Graphics, Editing Suppliers Eye Sports Growth

With a mature market for graphics and editing equipment in traditional live HD sports production, vendors are seeking growth in new areas.
Editing and graphics supplier Avid first established itself in network and station news and big-event sports production. It is now eyeing individual teams and arenas as the next big opportunity in the broader sports market, particularly as they upgrade to HD.
“The sports market is good,” says Jim Frantzreb, Avid senior broadcast segment manager. “The leagues are doing well, but we’re focusing more on the teams, to support their in-house marketing and other things they’re doing to enhance the fan experience.”
At the League Technology Summit, Avid was demonstrating its editing tools and explaining an end-to-end editing, storage and graphics system it recently sold to the NBA’s Miami Heat. The system includes a total of 18 editing systems comprised of Avid Media Composer Nitris DX and Media Composer software systems running on HP workstations, an JSIS 7000 shared media network, and an Interplay production asset management software.
According to Frantzreb, large network clients are also showing a “lot of interest” in the newest version of Interplay, Interplay Production 2.3, and the newest version of Avid’s AirSpeed MultiStream server. A particularly attractive new feature is an optional proxy board for AirSpeed MultiStream which generates H.264-compressed video. That video can then be accessed by Interplay’s Access proxy viewer over wide-area networks, which lets bicoastal or global operations quickly collaborate on content.
“It’s a much higher picture quality and a tighter workflow,” he says.
Vizrt, which already enjoyed an enviable footprint in network sports graphics with both ESPN and CBS as customers, got a significant win this fall when Fox decided to use Vizrt for its NFL coverage. Vizrt will be handling graphics for additional sports on Fox coming up, including NASCAR coverage, says Vizrt Americas President Isaac Hersly.
Vizrt expanded its technical capabilities with last month’s acquisition of LiberoVision, a Swiss firm which specializes in virtual enhancements for sports including soccer, football, basketball, ice hockey, baseball and rugby and which counts ESPN, NBC, ZDF and the BBC as customers. LiberoVision’s technology can create realistic 3D replays for areas of the playing field not covered by actual broadcast cameras.
“LiberoVision does stuff we do not do, and it’s a tie-in for 3D graphics,” says Hersly.
Vizrt’s traditional graphics systems already had a 3D creative environment, and are easily upgradeable to stereoscopic 3D production with some additional software and a slight enhancement to the supporting hardware. They are currently being used by ESPN 3D for its broadcasts this fall.
Vizrt also showed the fruits of its collaboration with Stergen, an Israeli startup headed by Orad co-founder Dr. Miky Tamir which has developed software that converts live 2D images to stereoscopic 3D. Vizrt has invested $1.86 million in Stergen and integrated its graphics tools with the Stergen software, which is optimized specifically for individual sports with unique algorithms. So far, Stergen has created software to convert 2D soccer coverage to 3D, which Vizrt successfully demonstrated at its Summit booth, and the next sport it will tackle is American football.
Chyron, is also heavily immersed in stereoscopic 3D. Its systems have been used for a variety of 3D broadcasts, including basketball for the NBA and Turner; NFL football for Verizon; college football for Versus; hockey for MSG and the CBC; and most recently, a 3D boxing production for HBO.
After a year of development work, 3D is being offered as a feature of Chyron’s Lyric software and HyperX3 graphics system, says Chyron chief technology officer Bill Hendler, and the company isn’t charging extra for it. Hendler says that Chyron is more interested in seeing the nascent market for 3D production grow now that its technology development work is behind it.
“The technology is such from the graphics end, that there’s not much voodoo anymore,” says Hendler. “It’s pretty straightforward.”
Instead, the challenges today in 3D graphics are more from a creative point of view, says Hendler, who notes that that there is “a total lack of standards” as to where graphics should be placed in the 3D domain and how to properly build 3D graphics packages. He says that producers are still learning how to take into account their “depth budget”, which includes camera feeds as well as graphics, when composing a 3D picture. They’re also still figuring out how to achieve a “natural depth” for sports coverage as opposed to an overwhelming 3D effect.
“The grappling is creative,” he says.