How fast was that slap shot? MSG Network taps PVI to find out

By Andrew Lippe

Madison Square Garden
Network is making use of a new technology developed by PVI that lets fans know
how fast slap shots and wrist shots are blasting towards the goal. “The pace of
a hockey game is so fast, and the broadcaster with this technology can break
down plays,” says Sam McCleery, PVI Executive VP, sales and marketing.

The system, called PVI
Player Tracking, is designed to track player acceleration, player speed as well
as many other derived statistics such as speed, distance, and impact. MSG
Network was most interested in the capability to display shot speed.

“MSG Network focused on
puck speed since it was viewed as a compelling addition to the broadcast,” says
Jay DiGiovanni, PVI Virtual Media Services, SVP, and general manager.

The concept to implement
this technology into MSG telecasts was developed between the Rangers, MSG
Network and PVI. MSG Network displayed the speed of the puck technology in
eight Rangers games this season.

For Rangers broadcasts,
the Player Tracking System tracks all objects on the ice surface. This includes
all players, referees, and the puck. The Player Tracking system is based on
shots taken from eight HD prosumer video cameras that are installed inside the
arena.

The HD cameras resemble
security cameras and record the action on the ice and around both goals and
connect to rack-mounted personal computers located in a production trailer
outside of the Garden. There is also an additional PC which acts as an arbiter
to make sure all data is collected accurately.

Jay DiGiovanni says the
system identifies objects using, “algorithmic subtraction,” eliminating objects
one-by-one to eventually focus on the puck. “The eight video feeds are fused to
make a complete story,” says DiGiovanni. The system also incorporates optical
character recognition (OCR) so the system can determine players’ jersey
numbers. Data can also be manually inputted.

The system is operated by
a “spotter” who watches the game in the trailer. When a shot is taken, the
spotter triggers the speed shot sequence where the software can determine
distance and time measurements to determine the velocity of a player’s shot.
All shots are cataloged and all shots are pushed to MSG Network. It is MSG’s decision
what shots to air.

“PVI is capturing data on
every shot taken, and every shot over 85 mph,” adds DiGiovanni. When MSG makes
their selection fans at home are provided with the player’s shot speed sequence
which includes the player’s shot distance and velocity as the puck is rifled
towards the goal.
PVI is in
discussions with other sports as well as other networks and teams in North
America and in Asia about implementing the
technology.