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Cameras in pylons are good in theory, bad in practice

nfl-pylon-getty-t Getty Images

We applaud any effort by the NFL, or any of the various media companies it owns, to embrace technology when it comes to getting calls right and/or enhancing the viewing experience.  And so, at first blush, we welcomed the idea of tiny cameras in the pylons for the Thursday Night Football games to be televised by NFL Network.

But here’s the thing.  As good as the idea sounds in theory, it’s not likely to yield many valuable images in practice.

Monday Night Football experimented with pylon cameras in the early 2000s.  But testing during the preseason resulted in zero enhancement of the viewing experience.

Because the pylon cameras can’t move, everything would have to fall perfectly into the frame.  As a result, the handheld cameras were deemed to be far more useful.

That’s likely what will happen here — unless the NFL has designed tiny cameras that are capable of panning, zooming, and tilting.

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32 Responses to “Cameras in pylons are good in theory, bad in practice”
  1. onebucplace says: Sep 11, 2012 8:28 PM

    Helmet cams were fantastic and should be brought back, the image quality they could get is much better and seeing a LB coming at your face at full speed was always great.

  2. voiceofreasonsays says: Sep 11, 2012 8:29 PM

    Great minds think alike.

  3. propernig says: Sep 11, 2012 8:30 PM

    Why don’t they use the same cameras they use on the NASCAR cars. Just saying.

  4. thestrategyexpert says: Sep 11, 2012 8:31 PM

    And why is it assumed the cameras can’t move? That sounds like 1980′s technology. I thought the point was to use modern technology, not cameras from the 1980′s that can’t move. These wouldn’t be hand-held cameras requiring a person to stand near the sidelines, they would use the magical powers of “remote control”.

  5. jbl429 says: Sep 11, 2012 8:40 PM

    Technology has changed a lot in 12 years. There are a ton of little cameras available now which can tilt, pan and zoom. The NFL should absolutely employ that.

  6. felcus says: Sep 11, 2012 8:42 PM

    GoPro’s would work perfectly. One in each of the three sides that face potential in-bounds action; one in-line with the out if bounds line towards the opposite endzone, one in-line with the goal line, and one in-line with the side out of bounds line in the endzone.

  7. rooneyruleblues says: Sep 11, 2012 8:50 PM

    If the pylons were made to be allowed to have a dome on top then this is very much possible. There are very small high quality cameras availible right now that are wifi that can pan, tilt, zoom. You see examples of them on every roof in every las vegas casino.

  8. whatchutalkinabouthillis says: Sep 11, 2012 8:52 PM

    Wah wah wahhhhhhhhhh (sad trombone)

  9. bobgriffinforthewin says: Sep 11, 2012 8:54 PM

    With today’s technology should be totally possible.

  10. moss49thteam says: Sep 11, 2012 8:57 PM

    Well the NFL took a couple of years to get the “eye in the sky” camera down, and it has been used more this year then every before. Also Fox Sports worked for three years and finally got a camera in the NASCAR track that now works just fine.

    The hardest issue would be having the camera be wireless. the pylons are a free standing bag of sand and if it was knocked over someone would have to ensure that it was placed back correctly.

    Imagine how a player like Chad “OchoStinko” Johnson, TO, Steve Smith, or Joe Horn would be able to celebrate a TD with a pylon camera?

  11. blacknole08 says: Sep 11, 2012 8:57 PM

    Aren’t they gonna put chips in the footballs eventually? I think it would be cool if the pylon lit or something to signify if the ball has crossed the plane… would eliminate so much confusion around the goal line.

  12. cowboyscountry says: Sep 11, 2012 9:01 PM

    I’m still waiting for the ref cam to make a comeback.

  13. vincentbojackson says: Sep 11, 2012 9:04 PM

    When you consider every 12 year-old has a camera phone these days, you wonder why it took so long for the NFL to invest in the same decade-old technology.

  14. srcnsd says: Sep 11, 2012 9:06 PM

    Were wide angle pinhole cameras available back then?

  15. valman61 says: Sep 11, 2012 9:11 PM

    If the military can fly a plane almost in outer space via remote control and take pictures clear enough to read your license plate while driving, I think the nfl could manage a small camera that has the ability to rotate and zoom.

  16. thestrategyexpert says: Sep 11, 2012 9:14 PM

    Also in 10 years you can expect to see cameras as small as a pinhead that can do more amazing things than giant cameras of today. They will be able to move, tilt, pan, zoom and be more powerful than today’s cameras. But we don’t need a pinhead-sized camera, a pylon could house very rudimentary and bulky cameras in comparison and accomplish the objective of providing new camera views.

  17. slopmcflop says: Sep 11, 2012 9:17 PM

    “unless the NFL has designed tiny cameras that are capable of panning, zooming, and tilting.”

    Yeah cuz the NFL is the one in charge of new camera design.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see them implement some sort of tiny camera with HD quality and the capacity to move about exactly as you described. If they tried it once and it didn’t yield the results they wished, why would they entertain the idea again unless some new technology has allowed them to get the shots they want? It be a decade later since the first time, we have the technology. I even heard we just put a thing on Mars that has a ton of tiny little moveable cameras.

  18. winkandthegun says: Sep 11, 2012 9:20 PM

    Seems like a better idea would be cameras directly above the pylon pointed down with some crazy zoom-in ability.

  19. 16x8equal49ers says: Sep 11, 2012 9:26 PM

    Aren’t there wide angle cameras. My iPhone has a wide angle camera and it would fit in a pylon.

  20. pj1983a says: Sep 11, 2012 9:27 PM

    Digital camera technology has advanced a lot in the last 12 years. Higher resolutions and wider angle lenses mean more image data to manipulate, even in a static shot. They won’t be able to to do true, panning, zooming, tilting, etc. But they will be able to grab a larger, higher-res shot that they can digitally pan, zoom, tilt, etc. I think it will have better results than you think.

  21. texasterrors says: Sep 11, 2012 9:48 PM

    Agree with everyone… better technology in the past 12 years…. plus… why get a camera that can pan and zoom when you can get 5-10 small cameras that cover the full 90 degrees of onfield play?

  22. jimphin says: Sep 11, 2012 9:49 PM

    They would certainly be using a Wide Angle lens and a High Resolution image that would allow quality digital PZT.

    Having a camera at the exact goal line is the only real way to confirm some of the too close to call plays where the angle of the camera is too far off to really know if the tip of the ball crosses the plane.

    Obviously, the camera should be as high as possible on top of the pylon. Extending the Pylons should be an option.

  23. jboyxl73 says: Sep 11, 2012 10:10 PM

    This is just another way of creating drama during a game the whole “is he or isn’t he in ” questions to keep viewers tuned in during play reviews instead of living their lives ….

  24. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Sep 11, 2012 10:26 PM

    Back then scoring TDs was rare. In 2012 guys will cross the goal line and score every few minutes. Give us the pylon cams.

  25. timothyinbrazil says: Sep 11, 2012 10:48 PM

    What about some kind of holographic orange cone with a laser pointing up and then across the field to the other “cone” and put a camera in or around it. With a chip in the ball and a sensor from cone to cone there would be no doubt about the nose of the ball breaking the line of the endzone…that would be cool, I think.

  26. firstclasspack says: Sep 11, 2012 10:55 PM

    NASCAR has them at every race and last time I checked the pylons in the endzone weren’t moving at 200 MPH. You’d think that would make it a little easier.

  27. sumnomeaztim says: Sep 11, 2012 11:19 PM

    Sometimes too many cameras are a bad thing. I’m sure someday they’ll have a camera stuck in a center or long snappers arse so someone can analyze that and make it another point of discussion.

  28. giantssb42champs says: Sep 12, 2012 12:04 AM

    Nothing new. Belicheat already has video cameras in the Gillette stadium pylons, among other places.

  29. itsmammoth says: Sep 12, 2012 12:16 AM

    Canon Footballs.

  30. urshgur says: Sep 12, 2012 1:05 AM

    If the issue is getting td’s correct, the answer is obvious, as TMQ has been saying for years: a tiny chip(s) in the ball setting off goal-line sensors once crossed. Of course, that’s so obvious it can’t be done by a league that still thinks its OK to use referees with big fat beer guts trying to keep up with the top athletes of the day.

  31. lostsok says: Sep 12, 2012 1:55 AM

    They need a camera in the tip of the football, so you can experience in flight.

  32. ytsejamer1 says: Sep 12, 2012 9:02 AM

    Bill Belichick has long been requesting that there be cameras at the goal line…not necessarily TV, but for the official’s replay to find out if the ball actually breaks the plane.

    He’s brought it up several years in a row, but it was never given much importance.

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