Behind the Scenes of Sports Broadcasting – Virtual Sets, VIrtual Signage and Virtual Advertising

In the post Augmented TV Sports Coverage & Live TV Graphics, we saw how live TV graphics could be used to overlay sports events in order to highlight particular elements of the sports action.

One of the thing things you may have noticed in some of the broadcasts was that as well as live “telestrator” style effects, such as highlighting the trajectory of a ball, or participant tracking effects, many of the scenes also included on pitch advertising. So was the pitch really painted with large adverts, or were they digital effects? The following showreel from Namadgi Systems (which in its full form demonstrates many of the effects shown in the previously mentioned post) suggests that the on pitch advert are, in fact, digital creations. Other vendors of similar services include Broadcast Virtual and BrandMagic.

So-called virtual advertising allows digitally rendered adverts to be embedded into live broadcast feeds in a way that makes the adverts appear as if they are situated on or near the field of play. As such, to the viewer of the broadcast, it may appear as if the advert would be visible to the spectators present at the event. In fact, it may be the case that the insert is an entirely digital creation, an overlay on top some sort of distinguished marker or location (determined relative to an easily detected pitch boundary, for example), or a replacement of a static, easily recognised and masked local advert.

EXERCISE: Watch the following video and see how many different forms of virtual advertising you can detect.

So how many different ways of delivering mediated reality ads did you find?

The following marketing video from Supponor advertises their “digital billboard replacement” (DBRLive) product that is capable of identifying and tracking track or pitched advertising hoardings and replacing them with custom adverts.

EXERCISE: what do you think are the advantages of using digital signage over fixed advertising billboards? What further advantages do “replacement” techniques such as DBRLive have over traditional digital signage? To what extent do you think DBRLive is a mediated reality application?

As well as transforming the perimeter, and event the playing area, with digital adverts, sports broadcasters often present a mediated view of the studio set inhabited by the host and selected pundits to provide continuity during breaks in the action, as the following corporate video from vizrt describes:

So how do virtual sets work and how do they compare with the “chroma key” effects used in TV and film production since the 1940s? We’ll need another post for that…

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