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Ray Frager made mention of this yesterday and ESPN expanded upon it today. The WWL plans to add another technological element to its coverage of Monday’s Home Run Derby in St. Louis.
The “Ball Track” technology is designed to greatly enhance the viewer and on-air talents’ ability to judge the details of a home run. The system relies on a graphical representation to show the track of the ball in flight, the distance the ball travels to its ultimate landing spot, and project whether the ball will, in fact, reach the seats. All this information will be available in real time.
You can see an example of the technology here (minus the distance information).
“We have wanted for many years to know the distance the ball traveled at the moment that it does impact wherever it might.” said Jed Drake, Senior Vice President and Executive Producer, Event Production for ESPN, “We had a problem with that because we weren’t able to immediately tell people the distances the ball had traveled. With this system we will not only be able to tell everybody the distance it travels but we’ll be able to show the arc as well. It’s a system that was made for this event.”
Drake says the graphical display of the ball’s flight path utilizes the same technology employed by ESPN and other networks in their coverage of the ball flight in golf.
The driving engine in this cutting edge technology is the use of Doppler Radar, which is more commonly associated with weather forecasting. Apparently it can do much more.
“Our accuracy will be within a foot.” said ESPN Vice President of Emerging Technology Anthony Bailey, “We can predict a home run prior to it happening.”
The new home run tracking system looks like the only new wrinkle ESPN plans to bring to this year’s Derby. Drake said that in covering the Derby live for 12 straight years there is little that can be done in providing unique views of the action. He said this year he expects a more conservative cut among the 20 cameras at ESPN’s disposal.
“At this stage we’ve truly maxed out on unique (camera) positions.” said Drake, “In the past we have looked to vary the coverage in an effort to keep it fresh. But I think sometimes we’ve gone a little to far afield in that. So I think we’re gonna pull back the reigns a little bit.”
Chris Berman will again anchor the coverage of the Derby from St. Louis. He’ll be joined by Joe Morgan, Steve Phillips, and Erin Andrews.