PunchZone Delivers Knockout for HBO Boxing

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Manny Pacquiao made short work of Ricky Hatton in a junior-welterweight championship bout in Las Vegas on May 2, but he wasn’t the only one to score a knockout. HBO’s proprietary PunchZone technology made its debut and carried punch data to a new level.

“This is home-cooked technology within the HBO groups,” says Jason Cohen, director of East Coast production, HBO Sports, “and we’re proud of it.”

The system was put together by HBO Sports, HBO East Coast Productions, and HBO’s Emerging Technology division and IT department. Between rounds, a 3D graphics visualization of each fighter is displayed on-screen and shows the accumulated punches to seven zones on the body: three on the head, three on the body, and one below the belt. The zones turn a different color” first yellow, then orange, and then red” as punches accumulate.

“The system relies on Compubox, which is used to count punches,” says Cohen. “We have two additional operators who are tracking where the punches are landing on the body. That data is then pushed off to Chyron HyperX, where the graphics are built.”

Punches can be displayed either as whole numbers or as a percentage of the punches thrown. “It’s a good tool to teach viewers who are watching the fight,” says Cohen. “This is our version of the KZone for baseball or the shot map for basketball.”

NEP Supershooters 17 was on hand, as always, to meet HBO’s production needs during the fight. Inertia Unlimited’s xMo (with the V12 system) and an RF camera supplied by Aerial Video Systems also played an important role in the production.

“Ultimately, we’ll stream PunchZone live to the Web,” says Cohen. “That will allow viewers to follow it via the Internet while they watch the fight on TV.”