CBS Sports Taps Orad Tech to Analyze Controversial NFL Touchdown

By Carolyn Braff

On December 14, a controversial touchdown catch handed the Pittsburgh Steelers a win over the Baltimore Ravens. For CBS Sports, which broadcast the game, The NFL Today broadcast on December 21, provided a chance to make sure that the catch was, indeed, a catch. On short notice, CBS called in Orad’s Motion Video Play (MVP) graphics platform to help break down the play.

“There were several questions on the play,” explains Shaun Dail, VP sales and marketing for North America at Orad. “The two questions that we wanted to resolve were did the ball cross the plane of the endzone, and secondly, did the receiver have possession.”

The reverse pit-cam angle of the goal line showed that the ball did cross the plane of the end zone, but not whether the receiver had full control as it did. An isolated camera on the receiver, Santonio Holmes, showed that he clearly had possession, but the angle was not conclusive as to whether or not he had crossed the plane.

Dail’s team first worked with an overview of the play, an all-22 camera shot. In that clip, Orad operators drew two lines on the field, the first showing the arc of the ball to the receiver, and the second compensating for the angle of the camera to illustrate the position of the ball at the point it reached Holmes’ hands” a few inches inside the plane of the end zone.

On the reverse pit-cam angle, Orad operators added an arrow illustrating where the ball met the plane of the end zone, and an animated line that came up from the goal line and intersected the ball” inside the plane of the end zone.

“We then applied a HyperZoom to the two angle to show the ball actually inside the plane as a close-up,” Dail explains. “With the two of them together, we proved conclusively that it was a touchdown.”

In the isolated angle on Holmes, Orad operators applied the HyperZoom feature to the ball in Holmes’ hands to clearly establish possession.

“We use a unique method of image recognition to allow graphics applied to the field to move with the camera,” Dail explains. “HyperZoom utilizes the same principal. The reason we were able to do this after the fact is that the MVP system requires no camera modifications, whether we are live from the truck, in the studio, or breaking down a controversial play after the fact.”

CBS Sports learned of Orad’s after-the-fact capabilities just days before the national audience was treated to the analysis. On the Tuesday before The NFL Today was to air, Bruce Goldfeder, CBS Sports’ director of engineering, got a call from a feature producer explaining how she wanted the footage broken down” and that it had to be done in two days.

“I knew that Orad had a product that would do something like that,” Goldfeder explains. “They were available, we’ve worked with them before, and their technology is easy to set up, so they were able to help us with what we wanted to do.”

CBS Sports also employed Orad during its Week 3 NFL coverage” Cincinnati Bengals vs. New York Giants” and during the U.S. Open tennis tournament August. For the Week 3 coverage, an Orad operator set up in CBS’ production truck and produced some quick-turnaround graphics for use during the show.

“We’d love to have a company like Orad on hand to do graphics like that immediately for every game,” explains Debbie Boulac, associate producer/director at CBS Sports who produced the Orad-enhanced clip for Sunday’s show. “I think there’s definitely a need for that type of analysis, but it’s cost-prohibitive to do certain things, especially in these economic times.”

During the segment, commentator Boomer Esiason noted that the NFL should use Orad for every instant replay call, which Dail noted was certainly feasible, even with the two-minute turnaround time required for on-field officials.

“We would use just one or two features, the HyperZoom feature and an object tracking tool, which is basically what we did for CBS,” Dail says. “A general operator at the stadium could work the equipment” it doesn’t have to be an Orad operator.”

Although the MVP system is portable, Dail says installing the graphics platform at each NFL venue is far easier than carting one from place to place.