December 7 – Happy Birthday, Instant Replay!

Posted on December 7, 2015

An amazing over-the-wall catch by the right fielder of the Dodgers!

A super-tricky maneuver by the Cincinnati Bengals and an unexpected touchdown!

A forehand groundstroke by Roger Federer that may or may not have been right on the line—a winner? or out?

In sports, there are many times when we want to see something again. Whether it's a case of “I was just looking down at my phone for a second!” or the play was confusing...whether it was a really fantastic move that you just have to see again or nobody is sure if a ball is fair or foul...Wouldn't it be great to see the action again?

These days, of course, we can generally do so as often as we want, just by rewinding the action on our DVRs or other devices. But back in the day, televised sporting events couldn't be viewed instantly – because film had to be processed in order to be viewed.
In 1955 a Canadian television producer used a “wet film” or kinescope replay that could be viewed several minutes after the original play. Still not instant. And there was no slow motion or freeze frame.

It took until this date in 1963 for instant replay. The instant replay machine was based on videotape technology. It was first used on the CBS network's coverage of the Army-Navy college football game. Unfortunately, the 1,300-pound machine experienced a few technical hitches, but one touchdown was shown in instant replay.

Apparently a lot of people credit instant replay as being one of the reasons for the growth in popularity of televised U.S. football games. This is partly because multiple cameras are used, some offering close-ups; when a dramatic play unfolds on the field, viewers can see it from various angles and from varying distances. The slow motion and freeze frame options allowed commentators to educate viewers or point out particularly crazy aspects of the play. Sports suddenly became a lot more entertaining.

Communication theorist Marshall McLuhan said that the invention of instant replay marked a “post-convergent moment” in television. 

Before instant replay, watching a game on TV was just like watching it live (although without the bitter wind and the pain from sitting on hard benches without back support). 

Once instant replay came in use, however, viewers at home suddenly had an entire panoply of experience that the live viewers didn't.

  • In some sports, instant replay is now used to allow officials to rule on such things as whether a ball is in or out, or whether or not a player broke a rule. This is often called a video referee or third umpire.

  • Stadium owners are embracing technology to make the benefits of instant replay available to people who watch the game live. And by adding Wi-Fi connections, the stadium owners are able to lure people by offering even more fun for live viewers.
  • Some of today's extreme sports benefit from use of high-speed cameras and then instant replay at a variety of speeds. Without instant replay, it might be really hard for viewers to interpret what they are seeing.

Also on this date:

Mummer's Plays in Britain

Wax-model-maker Madame Tussaud's birthday

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