Since the beginning of industry technology has changed occupations in unexpected ways the demise of the sports TV cameraman is a good modern example of a highly skilled, specialised trade that may soon be redundant.
Years ago television studios largely replaced cameramen with remote controlled cameras but sports grounds needed skilled operators with excellent attention spans to video action at sports grounds.
At a lunch today in Sydney Michael Tomkins, Chief Technology Office of Fox Sports Australia, explained how a combination of high definition cameras and advanced software is changing the way sports are broadcast and recorded.
“Last year we put two 4k cameras in to cover the length of the ground,” Tomkins said. “Two 4k cameras can see the length of the whole ground so I get rid of four cameramen and replace them with one joystick bunny.”
“He moves a box around the screen and those become a virtual camera. The resolution of a 4k camera is four times that of our HD broadcasts. It’s quite cost effective and I don’t have to roll a crew out.”
A demonstration of how the technology works is in a YouTube clip of an Australian Rules football match from last year. While the ‘joystick bunny’ and the software is somewhat clumsy in the segment, the clip shows the power of the technology.
With abolishing most of the camera, the opportunity to rationalise the production suite also becomes possible; at present most sports events have a producer instructing a group of assistants to cut between cameras, prepare replays and all the other effects expected by viewers. With a software based system most of that labor and its skills become redundant.
Over time as higher resolution cameras become available this application is going to become common, in fact most junior and amateur sports will be able to afford static hi-res cameras for their ground that allows them to record their games.
While the demise of the sports cameraman and producers is a shame in the same way loom weavers and hansom cab drivers disappeared, it is a reflection of changing technologies creating then destroying occupations.