Broadcast Automation? There are many reasons why sporting organisations would like to broadcast their games: fan engagement, local identity, brand awareness, and to make money. However, the cost of a live production and distribution to television was the privilege of Tier 1 football teams and nearly impossible for niche sports.

However, the cost of a live production and distribution to television was the privilege of Tier 1 football teams and nearly impossible for niche sports.

In the last 10 years, access to broadband, social media distribution, the dropping cost of video production hardware and automation and artificial intelligence have come together to create the first examples of fully automated sports broadcast. The improvements in the last 5 years are breathtaking.

First of all, Keemotion is a full broadcast automation system focused on Basketball and Volleyball.
One of Keemotion’s most exciting features is its system simulates zooming and panning on on a large image, or a virtual camera.
Which means that means no camera operators are required.

Sports Broadscast automation keemotion

There is no need to have a  graphics operator to keep-up with the score. A separate camera reads the scoreboard and translates displaying professional grade graphics on audiences’ devices.

The system not only follows the action, it also “understands” the game and automatically adds markers.  The markers split the recording into plays making it easier to share VOD on social media.  More importantly,  coaches use it to review player-performance and provide feedback on-the- fly.

It’s low footprint hardware, especially if you compare it to camera operators using stands,  tripods and huge lenses. Keemtions’ device comfortably hangs from the ceiling. 

camera operation automation
camera operator sports automation

Before and after. This must be incredibly demotivating if you’re pursuing a  career on the technical side of production.

To make things even more interesting users can watch live on any device. VOD highlights can be created in near real time and published to multiple social media channels. Such as Facebook, YouTube or twitter for immediate fan engagement.

Viewer experience

You can see what a game looks like from the spectator’s perspective here. It’s a single camera experience where the camera smoothly follows the action zooming in and out a required. There are no cuts. There are basic graphics showing the scoreboard and timer, along with ambience audio.

sports broadcast automation viewer experience

I first spoke to Pixellot in IBC 2016, my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the product being operated. Pixellot stitches together a series static cameras. The system then creates virtual cameras which track the action automatically, This allows a remote operator to add a high level of creative input to the game’s narrative. A true broadcast automation wonder.

sports broadcast automation pixellot

The rig.

The stitching.

Pixellot also offers an audio input allowing on-site commentators to add additional flavour to the game.

Pixellot comes in two flavours, a basic solution and what we would call a pro-solution.
The remote production suite operates on the cloud and it allows the user to create virtual cameras to create a richer game narrative.

The graphics functionalities include offside line display for football games as well as virtual advertisement. Which can be overlayed on the pitch as seen on the image

The suite an easy to use re-play functionality with a functionality called spatial replay. It means you can replay an action but you’re not limited to your previous shots you can pan and zoom around for interesting actions which would be missed by a traditional camera crew.

Virtual cameras can also be set to track specific player’s, which is great for replays. Let’s say while the goal was being scored a foul took place off-camera, not anymore, the virtual camera system keeps an eye on every inch of the field.

With this set-up a single operator can add an incredible amount of value to a broadcast. Pixellot is currently used for tennis, football and basketball

In terms of the viewer experience, viewers can choose to either watch the game using a more standard multi camera experience or use a VR capable device to get a more immersive experience. You can watch the video below for additional information.

Let’s think about the studio for a second you have the anchor and a couple of guests, they’re all wearing lapel mics and in order to get things to sound smoothly, you need a very experienced sound mixer to “ride” the levels of all mics while life. Well, that’s not the case anymore.
Dan Dugan invented fully automated audio mixer controller back in 1971. Why didn’t it become the standard, it’s a really interesting story we won’t touch on but it involves him licensing his patents to a manufacturer who probably didn’t see all of the use cases for his technology.

Back to our topic, “The Waves Dugan Automixer plugin automatically controls the gains of multiple microphones in real time, dramatically reducing feedback, studio noise and comb filtering from adjacent microphones.”

dan dugan automated audio mixing

This may not seem as flashy as other entries on this list but audio is an incredibly important part of a viewer’s experience and this solution gives you one less thing to worry about.

Robots are taking over! T-1000 won’t come back from the future to claim the lives of the unborn (yet), but these robots might take over a job or two in the broadcasting industry.
A dolly mounted 9-axis robotic motion controlled camera mount along with a couple of its PTZ buddies, “is a dream come true” for creative live show directors. They can record hundreds of moves and angles and can conveniently carry teleprompters.

This puts a single operator in a unique position to create shots of amazing value with no operators required with the added advantage of reducing potential human error.

teleprompter robot sports broadcast automation
robotic camera sports broadcast automation

Bonus track

Stuff in the making.
The above products have all been released already, but that’s not nearly the end. Disney (owner of ESPN) is now working in a fully automated camera operating algorithm which is currently learning from pro operators. being able to read the field, operating a camera and predicting where the ball is going to be next is something computers (and some humans) are not really good at. Disney Research and the California Institute of Technology are working on it with the intention of creating a solution to reduce the cost of the 30+ cameras currently used to produce a game’s broadcasting on a major network.

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