Every four years, we watch. We marvel at badminton and wonder about the modern decathlon. With more than 300 gold medals awarded across 37 disciplines, our lives are suddenly much less productive. But enough with the obscure sports, for now.
In this edition of "know your Olympic sport," we focus on the technology enhancing our viewing experience (plus a darn cool video clip of a dog show).
Ever heard of Garret Brown? You should have. Forget about Bob Costas, 2000 Chinese drummers or the incomparable Michael Phelps; nobody has effected your enjoyment of the Olympics in Beijing more than Brown. Pick a sport, any sport, and you have Brown to thank for camera angles you so rudely have taken for granted. Brown holds fifty patents worldwide for camera devices used in every sport in the world since 1972 (and the filming of Rocky). We honor Brown with our own gold medal of broadcasting and hope you remember his name, at least till the end of this article.
Steadicam: It seems logical now to see a cameraman with his camera mounted around his torso. Designed in 1972, the Steadicam started it all by isolating the movement of the cameraman from that of the camera. A gimble design with a counterbalance that strapped around the waist, keeps the camera steady when the operator is not. Before that point, a complicated dolly or shaky hands were the only options for filming. For better or worse, the NYPD Blue television series would've looked more like The Blair Witch Project without the invention. With his patent now expired, Steadicam knockoffs are everywhere, including Beijing.
DiveCam: Brown describes the DiveCam, first introduced in 1996 in Atlanta, as "very elegant but simple." A tube filled with air and a wide lens camera is held up a track by a wire and a pulley. At the exact moment the diver leaves the board and operator releases a wire allowing the camera to drop. Thanks to that gravity phenomenon, both reach the water at the same time traveling at approximately 33 mph offering viewers a trip alongside, and into the pool, with the diver. The camera is remote controlled to pan up or down slightly.
"It's an astonishingly long time between when a diver leaves the platform and splashes," said Brown. "It's 1.4 seconds which is a hell of a long time. It lets the operator correct for timing."
Consistent with the more evolving times, that footage filmed in Beijing has been in high definition.
This technology is what kept me glued to the screen when the Olympics were on. My favorite was the diving cam going under the water with the diver, genious! Makes me wonder whats next? A whole 4 years until we see the newest tech at work again....