9 innovations NFL MLB NBA NHL 1

The Top 4 of the main sports competitions in the USA, the NFL (Football), MLB (Baseball), NBA (Basketball) and NHL (Ice Hockey) continue to innovate year after year to implement new audiovisual resources that help create broadcasts that are as spectacular as they are explanatory. Although each sport has its particularities, there are techniques that, with the right approach, could permeate the king of Ibero-America: soccer.

At a time when audiovisual entertainment transforms its formats, durations and staging hegemonic, sport remains intrinsically legacies to its foundational pillars. Soccer is an example of this situation. Directly, your 90 minutes long, with its respective intermission and stoppage times, contradicts the main style manuals of generation Z.

Given the suggestions of a part of the industry to modify the rules of the sport to make it more attractive for new industries, the private initiative has encountered a dilemma. On the one hand, some agents have opted to play as much as possible with the rules of the game to transform it into the visual show that so many requested and build the Kings League with its derivatives: a football competition with a reduced scope, but with a notable investment in broadcast technology that combines football and entertainment, as transferred to Panorama Audiovisual Alex Miñana (director) and Raul Alarcon (Highvideo technical director).

The other alternative is the one that the main football competitions are betting on: playing with broadcast limits in favor of engagement and immersiveness. He UHD with NGA elements It is already applied by the British BT Sport for the Premier League, betting on image fidelity, while the A league adopt a remote production model for several seasons now. Meanwhile, LaLiga, through Mediapro, is committed to multiple alternatives of realization that largely take influence from the video game (with cinema cameras with steady on the field or the camera shots in set plays) and look into the eyes of the new generations, who have the streamers like idols putting the focus on the narrator at the moment when they score a goal. These are a few of dozens of other initiatives augmented reality, statistics, cable cameras o drones employed by the Catalan company.

Globecast - Gravity Media - Stadium Football

Innovation in football

Before a immovable fifa Regarding the rules of football in the near future, the path of audiovisual innovation will continue to be an important value for the federations to guarantee the monitoring of the hearings, which should guarantee the million-dollar contracts that move the beautiful sport throughout Europe. R&D teams and think tanks related to the sports world work tirelessly to search new technological solutions that provide more possibilities to productions. Others will look for value outside our borders, whether through international forums, bilateral meetings, open days of competitions that share their latest technological progress or the democratization offered by Internet access to be able to appreciate the steps that other colleagues have taken.

The NFL (Football), MLB (Baseball), NBA (Basketball) and NHL (Ice Hockey) are four of the greatest world references when it comes to sports broadcasts of team sports (excluding, in the process, motor sports). Every year, they invest millions of euros in creating top-level broadcast productions. Although at times these leagues have been inspired by formats and technologies in some of the processes implemented in football on the old continent, all of them are also applying interesting approaches that, with appropriate treatment, could become part of the football broadcasts.

9 innovations NHL MLB NBA NHL - Futbol CC 2 (Photo: Thomson20192)

1. Alternative uses of cable-cam (NFL)

The NFL, the main league of what is known in Europe as football, credit is often taken for using the first cable-cam in a sports broadcast. The anniversary takes us back 40 years, when a limited version of the system captured a preseason game between the San Diego Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers. The system would be abandoned in favor of other resources to make its triumphant return in the Super Bowl LI (2017) with a great reception from the public, especially by the tactical nature of the shots.

The world of football has innovated in the use of cable-cam for more than a decade, offering an unprecedented approach to the plays. In this sense, the NFL does not discover any new technology, but it does alternative explorations to these tools from an imaginative prism. One of the most frequent applications has been the deployment of of systems cable-cam in the same stadium, as used in Super Bowl LVII (2023). Specifically, they set up a 4K camera and a camera super slow-motion that would serve to live shots, replays and augmented reality applications. Both chambers coexist, being located at different heights, ofreciendo una un análisis más táctico de la disposición de los jugadores; un uso que Mark Lazarus, responsable de la división de Broadcasting & Sports de NBC, atribuyó a la “influencia de videojuegos como Madden” in 2018 on the official portal of the NFL. The cablecam The main team, for its part, is closer to the playing field to closely follow each athlete.

Other alternative applications used in dating such as Super Bowl LIV (2020) was the deployment of cable-cam to take shots from the exterior to the interior of the stadium through the building structure, offering a new context for encounters in situations in which drone systems may be limited.

9 innovations NFL MLB NBA NHL - Futbol NHL NextGen Stats NFL

2. Individualized player tracking (NFL)

The tyranny of data has become a variable imprescindible for the strategic planning of the coaches, which in the face of conditioned sensations allows a detailed analysis of the players' performance. There are dozens of specialized tools, whether they are proprietary to the football leagues themselves or third-party systems, such as the Italian one. Wyscout, which benefits from data collection to provide specific data about each of the players, or the tool Mediacoach.

The NFL began a journey in 2013 with the testing of these tools of GPS, infrared, RFID tags and radio frequency based solutions in order to collect detailed information, delivering this data in real time under the name Next Gen Stats (NGS) to broadcasters in 2015 and expanding its possibilities in 2020 with machine-learning in 2020. In this way, from collecting individualized parameters of distance traveled or maximum speed, it was now included probabilities of success or prediction of yards traveled.

The essential tactical importance of American football, as well as the refinement of the NGS system, has caused the most recent version of this system, which benefits from tags RFID y photo sensors (in Spain this data is captured through 16 optical tracking cameras and three tactical cameras), be used in depth in broadcasts since the data is provided in real time with different representation options to television stations. According to Keegan Abdoo, part of the NGS team, Prime Video includes in its broadcasts 95% of the data that is delivered in real time through an exclusive channel to see each encounter with the data offered in real time.

Aside from these applications, which have been explored to a greater or lesser extent within football, the NFL has favored the use of second screens (in the style of motor racing broadcasts) through NGS Live. This system, accessible openly through its web portal, provides sports followers with the possibility of having detailed and individualized statistics in real time of the match, including keys such as the movement and monitoring of each of the players in real time.

9 innovaciones NFL MLB NBA NHL - Futbol NHL Slow motion NFL

3. Technologies slow motion via software (NFL)

The cameras of slow motion y ultra slow motion They are a consolidated constant in the world of football. In LaLiga, They have been used for more than a decade, having their greatest role in highly relevant meetings such as the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. In The classic on March 20, 2022, in fact, Mediapro decided to deploy a total of 10 super slow cameras: 4 high speed y 6 super slow motion.

The NFL continues to support the use of this type of cameras in stadiums, but the improvement of camera sensors, the use of UHD resolutions with cameras up to 8K and progress in software processing of the signals produced are pushing to the competition to a recruitment model in which any camera can become a slow motion. Specifically, the NFL benefits from technology Xtramotion de EVS, based on cloud-based processing services and algorithms evolved with artificial intelligence. However, the NFL used a pilot system hosted at the stadium facilities for Super Bowl LVII (2023) to reduce processing times and scale the costs. 60 fps y 180 fps from their cameras to 180 fps y 540 fps, respectively.

The system, which opens the door to significant versatility and which will presumably be applied in a similar way with more and more companies, has already taken its first steps in the world of football, with its inclusion in the i like of Champions League matches offered by NVP for Sky Italia.

4. Customized drones inside the stadium (MLB)

Just as the NFL has the Super Bowl, a game that delivers world-class innovations year after year, the number one league dedicated to baseball in the United States has its own special meetings in which the efforts of their teams are presented in society engineering and realization. In the last game MLB All-Star Game, held on July 11 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, an agreement was reached to include for the first time the use of drones inside the stadiums during the development of the game. Of course, to guarantee the safety of the fans, these personalized systems that mount a camera with a stabilizer dreadlocks They are only used at times when there is no risk of being hit by one of the balls: in the presentations of the players or in the different innings of the party.

In Spain, there is important legislation regarding the use of drones, as stated este artículo ofrecido por Bardaji & Honrado en Panorama Audiovisual. However, it would be easy to imagine the use of these devices in the player introduction, in the moments of tension during the review of a play in the VAR or at the time of changes under the expertise of a professional operator.

5. Dirtcam: at ground level (MLB)

In football, the playing field is sacred. Except for the incursion of cameras at the foot of the field during goal celebrations or at the end of matches, FIFA is completely reluctant to include cameras that, in some way, may interfere in the development of the action under arguments such as the protection of the integrity of the players. Special mention is the approval odyssey of new solutions, which is usually accompanied by extensive procedures and long testing processes.

The MLB has used since 2015 to regulate my calls Dirtcam, a microscope camera wireless based on RF that protrudes only 4 millimeters and is located in various locations of the playing field. From this system excavated underground emerges a tiny prisma, which has protection against water, shocks and footsteps, has control pan-tilt and allows us to offer a privileged view of some of the most spectacular moments of the action.

In the absence of studying a possible location given the length of grass in stadiums (20-30 mm), the possibility of seeing the hit of a ball at ground level or observe how a ball hits the post in a goal could bring unprecedented immersion to the playing field.

9 innovations NFL MLB NBA NHL - NBA Soccer kits

6. Sensors in sports kits (NBA)

The biometrics, whether it comes from internal or external capture systems, is an important addition that provides context on some of the most decisive events in sporting events. They have already been tested in olympic trials, events in which the cameras have managed to capture the pulse of the different athletes at key moments, something that could be applied in the same way between the kicker and goalkeeper at the moment of the decisive penalty of the shootout.

Aside from these resources (we remember that the main sports leagues have their main statistics systems provided by collection systems), there is significant interest in continuing to capture data with different methods. Among them, the latest NBA agreement signed with the Canadian company comes. Plantiga, a company that integrates sensor systems into players shoes to understand keys such as injury mechanisms, performance demands, loads and asymmetries of athletes. In the case of football, the ability to capture parameters such as speed, cadence, contact with the ground, acceleration, duration of the race or the height of the saints would offer new parameters to integrate into broadcasts, especially in defensive disputes with peak speed or in the jumps when finishing a ball in the corners.

Another company that reached an agreement with the NBA was Nextiles, which joins tissues with semiconductors so that these promote metrics such as time in the air, jump momentum, symmetry between legs (especially important for injury prevention) and forces applied at different moments of the game. The Portuguese Football League has already been working in this regard for several years, including sensors in the different clothing of its footballers.

Disguise - Trail Blazers - AR - Augmented reality - graphics

7. AR applied to handheld/shoulder cameras (NBA)

The augmented reality has become a constant in sports broadcasts, either providing data associated with a play (such as the positioning of players on the field of play), or benefiting from the image processing and mixed reality to replace the advertisements surrounding the playing field with personalized advertising by markets.

The application of augmented reality is not so common non-falsified on the field of play using cameras handhell, a process for which Trail Blazers has created a custom workflow based on technology Disguise y Support. The team's production team installed a tracking hardware in the stadium that used the tracking system RedSpy with a infrared camerashots that were aimed at the markers on the roof of the pavilion. Next, a multimedia server which enabled the use of real-time augmented reality graphics with data integration.

In the absence of roofs in the vast majority of football stadiums, and without the possibility of applying these references on the playing field, the installation of beacons arranged in key points around the stadium, similar to the proposals of the museum and retail environments, could be a proposal for the integration of this type of alternatives, although the industry requires much more accurate solutions to add this type of elements that would help to continue delving into the immersiveness in sports broadcasts.

9 innovations NFL MLB NBA NHL - Futbol NHL puck

8. Sensors integrated into soccer balls (NHL)

The ball for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar included a small sensor created by Kinexon. Integrated into the heart of each ball and weighing just 14 grams, this system included a ultra wide band sensor (UWB) to position the location of the ball in real time, and a inertial measurement (IMU) to detect the subtle movements of the object in the space. Through these solutions, sent in real time, processed with AI and coordinated with the tracking solutions of Hawk-Eye, work was carried out on the “semi-automatic offside”, a new system that is expected to become a standard in the game in the coming seasons. FIFA.

Data collection through the game ball is just the tip of the iceberg for endless statistics that can be extracted in real time through these sensors. The NHL, the favorite ice hockey competition in the United States, is several years ahead of FIFA and the vast majority of professional soccer leagues, since since 2021, each of the disks is dedicated to providing data. The big difference is that this sensorization does not come from inside the ball, but from a series of sensors arranged on the surface of the disk y tracked by between 16 and 28 cameras.

This recruitment system, trained and evolved day by day with solutions based on AI and the processing of AWS, ended up forming the proposal NHL Edge, a system that offers metrics such as shot quality, stop quality, distance traveled, shot heatmaps or speed. The combination of the sensor systems included inside the ball, along with the arrangement of sensors external to the ball, could offer a myriad of alternatives to continue delving deeper into the world of statistics and their inclusion in broadcasts.

9. Creation of alternative realities (NHL)

At the beginning of 2023, the NHL, ESPN y Disney Channel teamed up to transform the match between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals into an animated matchup with favorite characters from the animated series Big City Greens. Using tracking data NHL Edge, which collect data from each player (up to 29 different points on the player and 5 on the stick) and the puck, the match production team was able overlay a layer to transform players into virtual avatars. Additionally, two of the series' voice actors did real-time work with facial capture to provide greater realism to the reactions of each of the protagonists.

This initiative, as declared for SVG Michael “Spike” Chic, senior director of motion graphics and production planning by ESPN Creative Studio, sought to expand the competition's audience to bring the youngest members of the house closer to the world of the NHL. It even allowed us to expand the possibilities of realization: By bringing the parametric data into a virtual environment, the production company's team was able to include up to 49 virtual camera angles.

The parametric data of the footballers would require many more reference points, just as a solution would be required to make the movement of the players around the field realistic in front of the hockey slide. However, it would be an original alternative to, at least once a year, bring sport closer to new audiences con cartoon characters or through the representations cartoon of each of the players.

A report by Sergio Julián Gómez

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By • 1 Feb, 2024
• Section: Catchment, Graphics, Reports, Television