Pitchcam - An innovative camera ready to bring in a new view

Pitchcam – An innovative camera ready to bring in a new view

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1946 is the year in which television coverage became a regular feature for cricket. Ever since it has developed extensively and in the last few years, the role of technology has gone further up. The number of cameras on the ground has increased significantly. With the introduction of stump cam associated with a stump mic and the spider camera along with the camera on the cap of the umpire brings a whole new perspective of the match for the spectators.

And the latest entrant in the list is the Pitchcam – which will be placed just behind the batting crease adjacent to the pitch as it provides a visual of the batsman going through his motions. The broadcasters make a square cavity adjacent to the pitch right behind the batting crease.

In addition, there is an underground tunnel for the Pitchcam which carries the visuals to the broadcasting room. Puneet Gautam, the director of the production, said that one of the things that were not happening in cricket was a camera placed really close to a batsman and it is the answer for that.

“Cricket as a game is evolving. You see drones coming in, the spidercam being used, the number of cameras has also increased,” starts Puneet. “One of the thing that was not really happening was a camera placed really close to a batsman apart from the stump cam. We wanted to go in a little closer. We have been talking about it for a while and this is something that we wanted to try.”

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“We figured this was one of the ways to get closer to the action. We went back to the drawing board and there have been several changes from the initial idea before we came up with this. It’s not very expensive. It has taken us some money to develop it. But if you look at the kind of equipment that is being used in sports these days – they are very expensive – this isn’t that expensive,” he says.

The camera will be placed for the entire duration of the game. There are high chances of players running over it or the ball bouncing over it, but Puneet believes that the camera is reliable enough to take the blow.

“The most important thing was it shouldn’t be trampled upon, the ball shouldn’t be bouncing on it,” he says. “Of course, the main pitch was out of bounds, you can’t step on it, you can’t do anything on it. The umpires don’t even allow us to walk on the pitch. We figured if we were just off the pitch, we might be able to get away with it.”

“We’ve used the hardened material so if the players step on it, it shouldn’t really be a problem. In fact, I want to see the players walking on it. I won’t say this is completely damage proof but we think that the ball bouncing on it shouldn’t really be a problem.”

The Pitchcam for the very first time was used in the Karnataka Premier League 2016 edition.

“Since this is the first stage we didn’t look at the movement,” explains Puneet. “But that’s also one aspect we are working on. We are looking at what we get from this, what the limitations are and then we will work on it.”

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The visuals from the Pitchcam can be used to study the batsman’s head position, trigger movement, and other aspects.

“No one has approached us yet,” says Puneet. “We are looking at it as a perspective about how the coverage can get better. We are open to the team video analysts approaching us and we are more than willing to give them the footage. We will be happy to contribute if this helps the players improve.”

“Yes, we’ve had a word about what the players think. They are really excited to see this angle because nowhere in the world, not just in India, has someone actually seen such a camera. So this is the talk of the town. They are excited about it, they really want this to work and the players are very happy about it as well.”

He said that he got a good feedback from the players as they are not bothered about having the Pitchcam  very close to them. “This conversation took place in the broadcasting room. As I walked towards the pitch to click a few pictures of the cam, I decided to talk to a few players. ‘No no, this doesn’t bother me,’ says a player who is shadow practising ahead of the start of the game. Now that’s a thumbs up from the players.”

In the 2016 series in Australia, a Virat Kohli uppercut hit the spider cam before running down to the boundary ropes, but the boundary was denied as the umpire called it off as a dead ball. It didn’t go down well with in the Indian team; they have also opposed the DRS since it isn’t foolproof. “I am quite a traditional guy,” MS Dhoni had said after the game. “I have always felt that … anything that disturbs the game of cricket I don’t like it. It all started right from the T20 where people would be like, ‘Why don’t you wear a mic?’, ‘Why don’t you wear a camera?'”

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“I have always felt there is a need for balance. At the end of the day, it is a spectator sport, people watching on television, but at the same time, four runs can matter, especially when it is a close game. People [broadcasters] are striving for more. When you have got out and walking off, the cameraman goes right under your face. The same way the spider cam is right next to you. You have seen players, they are like, ‘What is happening?’ It makes a lot of noise. At the end of the day, it is also about the spectators. If spectators are not there, cricket won’t be played. It is a mix and match,” Dhoni had said.

However, the Pitchcam is expected to not obstruct anything and hopefully, it will soon make its international debut.