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Old 10-17-2021, 01:55 AM   #1
Tim Y
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Photography at the track

Before the late 30's close finishes were determined by sight by the three placing judges. With the advent of the photofinish camera, with its far better discerning of close finishes, DEAD heats dropped by a huge amount.

from https://www.donttakepictures.com/dtp...e-photo-finish

The oldest known racetrack photo finish images were made in 1890 by John Charles Hemment, who had earned a reputation for mastering the art of action photography at a time when sedentary subjects were the norm. His photographs were made when a horse broke a thin thread strung across the track at the finish line, triggering the camera’s shutter. With only one exposure, this method often failed to record the precise finish line moment and, if they succeeded, were unable to record the other race placings.

Motion picture cameras had begun be used to record the races in the 1920s, but the frame rate was too low to determine the exact moment the horses reached the finish line. But in 1937, horse racing enthusiast and Hollywood icon Bing Crosby opened the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and enlisted Paramount Pictures engineer Lorenzo Del Riccio to record the race finishes with his newly-created circular flow camera. First used on Del Mar’s opening day in 1937, Del Riccio’s camera revolutionized finish line photography for horseracing and other professional sports. The immediate popularity of his innovative design had race tracks all over the country clamoring to purchase his patented camera. According to Hollywood legend, Del Riccio was under exclusive contract with Paramount at the time of the invention and it is said that until a deal was reached, the studio pursued him from town to town.

Del Riccio’s circular flow camera had a thin, vertical slit that restricts the camera’s field of vision to a four-inch slice of what was before it. The camera is positioned above the track in grandstands and its slit is aligned with the finish line post. Before the horses reach the finish line, the camera begins recording as the strip film moves across the slit at the same rate of the horses as they cross the finish line, recording them from the nose backwards. Only subjects in motion are recorded onto the film; anything static appears as a streak.

They used 35 mm silver based film, had to quickly develop in a solution of constant temperature, then the extra silver grains NOT developed were washed off followed by a fixer that stabilized the image this was left. This had to be done as quickly as possible and only WERE negative mounts were available for the stewards to review. Most photo offices were a floor above the stewards, and through a hole in the ceiling, the film strip was put over a magnifier and shown to the stewards below with a wire perpendicularly arranged across that strip until the order of finish was determined. OFTEN, the wet mount dripped through that hole an onto the stewards head so it became known as "the splash down."

Once the placing judges determined if a print was necessary for viewing by the crowd, they would have to dry it, take it into a dark room and make multiple (usually 8 x 10) prints that would be distributed around the course. This was the standard until the digital cameras became adapted to this use.
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Old 10-17-2021, 02:10 AM   #2
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DIGITAL photography

I was the photofinish camera operator at two standardbred tracks and Woodbine. At all of them we used the Finish Lynx system. https://www.finishlynx.com/

When I used to talk to people about that, the first thing they would usually ask: "How can you BEAT that camera?" I tell them to relax in that all the hundreds upon hundreds of times I took the photo, the camera was NEVER wrong. Desormeaux thinks otherwise, but there are some things to consider to keep it correct.

1) the camera MUST be completely perpendicular to the finish or it can create error though parallax : Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, and is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two lines. Due to foreshortening, nearby objects show a larger parallax than farther objects when observed from different positions, so parallax can be used to determine distances. If you are stationed about 10 feet past the finish line, it appears that the inside horse wins a dead heat and vice versa. I have had many owners and trainers come up to ask to see the raw photo only to find out they had been fooled by this problem. (There is a calibration program run before each session to insure that the camera is aligned correctly).

2) the SCAN rate of the camera has to be close to the speed of the horses at the end of their race. In standardbreds, it is easy to see when the scan rate it too slow (wheels will look OVIOD north and south) too fast and you get the opposite. Again you have to calibrate daily

3) finally AT MOST TRACKS the finishing post is NOT the finishing line, THE MIRROR IS. At Turf Paradise the mirror in just in front of the post and at Woodbine it is about 5 inches PAST that post. I can recall that only Oaklawn is right on the line. SO, if you look at the post as the finishing line your EYES will give you the wrong information. LOOK to see how YOUR track is set up.
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Old 10-17-2021, 10:28 AM   #3
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Tim
thanks for a great historical post about the evolution of the photo finish camera. I was not aware that it was invented at Del Mar. But of course, it had to be evolved from the expertise of the Hollywood movie making industry.

Interesting insight about the mirror and the calibrations needed daily to fine tune the photo finish camera. Now if I can only make the correct calibrations in my input to the program....
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Old 10-17-2021, 10:29 AM   #4
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Great thread Tim thanks for the information
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Old 10-17-2021, 01:46 PM   #5
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Oops I switched two bits of data: when the SCAN RATE is too slow, the wheels on a sulky look ovoid north to south as the image is moving through the camera LONGER and stretches it out more...Too fast, and the images compact and the wheels look ovoid another and south. OFTEN the start car (moving much faster than the scan) would get into the rear of the scan and compress to be shorter than a horse!

I once asked the stewards if they knew of ANY WAY to cheat the camera and they only knew one. In the old wet mount film reading, a wire was brought across the screen perpendicularly (to establish as a line to differentiate placings.) To paraphrase:" in the old days when we read the wet mount, you could create a "dead heat" by using a THICKER wire hence two noses would be on the line together but it was just an optical illusion and had very limited use. Only found it a few times a little meetings."
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Old 10-17-2021, 01:52 PM   #6
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One season Woodbine experimented with "European type" racing and carded a few contests CLOCKWISE at 5 and 5.5 furlongs on the big turf course. They proved unpopular with both the fans and especially the trainers as few of their horse could run effectively to their right and left with many going very wide and/or bolting around that large grass course turn.

It was such a big deal that the management had us all come in on a nonracing day to test out things.

In normal mode, the cameras (in effect) are photographing backwards to the flow of racing, so to do these, we had to change the direction of the scan 180 degrees. The entire apparatus on the 7th floor at Woodbine is set up to watch the races to one's left coming down the lane so you know when the last straggler gets by, but UP TRACK, there is not much room to stick you head out to see when the field arrives, so if it is strung out so I had to initiate the camera much earlier and leave on much longer to insure I captured the whole field.
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Old 10-20-2021, 01:18 AM   #7
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Your efforts are the best

Great info an i thank you for your time an knowledge

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Old 10-23-2021, 10:14 AM   #8
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Tim,

Thank you for this thread. Several years ago, I was at Woodbine with Ted, Charlie, Missy, Barb, The Pook, and others and you invited us up to your "office" on the roof. You demonstrated the photography equipment and I found it fascinating. Still do.
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Old 10-23-2021, 04:54 PM   #9
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thanks glad you enjoyed that time...Always like to explain things from behind the scenes
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Old 10-26-2021, 04:59 PM   #10
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i wish I could post photos of things here, like the camera set up at Woodbine's 6 cameras.

When I was there, 2 cameras were working during the standardbred meeting so only 4 were directed toward TB results
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