Skycam Operators Get the Shot of a Lifetime on 102-Yard Kickoff Return

Skycam Operators Get the Shot of a Lifetime on 102-Yard Kickoff Return

The recent Bears and Saints game had a dramatic moment when Cordarrelle Patterson ran a kickoff back 102 yards for a touchdown, made all the more impressive by the expert operation of and unique perspective from the Skycam.

If you are not familiar with the Skycam, it's a camera system that runs on cables strung over the field and can follow the action from a much closer position than any cameras on the sidelines, giving a much more intimate perspective. The camera is a complex system however, requiring a pilot to maneuver it in three-dimensional space, following world-class athletes running and darting unexpectedly. It also requires a camera operator, who controls the tilt, pan, zoom, and focus of the device. Though the system has been in use since 1984, it started to gain more popularity as the primary angle in the NFL after a 2017 game had such intense fog that sideline cameras couldn't see the players effectively. 

While the system isn't without drawbacks, it does provide some uniquely exciting shots that no other perspective could, and perhaps nowhere was that more on display than this kickoff return, which used the Skycam for the entire sequence and shows a real mastery by the pilot and camera operator:

Are you a football fan? What do you think of the Skycam?

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12 Comments

Daniel Medley's picture

Not a football fan, but dayum, that was simply wonderful.

Reginald Walton's picture

Am I missing something here? What's so spectacular about this shot?

It doesn't make it to the level of Madden, and while it has merits with respect to capturing the whole run back, the angles and perspective hardly made it spectacular.

I think the shot warrants merit because it was the first continuous skycam shot with pan, tilt, and "dolly" all in one(afaik). There is usually a cutaway.

To be clear, I suspect that there was not an operator and that this was all compete controlled. I'm not saying an expert couldn't do it; I'm dating the NFL has been embracing new tech all the time and the skycam is "old".

James Trezza's picture

I believe there are two operators, one that flys and the other controls the camera. Either way, very impressive!

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

It is a cool shot, but I think a good bit of hyperbole in the article title is what sets the viewer up for disappointment. Given that it's their only job to operate the Skycam and produce shots like this, I don't know how this could be a shot of a lifetime.

With all the money at play in the NFL, I would expect those camera operators to be able to consistently produce shots like this or be replaced by people who could. We're talking video gamer motor skills...hardly a rare skillset.

Not minimizing their talent, but if this is their job, they're supposed to be able to do it. It wouldn't surprise me if there's one of these to go with every long kick return.

Simon Patterson's picture

It is very cool but I'd love a wider view, to better see the play that is happening around him. I guess that's why they have a bunch of cameras around the stadium, as any individual view misses more than it captures.

Alex Cooke's picture

That seems to be the chief complain about these cameras; I would love to see a wider angle too.

Jon The Baptist's picture

That's spectacular remote camera operation!

Too bad it's no longer available to see....

Fristen Lasten's picture

Not on Horsey Dorsey's platform.