The fog that rolled in around halftime of the Patriots’ 23-7 win over the Falcons in Foxboro might have been something of a mercy for viewers, unless you’re a weirdo who was really into seeing Atlanta run some of the most questionable play-calling since ... well, since the last time these two teams met.
But for NBC’s production team, it was a real challenge, and an opportunity to try out a new way of showing a football game, one that I’d definitely like to see more of. The main play-by-play cameras are positioned high above the field, giving television viewers a side-on, elevated angle that shows the breadth of the line of scrimmage. The view is pretty much what the broadcasters have from the booth. Well, here’s what it looked like from Al Michaels’s and Cris Collinsworth’s point of view:
NBC executive producer Fred Gaudelli said it wasn’t much of a question to abandon the main cameras.
“When the second half began the main cameras that shoot the play by play action of the game seemed to be getting more milky by the second. At that point [director] Drew Esocoff and I talked about making the switch to Skycam because both of them were the only unaffected cameras out of the 25 we deploy.”
In an absolute coincidence, this was the first-ever NFL broadcast to use two different SkyCams, those wire-suspended cameras that zoom around the field and can offer over-the-shoulder angles that, while sometimes reminiscent of a video game, can give looks down the field that the traditional cameras don’t. The original SkyCam operates from a height of 12 to 40 feet above the turf, while the new, high SkyCam operates in a range of 40 to 80 feet.
It was definitely a unique way to watch a football game, and while it was jarring to see it used so heavily, I really liked the angles it gave on line blocking and on defensive coverage. So why not use it all the time? Gaudelli noted that there’s a lot more room for human error, with the real possibility of missing a play. “It is important to note the degree of difficulty for the cameraman operating Skycam,” Gaudelli told the Boston Herald. “It’s done with a joystick similar to what one might use to play a video game.”
As for the players and coaches at ground level, Bill Belichick said “it wasn’t that bad down on the field.” But even if the fog didn’t affect the game, it made it look really, really cool. Here are some wire photos of a surreal-looking football game.