The Skycam is now a staple at NFL games, where you can see the camera zooming from one side of the stadium to another while following a play. Although there are multiple products that are used for the NFL, NBA, NCAA, NASCAR, and other events, they all are relatively similar.Image Credit: Photo: Wikipedia/Despaux
The Skycam has been in existence for decades, but it’s only been used commonly over the past few years. It really stared appearing frequently in sporting events in the mid 2000s, when it was used in NASCAR and other events.
The Skycam is made up of three parts: the cable network that the system runs on, the camera rig, and the control system. The cable network is the part that the camera rig rests on. High strength cables criss-cross the stadium and are anchored to either permanent fixtures in the stadium, or temporary rigs which are designed to hold the device.
The cables are pulled and pushed by a motor system, which allows them to be spun like a fishing line, thus moving the camera. As you learn in geometry, in a 2d plane, any point can be determined by the distance from the point to two fixed points. So by setting the distance between the camera rig and two towers, the system can reach any point in the stadium.
There is a computer system that calculates how to move the camera rig to whatever place it needs to go.
There are no official figures on how much the NFL Skycam costs; however, we can estimate the cost based on the cost of equipment and setup.
Both Skycam LLC and Spidercam GmbH, the companies that make the Skycam and Spidercam, are made up of 10-30 people each, and they have estimated revenues in the $1 million range per year. The cost of developing the Skycam and Spidercam devices originally are estimated to be in the $5 million to $10 million range, with each event costing up to $50,000 or more.
The cost to run an event with each of these devices is determined by a number of factors, including the cost to move the devices from their location to the event location (up to $10,000), the cost to build or set up the structures that hold the devices (up to $20,000), and the cost of engineers, pilots, and support during the event.