But perhaps I have said too much… this all sounded very geeky didn’t it?

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