Wednesday, November 09, 2005


As usual, there has been a bunch of discussion about Ultimate on TV on RSD. As usual, there are a wide range of opinions about the impact that TV exposure would have on Ultimate. Some folks feel that Ultimate should follow the football model, complete with refs and "jiggling ta-ta's", and this is understandable as football so clearly dominates the TV landscape. Other folks feel that it is going to be very difficult for Ultimate to get on TV with all the competition, and that our efforts should focus more on the areas that we have more control over, like Youth development, etc.

I enjoy watching Ultimate videos, and I think the CSTV web streaming content is wonderful. They have edited it heavily, but the 80 or so calls in the men's final do not slow down or negatively impact the experience, in my opinion. I would like to see more web streaming content available, and I ask my Wellesley College team to check out the CSTV material as it is a fine chance to learn about the sport.

When I watch Ultimate videos, I struggle with the camera angles and the fact that I can't see what is developing downfield. I think Stacked does a pretty good job of presenting the downfield action. I also appreciate the chance to watch the entirety of a game, even the most mundane portions, as I find the ebb and flows interesting. As I coach women's Ultimate, Stacked can also serve as a complete tutorial of the uses of a 4-person cup. This summer, when I worked at NUTC, we showed some of the Ultivillage DVD during rainy afternoons. I found the highlight reel format to be less than satisfactory, especially when presenting it to teens.

As I became aware of my dissatisfaction with the camera angles of the Ultimate videos I was watching, I started to view the mainstream sports on TV with a bit more of a critical eye. This has actually had a significant impact on my experiencing sports. In my opinion, from a technical point of view, basketball translates very well to TV. In a half court game, the camera can capture the motion of all ten players on the court. Even in fast break situations, the camera can get most of what is occurring at any given moment. This is not to say that I spend much time watching basketball, but I do appreciate that it can be covered well. Obviously, basketball gives us no help in terms of how to present Ultimate.

I played soccer as a kid, and I do appreciate the game. I think soccer translates pretty well onto the TV screen. Most of the action can be framed by a camera. The downside is that the camera shot is quite wide, so the viewer feels a bit distant from the action. I think that soccer provides a good model of how we might have to capture Ultimate, if it is played in large arena. The trade-off of distance in order to capture the bulk of the downfield work is worth it, in my opinion.

My experience of watching football has, unfortunately, diminished as a result of this awareness of camera shots. I now find it hard to comprehend how we accept missing all of the defensive back set-ups and downfield receiver routes. This came to head for me in the 2001 Super Bowl. The Pats kept throwing out 6, 7, and 8 defensive back sets. Madden kept remarking on how odd and effective they were. Yet, there I was, stuck looking at Kurt Warner, the offensive line, and the running backs. Finally, sometime in the third quarter, they threw us a bone and showed an overhead camera shot. It was remarkable to have a quick glimpse of a giant portion of the game that had been entirely missed up to that point. I spoke with a producer who shot sports the other day. He said that football is great because it allows the cameras to reset every play. I understand this, but I am finding the pace of football to be less and less satisfying. All the stoppages of play and the commercials are very frustrating, and, in my opinion, do not really provide a positive model for how Ultimate should be presented on TV. I think we need to be careful and not follow the herd.


Aaron said...

I know what you mean in regards to seeing things downfield. It's one thing to watch football where intially all you see is backfield play, but at least there's a lot going on there. You have anywhere from 3 to 7 guys trying to get to a QB protected by 5 to 7 guys. In other words, even though the ball's not moving there's a lot of action.

In ultimate the backfield is more inactive. Yes, there will be dumps setting up cuts and you might even see some short in-cuts, but the handler with the disc is relatively stationary. Seeing the downfield movement is pretty key and I think the best way to see this is from end zone cameras. I really liked the mixed highlights on the Airborn DVD when the cutters were closer to the camera and the hucks and deep cuts were coming at the camera. It really showed the set up of cuts and then the execution of the throws.

The downside of this angle is that you have a harder time seeing the handlers and the dump-swing and short pass game is not as clear. Maybe then the answer is a mix of that angle and more traditional close up backfield cameras from the side. What is really needed is more experimentation. The Stacked DVD used 8 (or something like that) camera angles but I've been to the last two UPAs and haven't seen nearly that number, limiting the possibilities.

I'd really like to see the UPA push for more cameras and angles, at least for the finals. I don't think anyone will know how best to view ultimate until we've actually seen it in front of us.

gcooke said...


I agree. This is way over the top, but I think that overhead camera that moves with the action could be useful for Ultimate as well. Not that it could happen anytime soon. I also agree with the endzone perspective, and I thought CSTV did a good job of cutting to this angle at certain times.

Speaking of CSTV, at the Board Meeting last January, a rep from CSTV came to talk to the Board about Ultimate on TV. I brought up the concerns that I voiced in the post, and his attitude was very much like yours. A willingness and interest in experimenting to see how the sport can best come across to TV viewers.

hartti said...

Re: overhead camera
In 1994 worlds they had a crane next to the final's field (NY against Sweden) which provided some aerial views of the game. Unfortunately it has been too many years since I last saw the footage, so I do not remember if this angle was useful.

Marshall said...

re: football on tv. Not that this is specifically relevant, but TiVo is tremendous for improving the experience of watching football on tv.