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So what was the Helmet-Cam?  Helmet-Cam is short for helmet camera which was developed by USA Network and AVS: Aerial Video Systems of Burbank, CA.  The camera was placed over the right ear of the player in the VSR-3 Riddell helmet.  An antenna was placed in the crown of the helmet between an inflatable pad and the shell.  The Helmet Cam is on at all times, bouncing its signal off a microwave dish in the stadium to the production truck.  Each one of these Helmet-Cams cost $20,000!  Nelson Kraemer, an engineer from Riddell, sent a letter to Mr. Jack Coffee about the progress of the Helmet-Cam testing on their helmets on March 20, 1991.  In this letter he stated information about the Helmet-Cam and its dimensions.  He states that he had a hard time putting the helmet on a test dummy which he feels is the reason that the severity index (which I assume rates the injury level when wearing this helmet) was higher than usual. This must be because the padding would give way in a collision but not the camera even though it was covered with a small amount of padding itself. 

This new innovation made it possible for the viewer to see what the player sees through the player's eyes.  Sometimes the video would cut out and it could really make you sick if you watched it constantly but it was really cool. One of the best lines about the Helmet-Cam came from a broadcast of a game where we see the player get hit through the camera and then it topples end over end.  The commentator (was it Boomer?), said, "I hope his head wasn't in there!"

 An equipment manager for one of the teams told me that the Helmet-Cam was not easy to work with.  The cable ran from the helmet to the player's jersey in their back.  So when the player came off the field, someone would have to hold the helmet when the the player took it off his head. 

1st Introduction on March 25, 1991 Orlando vs. San Antonio

Helmet-Cam Dimensions

Camera size - 9/16" diameter x 2" long

Antenna size - approx. 1/8" - 3/16" thick x 3" x 3"

A two-pound battery pack and transmitter is molded into the quarterback`s shoulder pads

AVS Helmet-Cam in WLAF Promo Helmet and AVS Logo

Kerwin Bell was the first player to wear the Helmet-Cam (over right eye)
Antenna cable visible out of Bell's helmet in back
When helmet was off, someone else had to carry it for Bell

Helmet-Cam Images


USA Network Helmet-Cam Promos


USA Network Helmet-Cam Appearances


(in order of appearance)

QB Kerwin Bell, Orlando vs. San Antonio (3/25/91)

QB Lee Saltz, San Antonio vs. Frankfurt (4/1/91)

LB Tracy Simien, Montreal vs. Birmingham (4/8/91)

QB Stan Gelbaugh, London at Birmingham (4/15/91)

QB Jeff Graham and LB Ron Sancho, NY/NJ vs. Sacramento (4/22/91)

LB Paul McGowan and QB Brent Pease, Birmingham vs. San Antonio (4/29/91)

LB David Bailey and RB Ricky Blake, San Antonio vs. London (5/6/91)

NT Roy Hart, London at NY/NJ (5/11/91)

CB Richard Shelton, Montreal vs. Raleigh-Durham (5/13/91)

LB Danny Lockett, London at Sacramento (5/18/91)

QB Eric Jones and LB Paul McGowan, Birmingham vs. NY/NJ (5/20/91)

S Anthony Cooney, San Antonio at NY/NJ (5/25/91)

FB Broderick Sargeant and LB Tracy Simien, Montreal vs. Orlando (5/27/91)

TE Demetrius Davis (Barcelona) and QB Eric Jones (Birmingham), Barcelona at Birmingham (6/1/91) Playoff


USA Network carried most of the WLAF games on Saturday & Monday nights in the 1991 season and again on Saturday nights for the 1992 season.


GameTime Magazine with Helmet-Cam Info

Newspaper Helmet-Cam Articles

Wlaf Will Use Innovations To Attract Tv Viewers

Sunday Special - World League of American Football

March 24, 1991|By Nancy Gay of The Sentinel Staff

Television contracts and sports never have been mutually exclusive, so naturally the first thing the World League of American Football - the quintessential made-for-television league - did to ensure its survival was line up the networks.

As surprising as it may seem, two of them jumped at the opportunity - USA Network and ABC Sports, which paid a combined $48 million to broadcast three WLAF games every week.

USA Network, which has a 4-year, $18 million package with the league, will telecast all Saturday games, a Monday night ''Game of the Week'' and six ''European Specials'' for Saturday viewing in the United States.

ABC Sports has a 2-year, $30 million deal to televise Sunday games and all three postseason games.

Canada's TSN Cable will show WLAF games, and European networks, such as British Sky Broadcasting's Eurosport and Spain's TV 3 Catalunya, also have signed multiyear deals with the league.

Industry insiders say ABC Sports, along with NBC Sports, approached the NFL with the idea of a spring league because, as Dennis Swanson, head of ABC Sports, says, ''Polls show people like to watch football on television.''

ABC says it will charge advertisers $20,000 to $25,000 per half-minute its first season.

USA Network will use current NFL quarterbacks as color commentators. ABC will go with the team of Brent Musburger and Dick Vermeil.

''People who tune in to this obviously are hard-core fans who can't get enough. People will check it out because they're curious,'' Musburger said. ''There are no illusions here. We're not going to walk in and beat the NCAA regional finals or knock off the NBA playoffs.''

To attract TV viewers, the league is introducing a number of electronic innovations, including microphones on the back judge and audio pickup of quarterbacks communicating via helmet radios.

This one might be straight out of a James Bond flick: a miniature camera mounted on the quarterbacks' helmets, just above the right temple, showing live game action.

Orlando Thunder quarterback Kerwin Bell will be the first player ever to wear the tiny camera, dubbed ''Helmet-Cam'' by its inventors, Aerial Video Systems in Burbank, Calif. He'll sport the quarter-sized device Monday night when the Thunder play the San Antonio Riders at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Helmet-cam Has Bugs To Iron Out

March 26, 1991|By Jerry Greene of The Sentinel Staff

The helmet-camera was introduced to football telecast-ing by Orlando Thunder quarterback Kerwin Bell. The debut was dramatic when Bell tried to scramble out of trouble and had helmet - camera and all - knocked off his head.

USA Network viewers were treated to a dizzying view that, for an instant, gave the horrible impression that Bell had been decapitated.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason, serving as a network analyst, said about the helmet-cam: ''This leaves no room for excuses when the coach asks, 'What were you looking at when you threw the ball?

The camera is the size of a tube of lipstick and fits in a pad above the quarterback's ear. A problem is that when Bell wiped perspiration from his eyes, he occasionally would smear the lens.


RAJ BHATHAL, principal owner of the Thunder, could not have been happier at halftime. ''I'm tickled pink,'' he said. ''What I have liked best is the enthusiasm of the crowd. They are reacting to every play. And I'm going to tell coach (Don) Matthews that I totally approve of his game plan to score on the opening play.'' That first-play, 75-yard touchdown pass from Bell to Eric Mitchel was the second-longest play of the WLAF's first weekend behind a 96-yard scoring pass by the London Monarchs.


JERRY VAINISI, vice president of marketing, was not pleased by reports that the USA Network telecast was being seen on cable in Altamonte Springs, despite the league's blackout rule. Said Vainisi: ''If anyone was receiving the game in Altamonte Springs, it was a mistake and will be corrected. We have to protect the home team with the blackout rule. Here, in Orlando, if they began drawing more than 40,000, it might be different.'' Vainisi also said if the league learns of any bars or clubs illegally showing blacked-out telecasts, it would take legal action immediately.


Bell Still Displays Flair For Dramatic

March 26, 1991|By Mike Dame of The Sentinel Staff

Three years away from the spotlight did nothing to tarnish Kerwin Bell's golden-boy image - or his uncanny flair for the dramatic.

Bell's five touchdown passes in the Orlando Thunder's victorious debut Monday night - including a 75-yard scoring strike to open the game - cemented the former Florida star's place in local folklore.

''I haven't felt this good since way back early in my college days,'' said Bell, who was cheered lustily as he trotted onto the Citrus Bowl turf during player introductions.

''When I talked to coach (Don) Matthews on the sideline and told him I was going long, he just said, 'Live on the edge.' He gave me total freedom, and it was a lot of fun out there being able to call my own plays.''

Bell's road to what promises to be new-found stardom - in these parts, anyway - has been a long one.

After leaving UF in 1987 as the most prolific passer in school history, Bell spent two seasons with three NFL teams before accepting a graduate coaching position with the Gators this past season.

That rough road must have made Monday night seem like a walk in the park. And at least one biased critic said Bell is better for his three years in limbo.

''I think Kerwin plays much better now than he did in college,'' said Galen Hall, Bell's head coach at UF and the Thunder's offensive coordinator. ''He's older, more mature, he's been to pro camps and he spent a year coaching. I'm very pleased with the way he played.''

Bell, who finished with 269 yards and had scoring passes of 75, 42, 37, 23 and 1 yard, said Hall's presence in the coaches' booth was soothing.

''I'm used to his voice,'' Bell said. ''I respond well to him, and I just thank God for putting me in this situation with Coach Hall and this great offense and these great receivers.''

Not all of Bell's experiences Monday will be memorable. He remembers a few hits in particular, ones captured on film by the ''helmet-cam'' that was rigged into his helmet.

''If you go back and look at the replays with that helmet-cam, you'll see that some of those hits were pretty hard,'' Bell said. ''I was hit harder in this game than any preseason game I ever played in the NFL.''

Nfl Won't Overlook Helmet-cam Hysteria

March 27, 1991|By Larry Guest of The Sentinel Staff

Prediction: The helmet-cam will be in use in the NFL this fall. The new gadget, unveiled Monday night as part of Thunder quarterback Kerwin Bell's equipment, was a hoot. The tiny device provided shots more fascinating even than the race-cams that have removed NASCAR telecasts from the sedative list. Imagine a slo-mo of Mike Singletary bearing down on Danny Marino's facemask. Still the unselfish country boy, Bell said he thought about ways to position his head to provide the best shots for the fans at home. But that was when Kerwin was on the sideline. On the field, Bell said he forgot all about the tiny camera over his right ear because he had more important shots to think about - like the ones charging linemen were taking at his head. . . . Bell's 75-yard TD pass to Eric Mitchel on the very first play of the franchise was simply too much for rookie pro football owner Raj Bhathal. On the sideline for the start of the game, the refreshingly exuberant Bhathal bounded into the team bench area and began hugging coach Don Matthews. ''Not now, Raj! Not now! It's not over yet!'' exclaimed a startled Matthews, who chuckled about the incident afterward and allowed as how it was great to have an owner who is so enthusiastic. Before being blind-sided by his happy boss, Matthews had flashed back to a Canadian Football League playoff game in which his quarterback fumbled on the first play, and the opposition ran in the recovery for a TD. ''We came back to win that game, so it taught me that a first-play touchdown doesn't decide a game,'' he said.

Incidentally, that announced 21,714 at the Thunder opener was the actual turnstile count, which didn't include a large block of discounted admissions who were routed around the turnstiles by confused ticket-takers. Adjusted count coming from city officials today is expected to be about 24,000. . . . Good for Jack Swope, assistant GM of the Magic, who wants to make a gesture ending the petty sniping by the Magic toward the Thunder. Swope said Tuesday he will propose a dual-ticket promotion for Saturday soon as he can get through the jammed phone lines at Thunder offices. The Magic play Houston at 2 p.m., and the Thunder play Raleigh-Durham at 8. If the Thunder so desire, Swope would announce to Magic fans their ticket stubs would be good for a discount at the football game that night. Hmmmm. Does that mean a Thunder ticket stub would be good for a discount in the O-rena April 21 when the situation is reversed - the Thunder playing Birmingham in the afternoon and the Magic closing their season against woeful New Jersey that night?

Bell Named Player Of The Week

March 28, 1991|By Jerry Greene of The Sentinel Staff

Wednesday was a hectic but happy day for the Orlando Thunder, who learned that quarterback Kerwin Bell gained another line in World League history as the WLAF's first player of the week.

''This just caps a wonderful experience,'' said Bell, who threw five touchdown passes Monday in a 35-34 victory over San Antonio. ''The most important thing was the victory, but this award and using the helmet camera are two things I won't forget.''

While Bell and his teammates were adjusting their short-week sights on Saturday night's game against Raleigh-Durham, Dennis Smith was busy reacquainting himself with Orlando.

Waived in the final cut, Smith was sent to the league's ''ghost team'' in Dallas, a group of players on call to replace injured players. The Thunder asked Smith to return after placing running back J.J. Flanigan on three-week injured-reserve status with a pulled quadriceps.

Smith, from the University of Utah, was a second-round draft pick of the Thunder as a tight end. However, he spent most of his practice time as a backup fullback and special-teams player.

NOTES: The City of Orlando announced it will provide shuttle-bus service and parking for $2 from the garage area across from the bus station on Central Avenue for all future home games. . . . The actual attendance Monday night was 24,309, the Thunder said. City officials confirmed 21,714 as the turnstile count, but Thunder officials said 1,463 got in on the one-cent promotion, and 1,132 servicemen and -women were admitted free. . . .

USA Network drew a relatively low rating of 1.6 (approximately 1.4 million TV sets) for its telecast of the Thunder's victory Monday night. However, network officials were satisfied because of competition from the Academy Awards. . . . Halftime entertainment Saturday will be by the ever-popular Frisbee-catching dogs. No announcement yet on whether the dogs will be wearing the helmet-cam.

If Talk Of Town Is A Gauge, Thunder's Debut Is A Hit


March 29, 1991|By Bill Marx of The Sentinel Staff

How 'bout them 'ders?

One game does not a season (or lifetime) make, but you have to hand it to the Thunder: Their opening was a huge success, even for those of us who didn't go to the game.

When CNN's sports show came on Monday night, quite a crowd gathered around the office TV for the Thunder's highlights. There was no mistaking the enthusiasm when the video came from Kerwin Bell's helmet-cam. Sorry about this, Kerwin, but the biggest roar came when you got clocked head-on. I think everyone in the room jumped back.

Interesting sidelight to the helmet-cam: A reader called in Monday night to talk about rotisserie baseball, and in the middle of our discussion, he said, ''Kerwin Bell just threw a 75-yard touchdown pass.''

''Where are you?'' I said.

''Altamonte Springs. I'm watching the game on TV.''

The game was supposed to be blacked out locally.

Then the caller said something interesting. He said he would have gone to the Thunder's game but wanted to watch the first one on TV so he could see the helmet-cam in action.

Settle down, Thunder brass. The caller also said he probably would go to the team's next home game - 8 p.m. Saturday at the Florida Citrus Bowl. (And he said this when the score was 7-0.)

THUNDER DUDS. The Thunder may be exciting, but their uniforms are ugly. CNN's Fred Hickman called the Thunder the ''lime green Jell-O guys.'' Sportscasters on both CNN and ESPN had field days making silly remarks about the uniforms. If there is a good side to those uniforms - and I'll admit this is a stretch - at least people will know instantly who is playing when the Thunder are featured on TV or in highlights.

THUNDER FANS. Hats off to the Thunder for announcing their attendance. The crowd of more than 24,000 was broken down by those who paid full price, those who got in on the penny promotion and those who got in free. For those wondering if the Thunder's playing at the same time as the Magic had any effect on the Magic's attendance, take note: Although the announced attendance was 15,077, the actual attendance was 13,010, making this one of the Magic's least-attended games this season. The 15,077 figure represents tickets sold, by the way.

It's A Cam, Cam Cam, Cam World

March 31, 1991|By Brian Schmitz of The Sentinel Staff

It could be a cam-crazy world, thanks to the World League of American Football.

Thunder quarterback Kerwin Bell debuted the innovative helmet-cam in a game televised last Monday night at the Citrus Bowl. The helmet-cam allowed a USA Network audience to not only see and hear Bell at work, but feel the action. That's 2001 stuff.

You could feel Bell getting sacked, and the panic in his voice when he almost called a wrong play. My favorite moment was the emotion captured when Bell strode to the sidelines after throwing a touchdown pass. Teammates patted him on the head, jarring the helmet-cam and then you could see coach Don Matthews' smiling face growing larger as he congratulated Kerwin.

But I can see a version of the helmet-cam being used in other sports. How about affixing one to a mask of a catcher? Wouldn't you want to see how fast a Nolan Ryan fastball is? Or how about eavesdropping on the banter between batter and catcher or - better yet - players and the plate umpire?

(Woe. A network might have to start issuing a warning label before one of these games with the helmet-cam: Some of the language you may hear on the field of play may curl your children's hair. Please use parental guidance. Actually, some choice words already have been picked up during WLAF games.) How about affixing some kind of miniature cam on a jockey's cap? Watching him steer a thoroughbred through a gaggle of horses could be intriguing. How about a goalie-cam for a hockey goalie or soccer goalie?

Gee. Pretty soon TV technology is going to get to the point where you might not even need to go to the site. I think all Bucs' fans should push hard for the helmet-cam.

Matthews gave Thunder fans little time to wonder if Saturday night's game was going to be as intriguing as the opener. He called for an onside kick on the opening kickoff - and the Thunder recovered it against the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks. First play featured two offensive linemen split out with Eric Mitchel lined up behind them. It's going to be fun, all right.

Helmet Cam, Live Mike Are Great Innovations

April 14, 1991|By Don Pierson, Chicago Tribune

The helmet cam is making the World League of American Football. The open mike is shaking it.

The small television camera inserted into the helmets of quarterbacks is providing scenes never before viewed by the public. The open mike on coaches is providing obscenities never before heard outside of R-rated programming.

The helmet cam is the quarterback's best friend. After seeing what quarterbacks see (and can't see), fans never should boo them again. The combination of speed, confusion and violence that makes football football is captured for the first time in perfect focus with the fish-eye lens of a camera the size of a tube of lipstick.

The live mike can be television's worst enemy. ABC's Brent Musburger spent Easter Sunday apologizing for the adjectives, verbs, and nouns - usually the same word - that kept popping up in the coaches' reactions to the heat of battle. Talk about color commentators. It was the kind of language that makes football football, but if you missed it, it might be too late to tune in now. WLAF President Mike Lynn and the networks are planning to tone it down.

''We would prefer a delay,'' Lynn said.

The networks say a delay in the audio is not feasible, but they promise to be more judicious, turning the volume up before plays and down after, concentrating on the optimism of anticipation rather than the inevitable disappointment.

Neither the WLAF nor the networks said they were flooded by callers complaining about the language. That means one of two things - there weren't many people watching, or they didn't mind.

The flashy helmet cam proves football should be seen and not heard.

''Used at the line of scrimmage when he's calling plays, the camera can be dynamic, but using the replay function is extraordinary,'' Wolfe said. ''You have to be careful because you can't zoom the lens. So after he throws a pass, all you see is specks.'' Which is sometimes all the quarterback sees.

Tex Schramm, former WLAF president and NFL innovator, likes what he has seen of the ''amazing picture'' helmet cam provides.

As usual, Schramm has another idea for helmet cam's use.

''Put one in the referee's hat and see what he saw. See if he's really looking at what he called,'' said Schramm with a laugh.

World Bowl Refreshing Break From Super Bowl


June 07, 1992|By Brian Schmitz of The Sentinel Staff

MONTREAL — Roman numerals were attached to a football game here Saturday night, II to be exact. No, World Bowl II wasn't a Super Bowl - and, bless its heart, it didn't pretend to be an imitation of the NFL's pretentious extravaganza.

Here's my reasons why World Bowl week was more refreshing than the Super version:

- No hype factor. I mean, none. Couldn't be any World Bowl hype (and no letdown) because there wasn't any hype during the season, much to the chagrin of the World League. While New Orleans, for example, surrenders itself to the Super Bowl, the city of Montreal functioned nicely around the World Bowl, which was a curious sideshow to the city celebrating its 350th birthday.

- Super Bowl hype grips the nation's media 23.2 seconds after the NFC and AFC championship games, and by kickoff, reporters are interviewing other reporters. The media is transported to respective Super Bowl team hotels for interviews by buses; World Bowl media is transported by minivan. So slim was the coverage that at a photo session at Olympic Stadium, Surge players were simulating baseball games on the Montreal Expos' diamond.

- Ultra-cooperative players. When the winners are playing for $5,000 and the losers for $2,500 in the World Bowl, well, you get the idea these are regular guys having a ball. (Consider that the Kansas City Chiefs made $7,500 each for losing to the Green Bay packers in SB I).

- Super Bowl players are subject to fines if they miss media sessions; World Bowl players seek interviews, even if the questions come in French. ''How come you haven't talked to me yet?'' defensive end Karl Dunbar said the other day. I can assure you Lawrence Taylor never said that.

- Unlike Super Bowl week, there was no controversy (remember Jim McMahon insulting New Orleans?) or wild-fire World Bowl rumors started by radio throats or TV hairdos regarding drug use by players (remember the allegations a few years ago involving Joe Montana?). The lone World Bowl controversy was whether Thunder owner Raj Bhathal would pay for the cheerleaders' airline tickets.

- We weren't in Pontiac, Mich., and it wasn't January. The Super Bowl can't match the World Bowl for culture and international flavor, as you'd expect. Oh, the French Quarter in New Orleans. Americans don't realize how French Montreal is until they, oh, open their mouths. This isn't like Toronto, New York north. I swear I saw a sign at an ESSO gas station here that read: English spoken here.

- Yes, I love Paris in the springtime. The cafes, the Labatt Bleue, the shops . . . you actually feel there's more than a football game outside your door. I mean, how priceless was it that Thunder coach Galen Hall spent time learning how to say ''Happy Birthday, France'' in French before speaking at a pep rally? You couldn't quite picture Don Shula speaking anything but footballese.

- The NFC can't possibly win. As everybody knows, the NFC has dominated the AFC the last decade of Super Bowls. And aren't we all tired of it? The intriguing thing about the World League is that the London Monarchs won the title last season in an all-European matchup against Barcelona. Just what the WL wanted in its first season: A foreign country holding a title in a truly American sport. The World Bowl trophy was going to stay in the U.S., however, when the Thunder and Surge met.

- The Helmet-Cam. Why the NFL hasn't picked up on this innovation after the World League has had it two years is beyond me. Hey, it might make those Super Bowl routes halfway interesting. The helmet-cam still is fascinating. Thunder linebacker Rick Andrews wore it in WB II. You could see Sacramento receiver Mark Stock running at him through the bars of his helmet, and then Stock spinning away. And then a dejected Andrews, head down, showing us the artificial turf after the missed tackle.

- Lack of a long, drawn out Super Bowl halftime show with a zillion sponsors. The World League rolled out some VIPs riding on the back of convertibles, sort of like it was a homecoming game. Best thing of all was you didn't have to hear ''Up With People.''

- Never in a Super Bowl would you catch any NFL player wearing a jersey the color of seaweed.

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