21CF Chats: Michael Davies, SVP of field operations for FOX Sports, talks dirt cams, preparation and the 2016 MLB All-Star Game


If you tune in to the 2016 MLB All-Star Game on FOX on Tuesday, July 12, you’re in for a cinematic experience, thanks to the high-tech cameras that will be used at the event. Some will be burrowed in the field itself.

To get a sneak peek at what viewers can expect to see and hear during the 87th MLB All-Star Game, which will air live from Petco Park in San Diego, I spoke with Michael Davies, senior vice president of field operations for FOX Sports.

What kinds of innovative technology can viewers expect to see during the MLB All-Star Game?

One big thing that we found is really important and that baseball that viewers have come to expect from FOX is our camera work. We’ve got all these great camera people who do baseball all the time, but in particular we’ve got these Phantom cameras, which go anywhere from 1,000, 1,500 even 2,000 frames per second on both the low first base and the third-base side to get some of the super-slow, cinematic looks. We’ve been doing this for several years, but every year the cameras get a little better and the lenses get a little bit better. The other thing that we’re going to have for the All-Star Game is our dirt cams. These are cameras that are actually in the field of play – we’ll have one right in front of home plate and the other at first base. That gives you a really unique angle for giving people another variety of seeing things in a different way.

Are there any non-camera-related aspects of the broadcast viewers should pay attention to?

Yes, absolutely. Fans should make sure they turn up the volume because the audio is going to be amazing. The audio team we have has been doing baseball together for years and has won a number of Emmys for their outstanding work on baseball. The team flew directly from the U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle and endured an all-night setup at Petco Park following the Home Run Derby Monday night, but they continue to push the envelope of what is possible and we feel like the sound is another element that really makes a FOX Sports MLB telecast something special to watch and listen to.

We spoke before the U.S. Open last month about the technology and ingenuity FOX Sports used there. Does the technology your team uses carry over from sport to sport?

There’s a lot of things that cross-pollinate between sports. For example, we use X-MOs — high-frame rate cameras – in golf. We’ll use those same X-MOs in baseball or football. The dirt cams were originally born from the gopher cam concept for NASCAR. So a lot of times, we look for ways that technology that has provided returns for us in one sport to see how it can be relevant to another. For the All-Star Game, we’ll try out some things that may not make air but are potentially things that might graduate and be used in the postseason, so that’s another thing that the All-Star Game is good for.

Kevin Burkhardt, Pete Rose and Frank Thomas will be part of the pregame coverage team for the All-Star Game.

What are some other important factors that go into preparing for the MLB All-Star Game?

Like the Super Bowl and the U.S. Open, you know where you’re going for the All-Star Game, so we’ve had enough time to prepare for it. We’ve known where the All-Star Game was going to be for a long time, and while it’s still not necessarily easy to plan, we’ve had a lot of time to plan for things. We also have a pregame set. We get the studio crew out on the road, so the guys who do our “MLB Whiparound” show and the people who typically do our pregame shows for baseball are going to be on the road. It’s always great to bring the studio out, just like we do for the U.S. Open or for the Super Bowl.

Speaking of the Super Bowl: That’s coming right around the corner, isn’t it?

We’ve got our eyes on the Super Bowl, which is on the horizon. Super Bowl LI is something we’ve been planning for 7-9 months already, and certainly once the All-Star Game is over and the football season comes closer, that kind of gets the clock ticking in terms of making final preparations for the biggest show that we do every few years.

The 2016 MLB All-Star Game in San Diego will air Tuesday, July 12, starting at 7 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1. Pregame coverage will shift to FOX at 7:30 p.m. EDT.