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#1
Old 08-08-2012, 01:50 AM
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Why the tape at the finish line?

Huge discussion going on at the house. I need a reason for the tape/ribbon at the finish line of a race and is it still relevant today or just tradition.
#2
Old 08-08-2012, 02:37 AM
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Well, they tried updating to a line of compact disks, but the reflected sunlight was blinding.
#3
Old 08-08-2012, 02:43 AM
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I wanted to comeback with an equally witty remark but the late hour has dulled my wits.

And I was hoping you had the answer.
#4
Old 08-08-2012, 03:35 AM
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The tape provides a way to clearly see the winner of a foot race. The runners body will be canted forward and the tape will catch on the first person to have the upper part of their body cross the finish line. I assume there is high speed video now to accurately determine the winner in very close finishes.
#5
Old 08-08-2012, 03:42 AM
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To repair all those broken records?

(I got nothing.)
#6
Old 08-08-2012, 05:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
The tape provides a way to clearly see the winner of a foot race. The runners body will be canted forward and the tape will catch on the first person to have the upper part of their body cross the finish line. I assume there is high speed video now to accurately determine the winner in very close finishes.
Because of high speed video, they don't need the tape to determine the winner. I think that was the OP's point.

Some runners attempt to get a little ahead at the end of a close race by leaning forward right at the finish line. The tape gives them a target to lean towards.
#7
Old 08-08-2012, 05:45 AM
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I recognize that there's camera technology now that we didn't have in the past, so the tape is unnecessary. But really, do we all not want to know who won until the camera can be reviewed? That's kind of a downer, isn't it? Why not, put each runner on a treadmill, calculate their rate of speed, and declare a winner -- to take the technology to a ridiculous extreme. I guess the tape break by sticking your chest forward seems a little like cheating, but this is a foot ace between humans, after all. 'Course now, the only image in my mind is the race in trailer for The Dictator. 'Kay boys, I'm done running, bring the tape up.
#8
Old 08-08-2012, 06:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arkcon View Post
I recognize that there's camera technology now that we didn't have in the past, so the tape is unnecessary. But really, do we all not want to know who won until the camera can be reviewed? That's kind of a downer, isn't it? Why not, put each runner on a treadmill, calculate their rate of speed, and declare a winner -- to take the technology to a ridiculous extreme. I guess the tape break by sticking your chest forward seems a little like cheating, but this is a foot ace between humans, after all. 'Course now, the only image in my mind is the race in trailer for The Dictator. 'Kay boys, I'm done running, bring the tape up.
Modern timing systems incorporate a computer with the finish camera and can show results within a few seconds.
#9
Old 08-08-2012, 06:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runner pat View Post
Modern timing systems incorporate a computer with the finish camera and can show results within a few seconds.
But still, not seeing the winner emerge right as it happens would be a huge downer. The results list, coming mere seconds after, and the slow-mo replay, are like cuddling after the big O that was the end of the actual race.
#10
Old 08-08-2012, 07:41 AM
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They hardly ever use finishing tapes these days, except in long-distance road races like the marathon and triathlon.

In fact you could argue that using the finishing tape actually made the result harder to spot in the women's triathlon at the Olympics last weekend. That resulted in a photo-finish, which showed the separation was less than one hundredth of a second, but to my eye it would be a lot easier to pick the winner without that big ribbon obscuring their torsos!

Edit: in this view you can see that the finish tape was actually held a couple of feet before the line (presumably so as not to interfere with the photo-finish camera), which could have cost the winner, Spirig (no 43) the race. You can see she was leaning back and slowing down as she hit the tape, so by the time they reached the line Lisa Norden had almost caught her.

Last edited by Colophon; 08-08-2012 at 07:44 AM.
#11
Old 08-08-2012, 08:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arkcon View Post
Why not, put each runner on a treadmill
Nawww, that'll never take off.
#12
Old 08-08-2012, 08:11 AM
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It would be horribly cruel to replace the tape with unbreakable material. Hint, hint.
#13
Old 08-08-2012, 08:16 AM
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Don't forget that there are many levels of running competition and all don't have access to high speed video. I have been involved with high school track and the tape (a piece of yarn around here) is very helpful in determining where the finish line actually is.
#14
Old 08-08-2012, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Hi Medlo View Post
Don't forget that there are many levels of running competition and all don't have access to high speed video. I have been involved with high school track and the tape (a piece of yarn around here) is very helpful in determining where the finish line actually is.
We use very small, orange cones placed on the lane lines to mark the finish. Too many people at the finish for timing and placing to add more.
#15
Old 08-08-2012, 11:08 AM
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Moved to the Game Room.

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#16
Old 08-08-2012, 11:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arkcon View Post
Why not, put each runner on a treadmill, calculate their rate of speed, and declare a winner -- to take the technology to a ridiculous extreme.
because then the stadium wouldn't have to be so big and you wouldn't have so many spectators.

but they could use treadmills to power the score displays. maybe a cost saving idea.

Last edited by johnpost; 08-08-2012 at 11:09 AM.
#17
Old 08-08-2012, 11:40 AM
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I think the main reason the tape was there in the first place was so the runners would have some idea where the finish line was. It's not a completely accurate mark of the finish line, especially when there's a lot of wind.

Today, it's pretty much there just for the camera shots of the winner crossing the line, which is why it's usually around one meter high. In fact, in the women's triathlon, the tape made it harder to determine the winner from the photo finish camera, as it obscured part of one of the runners.
#18
Old 08-08-2012, 12:05 PM
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Um, wasn't the tape originally paper, in the stopwatch era, so it would be broken by the winning runner? If the finish was close, the position of the break would determine it.
#19
Old 08-08-2012, 12:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
Um, wasn't the tape originally paper, in the stopwatch era, so it would be broken by the winning runner? If the finish was close, the position of the break would determine it.
I remember actual tapes meant to stick to the chest of the leading runner. When I was in Jr. High (the last time I was involved in track) they were made of plastic, but occasionally something like a crepe paper streamer was used. They were lightly attached at either end. There were probably a number of ways to do it.

I don't know if they ever used the same method for photo finishes for humans as horses, but a special camera was required at the horse track. I don't recall the details, but I think a sliding shutter that approximated the speed of the horses was used to be sure that the normal shutter speed didn't produce a false image. The results was weird elongated pictures of the horses as they crossed the line.
#20
Old 08-08-2012, 01:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
I don't know if they ever used the same method for photo finishes for humans as horses, but a special camera was required at the horse track. I don't recall the details, but I think a sliding shutter that approximated the speed of the horses was used to be sure that the normal shutter speed didn't produce a false image. The results was weird elongated pictures of the horses as they crossed the line.
They still do use the same method (well, a digital version of the original film technique). The photo-finish camera records a very narrow strip of the finish line over a long duration, as I linked to in the triathlon example above. Notice how objects that are stationary or slow-moving get smeared out, because they stay in the same position over a long period of time. (In this example, the athletes' feet that land exactly on the line get stretched right out.) Note also how the track appears white, even though the ground was blue. That's because the entire width of the photograph is of the finish line itself, which is white.

Same with track events: Here is the photo finish of the 100 metres. The track appears white, with black lane lines, whereas in fact the track is red, with a white finish line and black lane dividers on the finish line itself. That thin strip of finish line is what you see on the whole width of the photograph, and that's also the reason Bolt appears to be wearing a clown shoe. Also notice the double black tick line between lanes 4 and 5, which produces the double black line visible halfway down the photo-finish picture. That helps the judges identify the lanes more easily.

(If you're wondering why the Omega and London 2012 logos appear correctly, it's because they are printed on a rapidly revolving cylinder directly level with the finish line, synchronised in speed to the finish camera.)

Last edited by Colophon; 08-08-2012 at 01:13 PM.
#21
Old 08-08-2012, 01:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
They still do use the same method (well, a digital version of the original film technique)...
Thanks for the info. I neglected to look at the links in your previous post. I would have thought by now they'd have a series of very high speed normal pictures to resolve this, but this is probably a more practical method, and through it's traditional use less controversial (because every little change at the Olympics is a controversy).

And I think I'd have a problem with actual clown shoes being an unfair advantage in the race
#22
Old 08-08-2012, 01:22 PM
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Thanks, Colophon - I found that fascinating (genuinely!).
#23
Old 08-08-2012, 01:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Thanks for the info. I neglected to look at the links in your previous post. I would have thought by now they'd have a series of very high speed normal pictures to resolve this, but this is probably a more practical method, and through it's traditional use less controversial (because every little change at the Olympics is a controversy).
The "scanning" photofinish camera is really the only practical method, or at least certainly by far the best. Rather than having a series of high-speed pictures, and having to look at different pictures as each person crosses the line, with a photo-finish camera, the exact moment that every athlete crosses the line is all there on one photograph - and you can read the exact finishing time for each runner, down to the thousandth of a second, off the time-scale at the bottom. In the triathlon pic, for example, the vertical red lines show the times were about 1:59:48.609 and 1:59:48.618. Less than one hundredth of a second after almost two hours of racing. (And it would have been easier to get the lines in exactly the right place without that bloody great ribbon, of course!)


It's a pretty neat invention, really.

Last edited by Colophon; 08-08-2012 at 01:28 PM.
#24
Old 08-08-2012, 02:52 PM
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So, if I'm understanding it right (based on some other articles) these photo finish cameras are basically like a specialized movie camera but the frames are displayed over a horizontal dimension, rather than as a sequence of images, correct?

Curse you SD, for making me figure out yet another thing.
#25
Old 08-08-2012, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by dstarfire View Post
So, if I'm understanding it right (based on some other articles) these photo finish cameras are basically like a specialized movie camera but the frames are displayed over a horizontal dimension, rather than as a sequence of images, correct?
The photo finish camera.
#26
Old 08-08-2012, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by dstarfire View Post
So, if I'm understanding it right (based on some other articles) these photo finish cameras are basically like a specialized movie camera but the frames are displayed over a horizontal dimension, rather than as a sequence of images, correct?
Yep. You could imagine it as taking a series of very tall thin photos of the finish line and pasting them one after the other from right to left to make one big image.

A bizarre consequence of this is that it doesn't matter which direction the runners cross the line in - they will always appear in the same orientation on the photo, as demonstrated by the photo of the runner and the cyclist halfway down this page. That messed with my head, but if you think about how the image is assembled, it starts to make sense. Note the shadows, too.

In this instance, the sun was shining from the left. So the runner's shadow is pointing right as it should be: first his shadow crossed the line, then his right leg and left hand, then his body and finally his trailing hand. After he crossed the line, the cyclist's front wheel crossed - from the right - then the rest of his bike and finally his shadow (because it was behind his direction of movement, whereas the runner's shadow was ahead of his direction of movement).

Last edited by Colophon; 08-08-2012 at 03:18 PM.
#27
Old 08-08-2012, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
A bizarre consequence of this is that it doesn't matter which direction the runners cross the line in - they will always appear in the same orientation on the photo, as demonstrated by the photo of the runner and the cyclist halfway down this page. That messed with my head, but if you think about how the image is assembled, it starts to make sense.
Now that photo is way cool! I didn't realize what was going on until I read the note about the shadows.
#28
Old 08-08-2012, 07:00 PM
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I think the the tape might provide a nice additional keepsake for the winner.
#29
Old 08-08-2012, 07:24 PM
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Tradition. As many have explained, not needed anymore. But I don't see why it's bothersome to keep in some events.

Last edited by RedFury; 08-08-2012 at 07:27 PM.
#30
Old 08-16-2012, 01:26 AM
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I think a toddler should stand in each lane and the first toddler to be knocked over indicates the winner.
#31
Old 08-16-2012, 10:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
The "scanning" photofinish camera is really the only practical method, or at least certainly by far the best. Rather than having a series of high-speed pictures, and having to look at different pictures as each person crosses the line, with a photo-finish camera, the exact moment that every athlete crosses the line is all there on one photograph - and you can read the exact finishing time for each runner, down to the thousandth of a second, off the time-scale at the bottom. In the triathlon pic, for example, the vertical red lines show the times were about 1:59:48.609 and 1:59:48.618. Less than one hundredth of a second after almost two hours of racing. (And it would have been easier to get the lines in exactly the right place without that bloody great ribbon, of course!)


It's a pretty neat invention, really.
Does someone have to manually mark each runner's chest on the photo, or is there some magic that the camera has to put in the vertical lines?
#32
Old 08-16-2012, 11:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
A bizarre consequence of this is that it doesn't matter which direction the runners cross the line in - they will always appear in the same orientation on the photo, as demonstrated by the photo of the runner and the cyclist halfway down this page. That messed with my head, but if you think about how the image is assembled, it starts to make sense. Note the shadows, too.
Oddly, that one image doesn't load for me.
#33
Old 08-17-2012, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
Oddly, that one image doesn't load for me.
Me either, using Internet Explorer 8. I opened it in in Chrome with no problem.
#34
Old 08-17-2012, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by NoCoolUserName View Post
Does someone have to manually mark each runner's chest on the photo, or is there some magic that the camera has to put in the vertical lines?
It's done manually. Good story here involving Allyson Felix at the USA Olympics trials.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/201...moh/index.html


Quote:
To determine times and places, Jennings uses a wireless mouse to place a vertical line on athletes' torsos, from first to last. Once the line is in place, he inputs the lane number of the athlete, hits "enter," and the software spits out a time, and that time is immediately posted to the stadium scoreboard.
#35
Old 08-17-2012, 07:39 PM
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Is there a particular reason that the standard for finishing involves the torso? It strikes me from the photo finishes I've seen that it would be easier to change the rule to allow any body part to cross the line. In both the triathlon and the 100m at the Olympic trials, the photos distinctly show a winner by that standard.
#36
Old 08-17-2012, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by President Johnny Gentle View Post
Is there a particular reason that the standard for finishing involves the torso? It strikes me from the photo finishes I've seen that it would be easier to change the rule to allow any body part to cross the line. In both the triathlon and the 100m at the Olympic trials, the photos distinctly show a winner by that standard.
Before finish line cameras/auto-timimg systems, it was the good old human eyeball. Far easier to focus on one spot(chest usually) rather than trying to spot a hand or foot in the flurry of motion at the finish.
#37
Old 08-17-2012, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by runner pat View Post
Before finish line cameras/auto-timimg systems, it was the good old human eyeball. Far easier to focus on one spot(chest usually) rather than trying to spot a hand or foot in the flurry of motion at the finish.
Definitely understandable. I was more wondering if there was any compelling reason against changing the rules at this point in time?
#38
Old 08-17-2012, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by President Johnny Gentle View Post
Definitely understandable. I was more wondering if there was any compelling reason against changing the rules at this point in time?
Probably because you want the time to reflect how long it took for the body to cross the line, not who has the longest arm.
#39
Old 08-22-2012, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by runner pat View Post
Probably because you want the time to reflect how long it took for the body to cross the line, not who has the longest arm.
And also because it would invalidate all previous world records, which were set by the torso. For example, in Usain Bolt's 9.58 second 100m record run, the photofinish shows that his foot crossed the line at 9.53 seconds. If the rules were changed, runners would dive for the line with outstretched arms and maybe gain 0.1 seconds or more, making comparisons with past performances impossible.

Last edited by Colophon; 08-22-2012 at 09:05 PM.
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