LiveMotionConcept Replays the World Cup

During its official World Cup broadcasts, Host Broadcast Services chose to keep its use of replays on the lighter side, generally using no more than a half dozen high-speed replay sequences per period. However, thanks to German broadcaster LiveMotionConcept (LMC), more than 100 high-speed sequences were clipped per game, which broadcasters could use at their leisure as a supplement to the world feed. Those slow-motion sequences were shot with Antelope HD, an ultra-motion system based on the Vision Research Phantom camera.

“We take the original technology from Vision Research and modify the camera so that it becomes a television-broadcast tool,” says LMC CEO Felix Marggraff, noting that the standard Phantom cameras are better suited for industrial and film shoots than live sports broadcasts. “We add our own software, which makes the system easy to operate. We change the color matrices so that we can preset our camera to match any broadcast camera on the market, including those used for the world feed in South Africa.”

Four Systems, Three Operators
LMC was contracted to provide high-speed slow-motion replays of the World Cup games played in Port Elizabeth and Durban. The company sent four systems to South Africa, which were shipped back and forth between the two sites for the length of the tournament. With each arrival, they slipped into a complex workflow that involved three LMC operators.

The first operator shaded the cameras and oversaw the presets. The second operator triggered the sequence with mark-in and mark-out points that define the clip and also played the clip out on a time delay into the EVS system. A third operator, in charge of all EVS slow-motion replays, took the one-camera feed from the Antelope system and put it into the slow-motion library so that all official World Cup broadcasters could access it.

“In South Africa, we used our own proprietary LMC remote-control panel that marks the sequences that you would like to replay and sends those images to the EVS,” Marggraff says. “The EVS machine puts the sequence on-air and stores it long-term. It also makes it available on the EVS network so that all the individual broadcasters can access the high-speed clips on the clip server which is set up by HBS.”

Stopping the Strobe
LMC used an identical workflow at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, with the addition of a De-Flickering system, the first of its kind in the industry.

“If you shoot high-speed sequences under artificial light, the lighting works on a different frequency than the camera shutter,” Marggraff explains. “The change of lighting from one frame to another results in a difference of video levels in those frames. The result of that when you replay the sequence is a flickering.”

The LMC De-Flickering system examines each individual frame and adjusts the brightness, chroma, black levels, and entire video picture to eliminate the flickering.

“That is something that I think is a major breakthrough because, if you shoot sequences under artificial lighting, at night or in arenas, you will always have this problem,” Marggraff points out.

The system works in 40 milliseconds, which is effectively real time given that the effect occurs only on replay. Once the operator selects the mark-in point, the system begins to process the de-flicker on the replay, and, by the time the video is played on-air, the flicker is gone.

“There is no rendering or processing time,” Marggraff says. “It’s done in real time.”

LMC introduced the add-on to HBS in time for the World Cup, but, for logistical reasons — mainly, that the other high-speed cameras on-site did not have the solution — HBS decided against using it in South Africa. The system was used for the Four Hills Ski Jumping tournament in Germany and Austria earlier this year, as well as during the ski-jumping events in Vancouver, and has great potential wherever sports are played on bright surfaces — such as ice or snow — or in front of white billboards.

“If you have white shirts, the flickering is extremely visible and extremely annoying,” Marggraff says. “When the Germans are playing, it looks pretty bad, so that’s one of the reasons we developed that.”