A company that is appropriately enough named Replay Technologies has come out with a new system that will be a quantum leap forward in sports broadcasting. Instead of me describing it to you watch the embedded video below and be amazed!
The system makes it possible to freeze the frame and rotate 360 degrees at ground level so that you can get a look at the play from any angle! It also looks as though they can rotate 180 degrees over the top of the play so you can look down on it. These have to be interpolated views where some of the pixels are calculated, and indeed when I checked that seemed to be the one drawback. It takes about 30 seconds to render everything. They use a system where twelve cameras ring the red zone on each end of the field in football and, as you can see from the video linked above, they surround home plate in baseball. The system has already been used for some Yankee’s broadcasts.
As far as football goes, the system has already been installed in the Cowboy’s stadium in Dallas and will debut this season on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. But I suspect it will be in every NFL stadium soon enough. “Bullet Time” is officially here for pro sports. The NCAA can’t be far behind if viewers embrace this technology like they did the addition of the yellow line as a first down marker in football broadcasts not all that long ago.
Going forward I expect we will see a stream from each camera that will be broadcast to each viewer’s home so that they can select which angle they wish to view the play from and they can vary it to suit their needs as they replay controversial plays.
This is one of those inevitable technologies that was bound to happen when the engineering became advanced enough. Now I am just waiting for them to get around to removing the umpires from baseball and for sensors to be added to footballs so that we don’t have to guess at balls and strikes, or whether a football has crossed into the end zone. I also expect to eventually see a positioning system used to place the football after each play so we don’t get treated to the “left foot, right foot” spot dance that decides too many important games. It is easy enough to see how a system similar to the one by Replay Technologies could be used to determine the instant that a play is over and for the positioning data to be read from the ball censor at that point so that placement can be much more precise than it is now.
It’s a brave new world.