"It's not what you do, it's how you do it."
With that in mind ... Skycam.
When Skycam was introduced into the NFL there was a collective intake of breath at this amazing new visual technology. The hovering pictures seemed to come from a mini helicopter zooming around over the heads of the players. All very flash. All very wow-wee.
However, it wasn't long before Skycam's main inadequacy became apparent. For all it's undoubted televisual wonderment -- and in all probability, the fun of the joystick jockey in the control booth -- the sudden shifts from the static old boring Grandstandcam, to super wizz-bang new Skycam were very disorienting.
The upshot was an operational decision that, in the main, dictated play action would still be covered by the camera in the grandstand -- sorry, "bleachers" -- and that Skycam would to be used primarily to cover stop play incidents such as touch-down replays, conversions, coaches challenges and other irregular oddments that weren't in the normal run of play. Things like the dickhead with the phone in the goalpost, the wanker with a pen in his pants, the awful Superbowl halftime extravaganza and the various idiots and their obligatory Gatorade stunts. Actually, I loved the first two.
In short, a solid and clear wide-angle shot from a hundred odd metres, suddenly changing to a slightly hazy, slightly wobbly close-up from ten metres above the ball is NOT an advantage to the viewer. In fact, it's bloody annoying.
As it happens, Channel Nine would appear to be onto the problem because Gary Lyon on the Sunday Footy Show admitted there was some tinkering necessary. And we all know Nine virtually never admit to any slackness in their coverage.
So here's hoping Nine decide to dump Skycam as a play-by-play camera, and instead use it as a back-up to the main footage, and more importantly, announce when it is going to be used and not suddenly jump to a close-up of a player's noggin.
I wonder how Channel Ten will use it.
Afterthought: It just occurred to me -- while I was out teaching important things -- that if Nine (or Ten) decide Skycam is only good for side issues, then they may just decide it's not worth the effort and scrap the idea. Wouldn't that be a post-hype hoot?
Anyhoo, that's what I think, here's Leaping Larry L's take.
At Friday's Essendon-Fremantle game, SkyCam turned up for its first night of AFL duty, replete with its own sponsor (of course).
During last week's FA Cup coverage, the thing made its presence felt mostly by wandering into shot itself, as the director seemed to forget to use it entirely.
Nine's footy coverage was never going to be as circumspect, and jumped in from the opening shot at the Docklands.
A couple of dots in the distance were visible on the ground. As the technological marvel in question meandered in their direction, quivering a little around the edges, it became apparent that the dots were Eddie McGuire and Garry Lyon. From a somewhat greater distance and height than we're used to seeing them, admittedly, but it was them for sure, eventually.
For those who haven't seen it, SkyCam resembles a small ten-pin bowling trophy suspended on pieces of string. Basically it's a remote-controlled camera that can move in three dimensions, and sit above the play, offering perspectives that conventional "manned" and earthbound cameras can't. Well, that's the theory.
Nine's coverage mostly used SkyCam on centre bounces, and behind the kicker on set-shots at goal which gives a clear, if somewhat distant, view of exactly what score is registered, if any.
At the bounces it generally offers a better perspective on the teams' stoppage tactics and set-up, at least when it doesn't tilt at an odd angle, and frame some of the players out, which it did on occasion.
Dermott Brereton is fond of a bit of tactics and strategy and was the first in the booth to exploit these SkyCam shots as a tool for dissection of the play.
Some sparing use of it for replays of boundary stoppages (shot straight down the ground) also allowed Brereton an opportunity to present an illustrated explanation of Essendon's superior set-up, and by the second quarter Lyon was indulging in this practice with similar alacrity.
On the downside, most SkyCam shots picked up blue-ish glare from the stadium lights, and seemed grainy.
Nine's picture quality on the Friday night games routinely presents colour and clarity you could build a ship on, and the new pictures didn't integrate well this time around. Rare attempts to incorporate it into running coverage resulted in one near-perfect fit and one mistimed shot featuring a lot of blurry, violently green grass.
Also, promotional footage of SkyCam had captured it zipping and soaring all over the NFL gridiron like the Red Baron meets Martin Scorsese. Most of the shots on Friday night were static, and when they weren't, they were wobbly.
The good news is, SkyCam was mostly used as a helpful additional tool in an already tight visual coverage, rather than a sore-thumb end unto itself.
Also, Nine has three more plays with the new toy this season, and practice makes perfect.
However, regarding Dennis Cometti's summary, "A portent of the future", suffice it to say that the future apparently hasn't shown up just yet.