What technology can be used to improve the pinball viewing experience for the casual observer?

One of my favorite things about the current state of pinball is that even if I can’t make a big tournament, I will likely be able to watch the event being streamed. In the pinball community we always have very knowledgable players on the mics who are able to fill us in on the little details and nuances of games and playing that we may not know about otherwise.

Twitch streams, overhead cameras, DMD/display cameras, over-machine monitors, and the tilt-bob cam are all very cool ideas that have made watching pinball much more fun. Still, it’s not often that you see a PAPA stream with more than a few hundred viewers, even during major events like Pinburgh.

I hope that getting more, quality media out there which is more accessable can draw more people into both playing and spectating pinball games, and help the sport grow.

There have been some revolutionary technological achievements in televised sports which have enhanced the viewer experience. Instant replay is an obvious one which now takes place after every single play in NFL games. Football also added the Yellow first down line to help the TV audience follow the action.

I personally think that telestration and on-demand replay are technologies that would greatly enhance watching a game of pinball.

One cool article I just saw on fivethrityeight talked about a new video system which instantly calculates the flight path of a ball as soon as it leaves a player’s hand. In basketball, the computer knows from the moment the ball is released whether it will be a swish on a brick. Here is the article: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/can-an-astrophysicist-change-the-way-we-watch-sports/

Nudging is a very abstract skill in pinball, and one that is very difficult to understand for a casual observer of a pinball game, especially when nudging is done before the ball is near the flippers or outlanes… If it were possible to use this (patent pending) technology for pinball it would be possible to show a viewer the trajectory of a ball before a machine was nudged. I can see that being more useful than showing the basketball audience if the ball will go in the net or not. But, it looks like Mark Cuban has invested in it currently.

Any other ideas people have for cool things that may be added?


I’ve been racking my brain how our Big Buck World Championship had over 200,000 views during the weekend, with a constant stream count of 1400-1600 viewers the entire time.

We’ll joke in the office how the amount of active competitive pinball players is about 10X the size of the competitive BBH player base, but holy shit do they find a way to get people to watch.

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I just watched the recorded twitch stream of the Expo finals and I have some thoughts regarding how to get more people interested/watching, but not necessarily live and not necessarily with new technology… so this is only kind of on topic…

Anyways, I’m not sure why we’re so focused on the LIVE aspect of these streams. I don’t think we’re ever going to get big audiences that set aside 4+ hours to watch a finals as it happens. In this day of on-demand viewing of everything, I’d argue that a much more concise and produced presentation of pinball would be far more entertaining and consumable by much bigger audiences.

One big suggestion along those lines is to stop making the video/audio recordings of the games an after thought. It’s great that every single game (except for the one GoT machine on the FINAL match!!) now has video set up, but the glare from the sun made it impossible to see scores and parts of the playfield. I’d also love to be able to hear the actual sounds of the game being played behind the commentary. If you want people to watch, make sure that the location/video/audio recording is just as important as the format of the tournament itself.

Second, is to forget about live commentary. Or maybe do some live commentary for the small dedicated audience that will watch as it’s happening, but I wish there were a team that was editing footage down, splicing different feeds together (while multiple matches are happening at the same time) and doing a more rehearsed commentary with prepared notes on games and a clearer story arc.

Then you can start talking about adding in technologies like slow-mo replays and telestration. But I don’t think doing that kind of thing live is really an option at this point.

I think this also relates back to the larger discussion on how to get competitive pinball on TV and in front of larger audiences, and I’m guessing the reason we can’t do this now is because we don’t have the money/time/talent/audience/sponsorship to create highly produced shows like I’m suggesting for these tournaments.

Anyways, that’s my dream.

And all that being said, I’ll also add that I love watching the live feeds as they are now (but I’m one of the highly dedicated - nerdy - few) and am really grateful that they even exist and are as good as they are. I’m also grateful for all of the folks that put all of their time and energy into making them what they are now. So thank you!


One thing that would be cool is tracking of a players progress through a game. e.g., if the game is iron man, number of whiplash hits, number of drones collected, etc. When a player is in multiball or something, it could switch to progress towards super jackpot, etc. The goal would be to give the viewer an idea of what the player is doing and what their strategy is. The difficulty of course is that every game will require its own programming just to display such information, which is a huge undertaking.


I like this idea. Again, something that could be much more easily accomplished in a recorded and edited program rather than a live stream.

Ha ha yeah that would be useful! I was playing XMen at EXPO and decided to check status to see what kind of progress I had. Fail. So if they had that kinda thing then I would know I had x locks etc. :slight_smile:

Sort of related, and maybe just a dream of mine:

Live stats on the current player/game/whatever for stuff like unforced errors, shot accuracy, points per minute, backhands, percentage of shots from a cradle.

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Watching Live is the whole thrill of sports in general, right? The magic isn’t there when you know who is going to win. Sure, it’s much better for players to watch and study edited footage after-the-fact but it’s exhilarating to be in the audience and watch the entire game of Super Orbit change as Raymond repeatedly backhands the veri-target.

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I’ve wanted to do this. The best way I see it happening is to have some sort of hardware that can get the information from the game such as score and which switches are pressed and send that data in real time to a computer somewhere where stats can be tracked and calculations can be made and sent back to the broadcasting software.

I thoroughly second pretty much everything said here.

@timballs: There is some tournament footage by IE Pinball that uses telestration, and I’m absolutely with you that this is how tournament coverage should be done.

@jurfjurf:What you said about live commentary, I’m totally okay with it when it’s game focused. That’s sort of a compromise between catering to a live audience and having to do lots of work in after editing.

Also, talking about the botched GoT broadcast, I’m not sure why Trent as TD would choose the one machine that doesn’t have a video setup for the final game, but I guess he had his reasons. Whatever his reasons, though, at the time, as a lowly twitch subscriber, I was pretty angry with that machine choice. Reminded me of the IFPA 11 final game, only this time it wasn’t an honest mistake like back then.

(Sorry to talk in 3rd person about you, Trent; I don’t really know if you’re active here.)

As for twitch viewer numbers, I think that some things have been handled badly in the past:

  1. There absolutely has to be a direct line of communication from twitch viewers to the guys that are talking. It’s totally fine if it’s just “sorry, we can’t communicate right now, because we’re really focused on talking aobut the stuff that’s going on right now”, but most often it’s just unrelated talk, while people in the chat are getting told that the commentators for some reason have no access to it. Go back through the chat log of the last broadcast, there’s lots of people missing the person relaying the chat to the commentators (sorry I forgot your name), after she was gone.

  2. Banning twitch raids? Sorry, this doesn’t make any sense to me. I get how spam isn’t a good thing, but this isn’t spam. Those are actual people that followed a recommendation. In an ideal world, those guys would not only be allowed to hang around, which is a basic courtesy, but they would actually get some kind of reaction from the commentators, like explaining what’s going on in the game right now on a basic level to make it interesting to some random strays.

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Stupuid greg, always sitting in your view.

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I’m not totally familiar with the situation, but are people actually upset with a player choosing games that are not hooked up to be broadcast?

Competition comes first, broadcast second and all that…


He picked that game because he had liked how it played in qualifying, and also had played maybe 10 competitive games on it throughout the playoffs. When winning a free pinball machine is on the line, you tend to disregard the cameras if you believe it will help your chances.


I think the biggest problem currently is video quality. If a stream is going to be less of a coutesy for viewers and more of a production for the sake of putting competetive pinball on display, something needs to be done to get production levels up. Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of the technicalities of streaming so I’m not sure what to suggest other than more/better lighting specifically for the game banks.

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Lots of interesting ideas mentioned here, but they all require some serious money flowing into pinball broadcasting. Referencing professional sports technology is cool and all, but that’s comparing the tools of multi-million dollar industry vs. volunteer work and a kickstarter.

The advancements in broadcast quality we’ve seen through PAPAtv, IEpinball and others over the last few years have been really significant. Go back and watch a video from 2012 and see how far it’s come in just a few years. I’m sure those who are committed to capturing tournament pinball will add some new features as they’re able, but I’m definitely happy with what we have right now and wouldn’t want to make anyone working hard on the technical side feel underappreciated by asking for too much too soon.


The situation was that there were two GoT machines in the bank, and only one of those was rigged for broadcasting, so people have been watching perfectly fine GoT games all day, only to realize that the most important match of the tournament would be played on the single one machine without a camera setup.

Of course no one’s to blame, Trent can do whatever the hell he wants, and the broadcasting team make do with whatever they got, but there’s still no question that it was a letdown for people watching the whole thing on twitch. I get the chat’s reaction – at that moment it very much felt like the broadcast was just an afterthought, as @jurfjurf suggested.

“I can feel the bonus points in my blood”

Picking one GOT over another has real strategic implications.

Who knows what became of that repainted bobby orr. probably in some film producers basement lol :slight_smile: