NBC Sports plans to use 'Matrix-like' 360 degree camera in boxing coverage

Kevin Iole
Boxing
NBC Sports plans to use 'Matrix-like' 360 degree camera in boxing coverage
NBC Sports plans to use 'Matrix-like' 360 degree camera in boxing coverage

It remains to be seen whether the experiment of returning boxing to network television in primetime will be a success. It's becoming more clear, though, that NBC Sports is fully committed to the venture.

It's not only putting its top talent on the Premier Boxing Champions -- Al Michaels will be the host, the legendary Marv Albert will call the play-by-play, Sugar Ray Leonard will do color and Sam Flood of Football Night in America fame will be the executive producer -- but it's investing in new camera technology that hasn't been used before that should give the audience an unprecedented insight into the action.

Flood told Yahoo Sports Thursday that he will incorporate the use of a 360-degree camera dubbed "Round-a-Bout" that will give a broader view of punches and fighter movement than has ever been done previously. It will actually be 32-remote controlled cameras mounted above the ring that, similar to the 1999 movie, "The Matrix," will allow viewers to see what happens from every side and angle.

Flood said that at least at the beginning, he'll utilize it and the ref-cam mostly for replays. But eventually, he'll increase usage as he gets more comfortable with it and finds different ways to incorporate it into the broadcast.

Sam Flood, executive producer of NBC Sports. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)
Sam Flood, executive producer of NBC Sports. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)

NBC has been testing it and has been pleased with the results. During the Stanley Cup Final last year, he tried to put a pair of Google Glasses on one of the referees, but didn't talk about it prior because he wasn't sure how it would work. As the game unfolded, he realized it wasn't a fit and that shot never made it on the air.

But he's been thrilled with what he's seen so far from the "Round-a-Bout."

"The cool thing about this is being able to look at a punch from all different angles," Flood said. "To be able to zoom around in that Matrix-top style, it's going to make a huge difference for the viewer because you're going to see from behind the fighter and then where the punch is landing.

"It'll spin around with real clarity, and so it's going to explain a lot of things. Shots that you think might not have made it, or did make it, well, we'll have no question what's happened, because there will be this single image without cutting between cameras. You're going to nail it."

It should also help assist in scoring. Sometimes because of the angle of the camera, a punch can look like it landed on television when in fact it did not. For instance, if a fighter is laying back on the ropes and his opponent is in front of him throwing punches with the camera on the opposite side of the ring essentially shooting over the offensive boxer's shoulder, that can lead to distortion.

If the boxer on the ropes pulls back, the punch could wind up short, but as shot from behind, it will appear as if a clean blow was struck that snapped the opponent's head back.

"From behind, a punch might look like it landed, but from the side, you might see that it slipped off and it missed the mark," Flood said. "The angle [of the camera] can create an optical illusion, and I think this is going to take that out of the mix."

It's important for the series to have a high production value, since there likely will be a lot of viewers tuning in who either aren't boxing fans or who haven't watched in a while. An immersive experience that can draw the fan into the middle of the action is more likely to bring that fan back.

The first show of the series will be March 7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Robert Guerrero will face Keith Thurman and Adrien Broner will take on John Molina. The NBC broadcast will run from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. PT.

A third fight was announced Thursday and will either appear on the NBC broadcast if there is time or will be on NBC Sports Network starting at 11 p.m. ET that night. Three-division former world champion Abner Mares will meet Arturo Reyes in a featherweight bout.

Adrien Broner will fight John Molina on March 7 on NBC. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Adrien Broner will fight John Molina on March 7 on NBC. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

What to Read Next