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The Rise Of Wearable Cameras In Sport

An ability to see things from a player's view is growing in popularity

28Jan

When action cams originally hit the market, the vast majority of filming was for snow sports and mountain biking. The reasoning for this was that in both of these sports elements like aerodynamics and the added bulk of a camera was not a hinderance. It meant that we saw considerably more examples of both sports from the users view, than other sports.

What we are seeing today is that wearable and action cameras are increasingly being used to bring viewers into the world of the athletes in a wider range of sports, where they would never be able to get the perspective from any other technology. It is something that has been tried with different techniques in the past, mainly with the concentration on one player or athlete amongst many. Films like Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait and Football As Never Before, tried to take the viewer into the life of the athlete during a performance, Zinedine Zidane and George Best. Both films were not particularly successful as they simply showed both soccer players in isolation, rather than their perspective, but it showed that, to some extent at least, there was some kind of demand for it.

After Go Pro took the action cam market by the scruff of the neck, the use of action cams in sports have now become increasingly common and in some cases even mandatory. F1 is a prime example of this, and they were in fact one of the earliest adopters of the new technology when they used an onboard camera in the 1985 German Grand Prix, allowing viewers to experience what it was like from the car for the first time. Since then the use of cameras has become enforced in F1 to help make the sport more exciting and assist with stewarding decisions. There are even examples of the FIA forcing the Red Bull team to change their camera slots as they did not conform to what was needed.

One of the key reasons behind the success in F1 is that the traditional camera positions used could never effectively show the actual experience of the race. Cycling is another sport where this is the case, with the course spanning hundreds of miles and only 1 or 2 motorbikes, and a helicopter in larger races, to cover around 200 riders, it makes coverage often confusing, meaning that the sport has less excitement for viewers. With several experiments with onboard cameras in the last few years though, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) has passed a new resolution allowing teams to use onboard cameras without needing to getting explicit permissions beforehand. This is likely to open up the sport and allow for a far more immersive experience for viewers, potentially raising the profile of the sport amongst TV audiences.

Similarly in rugby, referees have been wearing cameras and microphones for the past few years. This has allowed people to see the action on the rugby pitch from the closest point possible, without the camera actually being on a player, which would, at present, be unsafe for full contact sports. This not only means that viewers get the best possible experience, but also if players know that they are being filmed, they are more likely to behave.

Although not currently used in many sports, the use of wearable cameras is certainly increasing on the field and the future of it is incredibly exciting. New technologies like 360 degree cameras and VR headsets means that a camera worn by a referee could feasibly make the experience considerably more exciting, with fans having the ability to look in any direction as the game is being played.

There are also other sports currently considering adopting these kinds of cameras, such as the NFL, where helmet cams have become relatively common in training sessions, but currently have not been widely used during live games. Developments by companies like First V1sion, who have fitted a camera onto the chest of a regular t-shirt may also work for sports such as soccer, tennis and athletics to adopt this technology too.

The future is bright and there are already several examples of how successful this can be, it will be down to governing bodies to adopt the technology and tech companies to make cameras even better before we see it used more widely though. 

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