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The kiss cam combines technology, true love, and heartless capitalism

It’s one of the most pervasive additions to the world of sports in recent memory, and yet its origins are shrouded in mystery and speculation. Now, the diligent researchers of Vox have laid bare the innermost secrets of that modern miracle of affection-based technology, the kiss cam, in a brand new behind-the-scenes video. As it turns out, it takes a lot of work to guilt spectators into smooching awkwardly when their images are projected onto a stadium’s all-seeing Jumbotron. Though the kiss cam’s domain is vast (even Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson do the cam’s bidding), this particular mini-documentary was filmed during an NBA game at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. As the video reveals, there’s a whole world of activity occurring at such an event, and much of it has nothing to do with the game itself. “The kiss cam,” proclaims the narrator, “is the story of a high-tech theatrical production and a business model, falling in love.”

The video centers around a man named Zak Grim, identified as the manager of “game entertainment” for the Washington Wizards. What does that mean? “Anything that happens in the arena bowl on a game night that is not the game of basketball,” Grim himself explains. During an NBA game, wearing his trusty headset, he is always on the lookout for entertaining images to broadcast on the Jumbotron screen. This means that he’s in constant communication with a team of employees who work in a dark, windowless control room, where the only illumination comes from a bank of monitors. This is the same team that once managed to put Barack and Michelle Obama on the kiss cam. The kiss cam is just one of the non-basketball options for Grim and his cohorts; others include dancers and various contests. Some smoochers are recruited in advance—especially the ones who have to participate in little skits—but the people behind the kiss cam insist that the public displays of affection are genuine. But, alas, the real reason behind the kiss cam’s existence is that it provides a great opportunity for some eye-catching advertisements.

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[via Laughing Squid]

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