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From Green Screen to Dream Team: the evolution of live sports broadcasting

Published: 6 September 2019 - Adrian Thompson, VP of global marketing, Sapphire Technology

Technological evolution has been the driving force behind a number of industries; the broadcast sector has been one in particular that has reaped the benefits of the latest technologies. From the formation of HD cameras and enhanced audio equipment to digital on-screen graphics, live broadcasts have transformed drastically within the last decade. 

What’s more, the industry isn’t about to rest on its laurels as new developments are occurring at breakneck speed, as we are seeing more sophisticated technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), being utilised during live broadcasts to keep fans engaged. In the past, these technologies were previously reserved for pre-recorded VTs. But now, many production companies are using them in a live environment. In particular, the live sport broadcast has been one segment that has adopted these technologies more willingly due to the fast-paced nature of these television events. 

In the past, presenters would be limited to green screen technology to present game results, player stats and match updates. Now, they are able to use AR to deliver pitch-side interviews and animated player stats and data, ensuring that content is as engaging and informative as possible. 

New era of live sports broadcasting

Whilst a number of technological advancements in many industries remain beneath the surface, the evolution within live sports broadcasting is apparent to see. For example, BBC’s Match of the Day is perhaps one of the most well-known sports broadcasts that utilises the latest technologies. The programme has been dabbling with AR technology for a couple of years. But at last year’s World Cup in Moscow, the BBC increased its investments in the technology, presenting live from Moscow’s Red Square.

In addition to using AR and 3D graphics, to presenting match updates, results and player stats, the broadcaster was also able to use the technology to hide away cameramen, equipment and wiring using innovative virtual reality technology. In the past, moving from one part of the studio to another would often reveal a clutter of cabling and cameraman standing around. However, with the use of VR technology, the BBC was able to make the studio appear empty; creating a fully immersive viewing experience. 

Additionally, this Summer, the BBC expanded its use of this technology to cover the Wimbledon tennis tournament; using AR graphics, including life-size cut-outs of players and a virtual window with a 3D render of a tennis court, presenting match data laid out on the court surface.

Many broadcasters are using these technologies increasingly, to allow for more compelling storytelling whilst giving presenters the tools needed to better engage with viewers.  

Delivering on the promise of these technologies

As the BBC and other broadcasters continue to invest in their use of AR and VR for their live programmes, we can expect to see further developments in this space. Broadcasters have experimented with VR and AR for a number of years, and now and have a better understanding of where these technologies work better and how to use them. 

As a result, we’re beginning to see more realistic graphics with the use of hyper-realism which is enhancing the viewing experience for audiences. However, it does present broadcasters with the challenges of having the right tools to deliver those graphics. In particular, for live broadcasts, latency needs to be kept to a minimum whilst providing top-of-the-line visual tools that are able to keep up with the fast-paced nature of live sports broadcasts.

Graphics and rendering vendors are continuing to improve upon their solutions that are enhancing the quality of the AR and VR viewing experiences. The key to keeping audiences engaged is often down to bridging the gap between the virtual sets and real-life studio settings, allowing the two worlds to effectively blend together. 
 

This article was provided by Sapphire Technology. For more information on what Sapphire has to offer, click here.



 
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