TV Answer Man, have you heard anything about Fox doing baseball games in 4K this year. They did some of the playoffs and World Series in 4K and it looked really good. But what about the regular season games this year? 4K or no 4K? — Ben, Pasadena, California.
Ben, you’re right. Fox last year produced the World Series in 4K for the first time ever with several pay TV services, including DIRECTV, Comcast, Dish and FuboTV, offering it in 4K to their customers. The first 4K World Series followed Fox’s 4K broadcast of several National League playoff games.
The flurry of 4K coverage has many fans excited about the prospect of Fox doing even more 4K baseball in 2021. The network again has the rights to dozens of regular season games which will air on FS1 and the main Fox channel.
But, unfortunately, don’t expect Fox’s 4K coverage to increase this season. In an excellent TV News Check article on how the Coronavirus has slowed the momentum for live 4K sportscasts, a top Fox engineer says the pandemic has made it increasingly difficult and costly to run a live 4K production.
One major problem: Local Coronavirus restrictions prohibit the networks from bringing in new production trucks which can handle 1080p HDR broadcasts, which are then upscaled to 4K HDR. So the networks use the trucks that are already in place.
“We’re really limited by what the schedule is,” said Brad Cheney, Fox’s vice president of field operations. “If the mobile units are there (at a stadium) and locked down, there’s nothing we can do.”
“As for baseball this season, Cheney expects to be dealing with many of the same access restrictions. That means Fox will likely rely on 720p for the bulk of its coverage with a few opportunities for some 1080p HDR production, including the MLB All-Star Game in July and a couple of regular season games,” the TV News Check article adds.
On the plus side, Game Creek Video, a production company that handles some of Fox’s 4K football broadcasts, says it will help produce the 4K streaming of select holes at next month’s The Masters golf tournament. DIRECTV has offered 4K coverage of The Masters in past years.
“I don’t think 4K HDR, or 1080p HDR in particular, is going to go away,” Game Creek’s Pat Sullivan says. “Over time, there will be a bigger push to adopt 1080p HDR, and that will become more and more the norm rather than the exception.”
Note: Fox’s 4K broadcasts are upscaled from 1080p HDR. Upscaling is the process when one video format is converted to another. Fox takes the 1080p HDR signal and converts it to a 4K format. Upscaling 4K is not considered as good as native 4K, but the inclusion of HDR can offer heightened colors and vividness.
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— Phillip Swann