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Where Can We Put the Camera?
Written November 5, 2001


The Richwood High School auditorium and gymnasium, built in 1939, was too small.  I took the pictures below, as well as this one, during an intramural game in 1965 when I was a senior.

A regulation basketball court is 84 feet long for high school, 94 for college.  Our parquet floor measured only 76 feet from one brick wall to the other, and we used every inch of it for basketball.  The out-of-bounds line at each end was a narrow black-painted area at the base of the wall.  Pads were hung on the wall to protect the players.

If the ball had to be inbounded, there wasn't room out of bounds for a player to stand.  A red line, three feet inside the regular court boundary, served as the temporary in-bounds line until the ball was in play.

At midcourt, there were two ten-second lines eight feet apart, shown here in green.  When bringing the ball upcourt, a team had only to cross the first ten-second line, 31 feet from the red baseline.  Then they were in the frontcourt, which was a regulation 42 feet deep so that offensive plays could be run without going "over and back."

Our team got accustomed to the tiny backcourt.  When we had to go on the road and play on a full-size floor, it was tough to bring the ball all the way up across the midcourt line.  If the other team played a pressing defense, they could force the Tigers into a lot of backcourt turnovers.

Conversely, when Indian Lake High School visited our little gym, they ate it up.  They scored over a hundred points on us that night:  two quick passes and a shot, again and again.

No television crew ever came to Richwood High.  However, being interested in broadcasting, I wondered where they would put their cameras.

There was no room at all for the usual handheld camera in the end zone or on the sidelines.  A camera in that area would probably have to be mounted to the wall like the backboards were, and it would have to be operated by remote control.  In February 1965, I sketched what such a camera mount might look like.


In my design, separate servomotors tilted (by chain drive) and panned the camera.  Another rotated the lens turret; there was no zoom lens.  The sketch on the lower right shows that the scanning could be switched from 3:4 horizontal to 4:3 vertical, which would allow the camera to be mounted in a different position:  not hanging from the ceiling as shown here but jutting out from the wall, with the roles of pan and tilt reversed.

Thirty years later, while working the telecast of a college basketball game at Oklahoma State, I was surprised to see CBS Sports using my idea!  The seating area couldn't accommodate their two main cameras, so CBS hung cameras from the ceiling.  Operators worked the remote controls from elsewhere in the building.

Nowadays, smaller versions of these remotely operated cameras are used in many sports.  They're mounted on football goalposts and inside hockey goals.  They look into the dugouts at PNC Park and also show us the view of the Allegheny River from the top of the right-field stands.  It's an idea of obvious utility.



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