Beijing’s Sweet Video Setup

Geek Culture

Around our place, watching the Olympics is the order of the day. Our geeklet is just the right age to be fascinated by the entire spectacle, particularly swimming and gymnastics. Pretty much everything is in high-definition, and as the owner of a hi-def set myself, I can see why. The show is awesome to begin with, and all the more so when it looks like you could reach out and touch it. I’ll be surprised if the Games don’t drive at least a few new sales of HD sets.

Beyond the simple all-over HD, though, there’s a lot of neat, geeky stuff going on. High on the cool scale is the use of the Dartfish StroMotion tool. StroMotion essentially takes a rapid-fire sequence of events, breaks out a series of stills and composites them into a single fantastic image. It really lets you see exactly what the judges and the (annoying) color commentators are talking about when they mention that slight misalignment that cost athlete X a critical .1. Check out a good example from the synchronized diving competition at about the 2:07 mark in this video from NBC, or this StroMotion recap of the men’s 10m synchro competition. That second one gets particularly cool around the 1:17 mark, where they overlay the performance of one pair onto the dive of a second pair. The video doesn’t specify, but I believe this may be SimulCam (also from Dartfish).

Want more? How about the DiveCam, a gravity-dropped HD cam that follows a diver from board to splashdown, nonstop? Or the MobyCam, which lets you watch swimmers from underneath as it moves along the pool floor following the black lane stripe. There’s the wire-mounted FlyCam, soon to be on display during the kayaking and canoeing competitions. All three (as well as the archery butts’ BullseyeCam) were designed by Garrett Brown, camera geek extraordinaire and creator of the famous Steadicam.

NBC has a total of 1100 cameras all over the three dozen venues, giving you a view of the games that ranges from in-your-face to wide angle to downright thrilling. Joseph Devlin has compiled a starter list of much of the pro-grade gear in use. All very geeky but not, frankly, as cool as the DiveCam.

UPDATE: Jesus Diaz, blogging at Gizmodo, takes on the still photography scene, with a lowball estimate of $22 million in still gear running around the Games.

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