XOS Puts HD Replay on College Football’s Radar

As the HD revolution continues to take over college football, XOS Technologies is taking the next step with HD instant replay. Already among the leaders in instant replay for college football, the XOS HD Replay system aims to sharpen officiating tools.

“Most of the [NCAA conferences] knew that this was coming,” says Bryan Bedford, director of business development for XOS. “Some of them were actually a part of conversations involving what [XOS HD Replay] needed to look like in the future.

XOS has provided standard-definition instant replay for Big 12 and PAC 10 football since 2005 and has also outfitted Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference with SD XOS Replay. The HD upgrade, however, is sure to attract small and large schools alike to XOS Replay.

“Every league in the country is talking about [HD Replay],” says Bedford. “I would say you will probably see all 11 conferences move to it within the next two to four years.”

When a questionable call occurs on the field, the review of the play will be sent up to the replay booth and XOS HD Replay. Depending on the conference, three or four officials — a replay official(s), a communicator, and a technician — have at their disposal two video monitors providing several different angles of each play. As each camera angle comes in (varying from a minimum of four to more than 20, depending on the game’s importance), the technician uses a touchscreen to create and label a thumbnail of each angle for the replay official to review. Then, the decision is made and radioed down to the official on the field.

“In designing the system, speed and maximum information were the two key things to make sure that the officials have what they need to get the play right,” says Mark Hudgins, GM of XOS facilities, design, and integration. “There’s someone watching each one of those 15-20 angles coming in, and he’s tagging those. We used touchscreen technology that basically shows a thumbnail at the beginning of each of those angles, so the official can just hit that thumbnail and the clip will begin.”

Each stadium with XOS HD Replay will also be outfitted with the fiber-optic infrastructure to support the system, thanks to XOS’s recent partnership with Bexel Broadcast Communication. This will provide not only the necessary means for HD replay but also the backbone for future HD projects.

“If you look at what Bexel did a couple years ago with the NFL — they integrated [instant-replay] infrastructure at 28 NFL stadiums in 22 days — that’s pretty incredible,” says Bedford. “When you start to tell that story to any conference, that gets their attention.”

XOS HD Replay can also feed the recorded video into a third-party content-delivery platform for future use. For example, a replay video can automatically be ingested into an asset-management system or digital video-editing platform for use in archives, highlight videos, coaching devices, etc.

While HD replay looks to be the wave of the future in college football, whether it will expand to other college sports is still up in the air. XOS currently provides SD replay for several college basketball and hockey conferences, but the demand is simply not there yet for HD replay to expand past college football and into other Division I sports.

“Over time, as HD video becomes more and more prevalent, there would be nothing that would prevent [HD replay in other sports] from happening … but many are just in the first year or two of exploring replay,” says Bedford. “Is that something we foresee in 2010 or 2011? No clue right now. We’ve got to get the market to demand [HD replay], and right now they’re not.”

However, Hudgins adds, “The good thing is, the core technology is there, so the difference in application of football, basketball, or hockey is a fairly minor modification. The core underlying technology is already developed and ready to go.”

Regardless of whether HD Replay expands to other sports, college football is ripe to move into the next generation of instant replay. Expect a much clearer view of that iffy toe-dragging touchdown catch in the very near future.