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


Yes you can. (You can also make your own with a few alligator clips and an audio jack) There is also an pricey mod to directly import the dmd as well.


The only problem with trying to get direct audio and video off machines is:

  1. It’s very intrusive into the machine.
  2. Many more wires and components being added to an already mess of wires.
  3. Anything DIRECTLY touching a pinball machine leading to a computer you can expect to be ripped out or unplugged due to the amount of nudging
    4.Anything touching the machine or coming out of it is asking for it to be complained about by people in tournaments as a distraction.


It’s like they filmed our league. Eerie.


But I wouldn’t want just the sound taken from the boards. You’ve got to hear the flippers flipping and all that. If it’s just the game sound taken directly from the boards that would be very weird.


Regarding the broadcasts, I and others enjoy them immensely. :smile:

What I’d like to see more:

  1. Greater interaction with the chat room, not just for game questions, but could take cues from other spectator sports. Have polls (“who do you think will win this 4-player matchup?”), throw out an occasional trivia question to win a t-shirt. “James Jackpot hails from Austin. Any Austin folks in the chat room?”

  2. More player info. “5 time world champion Bowen Kerins of New Hampshire squares off against defending champion etc.” Fighting game tournaments these days usually get a pic and a quote from their top contenders they can use to set the stage between matches.

  3. More play by play. I like when the conversation drifts but I prefer it when the focus is the game. And as much as possible the ‘how’ should accompany the ‘what’. “He’s working toward the next Sparky multi.” "We (i.e. players) all know what that means. “He’s working toward the next Sparky multiball with shots to that center electric chair.” That’s much clearer to casuals, particularly if the announcer says it and then the player bricks a shot or something else happens during gameplay. The casual thinks “Wait… what was he aiming for?”

  4. Better advertising of the streams. I rarely see mention of the streams on forums. A few days in advance of the event is a great opportunity to let everyone know and do sponsor shout-outs. Also, maybe one of the game-switching graphics could include the date of the next stream event (if known, of course).



Feedback on your (very good) comments:

Right now, at some events, someone has to “ferry” the chat room questions to the announcers; they don’t always come in on devices in front of us. I assume you’d like all of the announcers to have chat room comment access to facilitate two-way conversation?

Re the “poll the viewers, who do you think will win?” we could do that at the beginning of a match when there’s just one match that we’ll be following at that time. Earlier in the broadcast, when there’s more switching between matches, it’s less practical.

Do the viewers want us to poll them re which match to follow? Start with one of our choice, then switch if possible if there’s a consensus? That does pose the issue of “broadcast for now” vs. “broadcast for posterity,” though. The match live viewers most want to see may not be the best one to archive.

We use the IFPA profiles to identify the home states and significant accomplishments of the contestants, but it’s done now on an ad hoc basis. One bit of data most sports have that we don’t is the head-to-head records when it’s a two-player match.

Play-by-play vs. “drifting” focus varies a lot; some folks like the side chatter more than others, too. In the booth teams I’ve been on, we’ve tried to include the “how” with the “what,” but like anyone, sometimes we succeed better than others.

Announcing takes practice, too, and pinball announcers don’t get that many chances to hone their craft yet. But we try, and appreciate your indulgence as we learn.

Can’t help you on the advertising the streams angle; that’s up to those providing the gear.


This is totally doable. Just pop a dynamic mic on a stand and put it right up to one of the game’s speakers. Run it to your audio setup (may need to upgrade it if there aren’t enough channels available). Then you can adjust the levels in the broadcasting software so it doesn’t overpower the commentators (or implement a plugin that fades the game audio when there is commentary happening, and raises it back up when there’s not).


I realize not everything is possible or easy at this stage, and overall, I really enjoy all the streaming coverage!

Re: chat interaction, maybe one commentator could cover chat? At Expo there were three on the mic but maybe one could be monitoring chat, lining up questions/comments and when there’s a break in the action, such as the wait after a double-danger-drain, they jump in. “So-and-so from chat want’s to know…” I’ve seen this in previous streamed events and just wish it was a more prominent element in general.

One of the best things about pinball is that many of us are not just passive viewers, but players. You can go to big events and compete side-by-side against Andy Rosa, Jim Belsito, Jorian, Bowen, etc. It’s sort of the Chris Moneymaker thing. Viewers of the stream might not be able to attend that particular tournament, but they know the next big one is in their town, and it adds that “maybe me” element of rubbing elbows with top players and personalities.

Re: Polls. It could run the gammut but I like both of your ideas. A “who will win” poll would be more appropriate during Finals or semi-finals when game coverage starts locking in on certain games. It could also be more casual topics, like “what game are you most looking forward to” and so on.


Yah, I prefer it stick to play-by-play. There’s usually some downtime while they switch feeds to talk about other stuff.

I seem to recall a half hour in Italian during some match that I was halfway interested in.


Love hearing the feedback from everyone on this!

When I have the (super fun!) privilege of working the booth, I’m always trying to figure out the right balance of commentary. When we’re watching a game that’s very well known to the pinball community (TZ, TAF, AFM, etc), I’ll usually avoid commenting heavily on shot-by-shot strategy or game rules unless the player is doing something “unusual”, or if they’re coming up on a big stack/mode/etc. I liken this to watching something like pro football… I’d probably find it odd if the commentators repeated “well known” information. (“It’s 2nd and 8, that means they have 3 more plays to move the ball 8 yards, although they’ll probably kick it if they don’t make it after two plays.”) But on less common games or players who aren’t doing “the usual thing” on a game, I’ll try to focus much more on play-by-play, and throw in a nutshell summary of game rules when there’s a pause in the action.

Does that seem reasonable?


That’s cool Joe.

On a game like Addams, that’s probably an opportunity to talk more about technique and ball control.

It’s just more fun for me when the commentators are focused on the moment. It feels good when everyone goes “ohhh!” right along with me.


The writing on the screen they do on Karl’s streams is sweet…would be even better if it was used on replays.


We have formal IFPA/PAPA tournament rules and i think there should be these types of formalities if PAPA is going to bring there cameras to an event and stream.

All machines used in finals competition should have a camera.

Thought/Planning put in place to reduce glare from glass.

Interview finalists after the event.

Formal schedule of what is going to be streamed.

For PAPA/Pinburgh they’d have a scoreboard.


Speaking just for myself, I generally enjoy broadcasts of rather unknown machines more than of frequently played ones, which comes down to two reasons:

  1. With less common machines, I feel like I know just as much about what’s going on as everybody else, which is nice. I think the assumption that the target audience of the streams already knows everything there is to know about TZ strategy is wrong. I’m assuming many of the people watching the streams are just like me, i.e. people who enjoy hearing about strategies and seeing them executed, but can’t remember those intricacies from stream to stream, because they just don’t have the opportunity to play many of those machines at their leisure or reinforce their game knowledge in any other way. That’s where I think the comparison to football doesn’t really work, because it’s pretty easy to get into a game like football that works exactly the same every time you switch on the TV.

  2. With less common machines, it’s less likely that there are any “wow did you just see that save” moments that are not being acknowledged by the commentators at all. If the conversation drifts off into something other than rules and strategy, because those are assumed to be well known for something like TZ, it should still stick to the game at hand at some level. When I’m feeling like I’m the only one actually watching the game, while the commentators are talking about the weather, because they’ve already seen everything that is to see on that machine, I’m not having a good time.

I don’t remember at which events you were in the booth, so this isn’t any personal feedback at all, but I think game focused commentary could make any match a very interesting watch, no matter the technical limitations.


Thanks, that’s exactly what I meant to say when I was wondering why Trent would choose that one game without camera setup. There has been lots of work done on both sides, but it just doesn’t seem like a concerted effort.


I think @PinballNarcissist already said so but Trent played better on that machine so he picked it. I totally agree with his choice and don’t think the broadcast needs to be taken into account at that point. I personally liked the left one better :smile:


I certainly agree with you… but some games tend to have a tournament approach that’s very commonly used by advanced players (and advanced players get most of the broadcast time, so you see those approaches a lot). For example, let’s say we’re watching a match on Medieval, and most of the players are opting for the “pound the castles” strategy. We can talk a while about how the scoring works for that strategy, vs. some of the other strategies (Barnyard Multiball all day, baby! :wink: ). We can talk about the mechanics of the live catch that players make as the ball returns down the left orbit, and techniques to avoid center drains when the drawbridge is down. But at some point, as everyone is watching the 100th consecutive shot at the castle… I’d suggest that it’s better for everyone to let the commentary drift from a strict play-by-play. Talking about the player’s bio or play style, or their 11th hour qualification that got them into the playoffs, or whatever… that helps the viewers get more engaged with the competitors.

IMHO, the role of the commentators is to help educate and entertain the viewers. That’s a continuum, and the commentary can wander back and forth along that continuum. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But I certainly agree with you that the commentators should never act like they’re bored, or that they no longer give a crap about the game they’re watching, or fail to notice when something noteworthy happens in the game… if you ever get that feeling, and just aren’t having fun with the broadcast, then of course there’s room for improvement.

As @bmu noted, most of the commentators don’t have large amounts of prior broadcast experience, so we’re learning too… which is why I mentioned that I LOVE to hear the feedback. I know every time I finish a broadcast, I replay it in my head (and later on the net)… did I ramble on too much? Not explain things well enough for the viewers? Use some word over and over and over again? I can self-assess all day, but it’s great to hear what viewers think, and hopefully take that into account and do a better job next time!


Jill Golick is credited on this film as the "Pinball Advisor"
What a title!


If Trent got eliminated in an earlier round would he of removed the GoT without the camera from the competition?

As he would of been just the organizer/observer at that point I think he would of had more pressure to do so. This is why there should be more forethought & formalities put in place if PAPAtv is going to setup there gear.

I understand the PAPA team are “volunteers” and if this is the case their time and cost to setup should be respected a bit more. If an event is on the PAPA Circuit and PAPAtv will setup camera’s there might need to be some minor concessions made by the organizer.


@joe: Ever golfer trying an approach on a given hole is trying to do the same thing, too. They still talk about how it did or didn’t work. You can talk about how they’re catching, how they’re recovering the ball, how they nudge, how they adjust after misses, about the mental game of getting into or out of the zone. Etc.

Just because the macro-strategy is obvious doesn’t mean that micro-strategy, and playskill that you can see that I can’t because you are better than me are still there to talk about.

Why is Jorian so much better at kicking the crap out of the warp ramp than everyone else. Keith Elwin, Bowen Kerins, Andrei Massenkoff and Daniele Acciari are all really good players, or they wouldn’t be in this final, but they’re not good in the same ways: how will that affect things, and how are they different. Is there history you can talk about? ((Golf voice): “Well, Jim, back at PAPA 15…”)

Just don’t talk about your pizza. :smile: