Sportvision Player Tracking a slam dunk for ESPN

By Andrew Lippe

ESPN’s NBA playoff coverage has made use of player tracking technology from Sportvision to give viewers greater insight into what it takes for a great offensive play or defensive stop.

“Sportvision graphics are powerful tools that helps show what NBA athletes can do,” says Tim Corrigan, ESPN senior coordinating producer of event production. ESPN can track any player on the court at any time.

The system uses the same infrastructure at the heart of a Sportvision system used on NFL telecasts that puts a graphical streak behind a wide receiver running a pattern. A sensor installed on a camera captures pan, tilt, and zoom data and passes it to Sportvision software inside the production truck. The software then renders the graphics and combines them with the video signal.

“We tested the technology from a bird eye’s perspective but the center court game camera just gave a better view to viewers,” adds Michael King, Sportvision field operations manager.

When producers call for the graphic the operator can quickly render the play. “The operator should be basketball savvy because player tracking is an analysis tool,” says King. The player tracking technology can show numerous plays that happen away from the basketball like setting up a pick and roll, how a player gets open, and when a player is hustling to get back on defense.

“The player tracking technology lays down a trail down on the playing surface, and it appears to be on the court and the players are running over it,” adds King.

ESPN isn’t the only one who has particular interest in the technology as NFL Network uses the technology on Thursday and Saturday Night broadcasts in the fall.

“We feel these extra things help tell stories that show the duty and grace of NBA players,” says Corrigan.