Strobing the Final Four, The End of an Era?

Sports Illustrated strobed its first NCAA Final Four in 1964 in Kansas City ‘s Municipal Auditorium and five years later, began using big strobes at Final Fours for all the years since.

The early days required huge Ascor strobes with four 1000–watt/second condensers with a quick charger on each of the four light clusters.

As the tournament moved to indoor football arenas in 1962, the requirments for the long throws took the magazine back to large clusters of lights in the four corners.But until last year, those arenas were configured to use half the dome for basketball.

Last year at Detroit’s Ford Field, the entire football arena was used and the high lifts used on one side disappeared. And the costs went up. Way up. Particularly when SI provided two additional sets of lights to pool with others who wanted time on strobes.

In the meantime, there were other changes beginning with cameras such as the Nikon D3s which make high quality possible without the strobes. And at the same time, new arenas are lighting from the same places as the strobes were placed in the ceiling providing light coming from the same directions — and looking much like strobe lighting.

Thus this year at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, there will be no strobes. The 41-year run has ended.

SI’s director of photography, Steve Fine, said it would cost $25,000 just to get power to the locations and the total bill to strobe the arena would top $50,000. SI will strobe some early round and regional games where the lighting isn’t good or in some cases, where there are already strobes in place.

But it is not just the cost that is potentially ending an era — the camera technology has advanced to the place strobes aren’t needed for high quality pictures.

1984 Photo Copyright Rich Clarkson

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