A look at Fox's ref cam from the 2016 Big Ten championship game.

Broadcasters are always looking for new camera angles, and an interesting attempt there has been the “ref cam,” putting a camera directly on officials to show their point of view. Many have tried this, with ESPN doing it for Friday Night Fights and the WNBA and Sportsnet doing it for the NHL, but Fox has been perhaps particularly high on using this across sports. We’ve seen it in some MMA events (first Pride, then the UFC on Fox), then in Fox’s coverage of Australia’s National Rugby League, and then most notably in a few college football games last fall,  including the Big Ten championship game on Fox. That last approach, which saw the broadcaster work with GoPro to develop special hats with cameras for the officials, seemed to go pretty well, and that’s prompted Fox to look into doing even more with these kinds of wearable cameras. Diamond Leung has more at SportTechie:

“Where we left off at the Big Ten championship game with the ref cam is something that we’d like to continue,” Michael Davies, FOX Sports ‎Senior Vice President, Field & Technical Operations, told the SVG Podcast last month. “The technology surrounding wearable cameras at the professional broadcast level has really turned up and offered us a fair amount of insight.

“And also, this is where we collaborate with our 21st Century Fox friends overseas where we can see what FOX Australia is doing with their rugby ref cam or what Star India is doing with cricket, and I think that worn cameras are going to be a big thing for us in the future. We’ve got a lot of very interested, lean-forward partners that are looking to help us with that.”

Davies hits on a key point there. A bunch of the early attempts at this were plagued by low-quality or jerky footage, but as wearable camera technology has improved, so has the quality of the footage. And that makes it much more appealing to try out something like this. Consider how that Big Ten championship footage turned out:

Yes, this still isn’t perfect, and it’s probably not a way you want to watch a whole game, but it’s an interesting angle for a bunch of plays, especially those around the goal line (like the screenshot above). Providing the official’s vantage point is notable, too, as you see what they saw when making a call. It also seems strong that Fox is working on this in combination with their overseas partners, who use it for other sports; that should further advance the technology. It’s interesting to hear that Fox wants to make this a bigger priority going forward, and it will be worth watching to see where this shows up next and how it works.

[Sport Techie]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.