The Celtics-Sixers Drone Was Terrible And Should Never Come Back to NBA Broadcasts
By Liam McKeone
Sometimes networks like to try new stuff on sports broadcasts. And sometimes that stuff is great, like when Fox Sports put 4K cameras in the endzones specifically to capture post-touchdown joy in the highest definition possible. Other times it is not so great and simply does not work. It was the latter instance last night when TNT had a drone in TD Garden for the Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers playoff game and used it to broadcast parts of the first half.
In theory you can see why it was thought to be a good idea. Drones have been used to give overhead shots of arenas and crowds and watch parties on sports broadcasts for a few years now but, to my knowledge, have never been used to broadcast the actual game. It could give a mobile angle of what's going on and can move up and down the court as the players do. Obviously the drone was never meant to replace traditional broadcast angles but as an additive experience that takes up probably five minutes of gametime combined over the course of four quarters, why not?
We found why not. Two primary issues popped up during TNT's attempt to use it during Celtics-Sixers that should strongly dissuade the network from using it again in the near future or, indeed, ever again. First off and most problematically, the quality of the shot dropped quite dramatically when switching to the drone camera. The feed was fuzzy and struggled to keep up with the herky-jerky movements of the players when dribbling. It was a subpar broadcast as far as quality went and nobody wants that during the playoffs, from TNT execs to the average viewer.
Less problematic but still an issue was the fact that the drone was very clearly seen on the normal broadcast zooming up and down the court. What you see in the video below before the camera switches is what viewers saw all night.
It was not the worst thing in the world but it was certainly annoying and made for a distraction when trying to watch the game, which, again, is not something anybody involved wants. As stated above the whole idea surrounding the drone was that it was supposed to be an additive experience. But last night it was not. It took away from watching the actual game, whether because of the jarring off-a-cliff drops in broadcast quality or the little metal object zooming around the players' heads.
Props to TNT for trying something new during a playoff game but this one should go back in the oven for a while until they figure out a way to avoid having the drone on TV and getting a good camera on that drone.