Sports fans with dropped jaws have long watched such superstar athletes as Michael Jordan and Jerry Rice perform seemingly impossible feats and asked, "How did they do that?"
Now, Fox Sports and Base Productions Inc. will attempt to provide the answer through an eye-catching sports reality show that strives to demystify athletic prowess using science.
The show is called "Sport Science." It was filmed this summer in a 150-by-240 foot hangar at Hawthorne Airport. Inside the hangar, they built half a basketball court, part of a hockey rink, half a football field, a golf driving range, a baseball batting cage and a motion-capture studio to record it all. The purpose of the elaborate set-up was to break down the science and mechanics of a 50-yard touchdown reception, a three-point basket under pressure from a roaring crowd or the perfect hockey wrist shot for a goal in overtime.
The "Sport Science" concept came from a similarly themed show, "Fight Science," made for National Geographic Channel. It explored the mechanics behind a variety of professional fighting styles, including boxing and mixed martial arts.
"It was very hard to pull off," said executive producer John Brenkus of Base Productions, the "Fight Science" company. "The whole idea was to get a window into and help define athletic ability, which isn't easy."
Base Productions, based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., specializes in computer-generated content for reality programming.
"It's a big show for us, our biggest show in ages, and the most technologically advanced show we've ever done," said Bob Thompson, president of Fox Sports Networks.
Each episode will explore the human biomechanics behind the athletic feats, by gauging and monitoring the actions of athletes including former NFL star Jerry Rice, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and mixed martial arts star Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Playground basketball hero Chris Lowery known as "Skywalker" for his high vertical leap will be monitored as he clears five defenders while dunking a basketball.
The production is among the most expensive FSN has undertaken, about twice what the average show costs "easily into the millions" according to Thompson. FSN ordered 13 episodes of the show, which debuts Sept. 30 at 9 p.m. on Fox Sports Net. It will be a tough opening slot, going up against NBC's Sunday night football matchup, pitting the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"NFL football is a juggernaut because they've got a great schedule," Thompson said, "but we've seen with mixed martial arts and poker that there is, on any Sunday night, an appetite for something more."
Thompson said the show could have a significant afterlife, too.
"While it's going to run on FSN," Thompson said, "we can figure out a way to put it into syndication and reformat for international distribution, Internet, DVDs, mobile phone snippets and the like, as opposed to some of our shows that have a really short life on the air then go away."
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