X’s and O’s, Angles and Games
NFL Football Yardage Estimations Based on Camera Angle
Keywords:broadcasting, football, Madden, sports, visual perception
In 2017, NFL viewers complained when NBC Sports used the “Madden” camera for live play-by-play coverage of two Thursday Night Football games. Their comments indicated that they had a difficult time estimating yardage from the new perspective. Those games were just two recent examples of viewers complaining about changes in the visual presentation of live sports broadcasts—a phenomenon that has been happening with the Madden camera for more than a decade. The sports broadcasters’ inability to adjust its production technique for live football coverage, despite repeated attempts, provides important insights about the nature of mass communication. As sports broadcasters continue to look for new production techniques in a constantly evolving media landscape, these findings could help guide their production practices. Using game footage from four NFL broadcasts, the present study tested for differences in yardage estimations made from the traditional game camera (i.e., a stationary camera perpendicular to the field) and the Madden camera (i.e., a moving camera on wires positioned over the field). Participants (N = 473) were randomly assigned to watch 11 plays from either the traditional game camera angle or the Madden camera angle. No significant differences were found in estimates of yardage gains based on camera angle. The
high variance in the findings suggests that distance estimations are complex visual processes that may require specialized training to improve accuracy.
Adamski, C. (2017, November 17). NBC, NFL noncommittal on future SkyCam usage. Trib Live. https://archive.triblive.com/sports/steelers/nbc-nfl-noncommittal-on-future-skycam-usage/
Al-Haytham, I. (1989). The optics of Ibn Al-Haytham books I-III. (A. I. Sabra, Trans.). The Warburg Institute, University of London. (Original work published in 1024)
Andrews, T. M. (2017, November 17). NFL’s Thursday Night Football looked like a video game. Plenty of fans didn’t like it. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/11/17/nfl-fans-are-arguing-again-its-not-about-kneeling-but-a-camera/
Au, T. (2017, October 13). As remarkable growth of sports industry continues, exclusive data analysis reveals the key trademark trends. Lexology. https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=18a78c6e-4ee9-444c-8889-a039583c54a7
Bose, O. (2020, Dec. 15). Inside the NFL 2020 [Virtual conference session]. Sports Video Group Annual Summit. https://www.thesvgsummit.com/
Cavanagh, P. (2011). Visual cognition. Vision Research, 51(13), 1538-1551.
Coche, R., & Lynn, B. J. (2020). Behind the scenes: COVID-19 consequences on broadcast sports production. International Journal of Sport Communication, 13(3), 484-493.
Cooper, G. F. (2017, November 17). NFL’s first ‘Madden Cam’ game racks up fans and foes. CNet. https://www.cnet.com/news/nfl-madden-cam-thursday-night-football-skycam-steelers-titans/
Cummins, R. G., Berke, C. K., Moe, A., & Gong Z. (2019). Sight versus sound: The differential impact of mediated spectator response in sport broadcasts. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 63(1), 111-129.
Davies, M. (2020, Dec. 14). The national network town hall [Virtual conference session]. Sports Video Group Annual Summit. https://www.thesvgsummit.com/
Deitsch, R. (2018, September 4). Part II of the NFL broadcast guide: Taking a look at ESPN, NBC, and the NFL Network. The Athletic. https://theathletic.com/504082/2018/09/04/part-ii-of-the-nfl-broadcast-guide-taking-a-look-at-espn-nbc-and-the-nfl-network/
Dougherty, J. (2017, October 5). ‘Don’t you play Madden?’ Video games are creating smarter youth football players. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/dont-you-play-madden-video-games-are-creating-smarter-youth-football-players/2017/10/05/37aed9cc-a46d-11e7-8c37-e1d99ad6aa22_story.html
Evens, T., Iosifidis, P., & Smith, P. (2013). The political economy of television sports rights. Palgrave MacMillan.
Gaines, C. (2017, December 17). 3 plays that show perfectly why Skycam is the future of the NFL on TV. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/nfl-skycam-thursday-night-football-2017-12
Gerbner, G., & Gross, L. (1976). Living with television: The violence profile. Journal of Communication, 26(2), 173-199.
Gibb, R., Gray, R., & Scharff, L. (2010). Aviation visual perception. Routledge.
Gibson, E. J., & Bergman, R. (1954). The effect of training on absolute estimation of distance over the ground. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 48(6), 473-482.
Goldman, M. M., & Hedlund, D. P. (2020). Rebooting Content: Broadcasting Sport and Esports to Homes During COVID-19. International Journal of Sport Communication, 13(3), 370-380.
Graham, M., & Young, J. (2020, Feb. 2). Women are watching the NFL in record numbers, and Super Bowl ads are finally starting to reflect that. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/01/women-nfl-fans-are-at-a-record-and-super-bowl-ads-finally-reflect-that.html
Greer, J. D., Hardin, M., & Homan, C. (2009). “Naturally” less exciting? Visual production of men’s and women’s track and field coverage during the 2004 Olympics. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 53, 173-189.
Kubovy, M. (1986). The psychology of linear perspective and Renaissance art. Cambridge University Press.
Limelight Networks (2018). The state of online gaming – 2018. Limelight Networks. https://www.limelight.com/resources/white-paper/state-of-online-gaming-2018/
Linton, P. (2017). The perception and cognition of visual space. Palgrave Macmillan.
Malyon, E. (2017, November 17). The story behind Skycam- how a foggy day and a computer game may have changed sports broadcasting forever. Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/us-sport/national-football-league/skycam-nfl-highlights-thursday-night-football-nbc-cbs-fox-sports-pittsburgh-steelers-tennessee-a8060716.html
Narraine, M. L., & Wanless L. (2020). Going all in on AI. Sport Innovation Journal, 1, 49-61
Ruiz, S. (2017, October 23). The Patriots-Falcons fog game revealed we’ve been watching the NFL from the wrong angle. USA Today. https://www.theringer.com/nfl/2017/10/22/16518688/new-england-patriots-atlanta-falcons-fog-bowl
Seifert, K. (2017, November 22). SkyCam unlikely to catch on as the primary NFL view. ESPN.com. http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/258540/skycam-unlikely-to-catch-on-as-the-primary-nfl-view
Shanahan, J., & Morgan, M. (1999). Television and its viewers: Cultivation theory and research. Cambridge University Press.
Sports Media Watch (2020). NFL TV ratings page. SMW. Retrieved from https://www.sportsmediawatch.com/nfl-tv-ratings-viewership-2020-2019/
Thigpen, N., Petro, N. M., Oschwald, J., Oberauer, K., & Keil, A. (2019). Selection of visual objects in perception and working memory at a time. Psychological Science, 30(9), 1259-1272.
Tulver, K. (2019). The factorial structure of individual differences in visual perception. Consciousness and Cognition, 73, Article 102762.
Ullman, S. (1996). High-level vision. MIT Press.
Van der Ham, I. J. M., & Borst, G. (2011). Individual differences in spatial relation processing: Effects of strategy, ability, and gender. Brain and Cognition, 76(1), 184-190.
Werteen, M. (2020, Dec. 15). The remote production services town hall [Virtual conference session]. Sports Video Group Annual Summit. https://www.thesvgsummit.com/
Copyright (c) 2021 Benjamin J. Lynn, Roxane Coche, Ashleigh Messick
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Copyright to articles published in Sport Innovation Journal is retained by the author(s).