Me, F.P., Video Synchronization, and… Rule 7.13?
Feisty, eh? Background: F.P. Santangelo is the Nationals color guy on TV, an ex-MLB player who provides a nice mix of entertaining and knowledgeable. Some people don’t like his broadcasting, but that’s always going to be true; ask baseball fans about Tim McCarver and they’ll either love him or hate him. I think F.P. does a good job, and I’ve tweeted as much.
The Nats made two errors on one play in the 1st inning of the September 7 2014 game against the Phillies, resulting in one run scoring and Marlon Byrd ending up on third base. The umps had a tough call on this play; the second error was on Anthony Rendon, who threw the ball into the Nats’ dugout trying to throw a baserunner out at home. Byrd, the hitter at the start of the play, gets two bases as of the point Rendon threw the ball. So whether he had gotten to second base at that moment was the difference between Byrd scoring or stopping at third; turned out to be the margin of victory.
The Nationals’ broadcast on MASN very quickly put together a picture-in-picture video of the play, which F.P. said was synced. I was immediately skeptical, and looking quickly at their video, I judged that the two were not actually in perfect sync, and said so. Then I went apple picking. No really!
Checking in on my phone two hours later, I found F.P.’s snarky reply. He may be right, but I’m guessing I know a little more about it than he thinks.
A couple of years ago, during a Braves broadcast, a player sort of lollygagged running home and the third out was made at another base before he reached home. The network quickly put together their two feeds to show that the run should have counted. Or at least it was impossibly close. Only later, when I saw a different wide shot showing both plays did it become apparent that the two events weren’t actually that close in time.
This revealed something I already knew: the various feeds going to the control truck are not automatically in sync. The farther away the source video, the longer it takes to get to the truck, not so much because of the distance but because of the signal repeaters that must be put into the line when the cable length gets long. Each of these take a fraction of a second to do its job, and the more of them there are the longer it takes for the feed to get to the truck. So the various feeds do not come in to the truck “in sync.”
The first time I noticed this was in a Fox game, maybe a playoff game, at Fenway. Whenever they switched to the centerfield camera, the audio would hiccup, repeating a small fraction of a second’s worth of sound. Apparently their solution was to reset the audio based on the known latency of the centerfield feed.
Most of the time these differences don’t matter. But when you’re running a picture-in-picture to determine what happened when, it’s critical.
So F.P. was snarky at me, and being a defensive bastard, I looked at it more closely tonight. And there’s a significant difference between the MASN and CSN “synced” video. Look at the moment Rendon threw the ball on each feed:
Both sets of broadcasters said these videos were synced. Obviously they could not both be correct. So which of these is synced, if either?
Looking at other parts of the video, the CSN feed is obviously not synced well. The centerfield camera is nearly one full Marlon Byrd step ahead of the camera behind home plate (which is interesting since the centerfield camera should have more latency; I think it’s because there’s only one camera behind home plate, meaning CSN gets that feed from MASN, which would add to that signal’s delay).
The MASN feed is much closer to perfect synchronization. I still think it’s very slightly off (centerfield camera behind), but I think it’s not more than 1/20th of a second (my source’s framerate). I think several frames showed a very slight difference, but not all did. And it could be dead on – I am not at all sure it’s not.
So kudos to MASN’s video folks! And mea culpa for doubting you. I’d love to hear if they put in the significant effort to keep everything in sync all the time, or if this was set up on the fly for the picture-in-picture. I’ve a feeling F.P. won’t be sharing that information, though.
By the way, syncing the video sources is something MLB should require, so that the replay umps can put two videos next to each other to determine whether a tag on the back is made before a foot touches a base.
Now, why would F.P. be so sarcastic with me? Might be because of this, regarding an out at home last week and the new rule relating to that play:
But obviously a former ballplayer and television personality wouldn’t be upset by a random comment from a nobody from nowhere.
—-UPDATE 9/8/2014, 6pm —-
More first class trolling from the man who lived the dream. Guess he’s talking about Rule 7.13, where he’s just flat wrong. You could look it up.
—-UPDATE 9/9/2014, 11 am—-
I didn’t respond to F.P.’s last tweet. He has now blocked me on Twitter.