By Andrew Liszewski
Ever since I first saw the DiveCam that NBC uses for televised events a few years ago, I wondered how the operator managed to keep the camera so perfectly synced with the diver as they plunged into the pool. Well thanks to a few different camera angles used at this year’s Olympic games I finally figured out the simple gimmick the DiveCam uses, but the Wall Street Journal has gone one step further and provided a bit of backstory regarding its development.
For those who don’t know or haven’t seen it, the DiveCam is basically a small camera contained in a tube that follows the diver from the top of the platform all the way into the water. But instead of using complex pneumatics or motorized tracks, the camera is simply dropped at the same time the athlete leaves the platform. Since gravity ensures that everything falls at the same rate, as long as the operator releases the camera at the same time as the diver, it will perfectly follow them into the water. The idea was originally thought up by NBC’s David Neal, but he contracted Garret Brown, inventor of the Steadicam (and countless other ingenious camera rigs) to make it a reality. Garret improved on the idea with mechanisms to safely bring the camera to a stop once underwater, and added remote tilt-and-pan controls so that the cameraman could always keep the diver in frame. I’ll admit that diving is not one of my favorite events, but seeing the footage that comes from the DiveCam is enough to keep me watching every time it’s on.