Last week we witnessed the first advanced broadcast of a NBA match that was rendered in real time. What does it mean? Over a hundred cameras tracked the basketball players’ movements on an ongoing basis, and then the image was sent directly to the computer, which processed it to a special quality.
Live broadcast of the NBA match
On March 17, the NBA basketball league was played against the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets . There would be nothing special about it if it were not for one of the broadcasts that covered the match. Viewers could follow the basketball players’ actions on the virtual court with a three-second delay . How was this done?
First of all, it is necessary to start with the fact that ESPN television came up with such a crazy idea , which set up over a hundred cameras with the Canon Free Viewpoint system in the Barclays Center . Effect? Virtual view, thanks to which the viewer could feel like watching a NBA 2K22 match , and not a real sports spectacle .
Internet users and viewers, through a special broadcast, could almost unlimitedly follow the events on the dance floor from many different angles and shots . Ed Placey, ESPN’s Senior Coordinating Producer, said about the match broadcasting process.
We approached the match as if it were a six-camera broadcast. So we had six stations at our disposal - four of them were dedicated to live broadcasting, and the other two to catch replays.
It is also worth mentioning that the hundred cameras that constantly recorded data also tracked the movements of players who were equipped with special 3D models before the match .
As a result of these actions, basketball players actually resembled the rendered characters from the game. Completely created by television was also the dance floor on which the players moved.
The technology has apparently failed the creators several times, but it should be noted that this is just a fledgling project that is still being improved.
A bit of technique straight from the NBA court
Moving on to the transmission technique itself, one should start with the cameras that recorded the event. It was exactly 110 Canon Cinema EOS cameras . The captured data was immediately sent to a dedicated server.
There, a specially designed system created renderings visible to the eye. Similar technology was used to produce the highlights of the NBA All-Star Game, which took place in Cleveland last month.
We've been watching this system for the last five or eight years. It's not that it's not a great technology, but it's worth noting that it doesn't yet have all the tools necessary to make it an interesting and engaging point of view. We need to make more than two or three videos of it , Ed Placey said.
The image itself is created with the help of voxels , that is, the smallest elements of space in three-dimensional graphics. In addition to the above details, there is also the aspect of RGB value . After combining virtual data, the operator who controls a special controller “levitates” the camera between the players, creating and rendering clips.
However, at this point you should ask yourself – what does the new system offer us? First of all, apart from a certain technological manifestation, it is a brilliant way to look at the disputed pitch situation (e.g. a foul) from many different angles and perspectives . Thanks to this solution, judges and viewers could practically watch a given controversy live and make the appropriate decision.
The second issue is, however, “feeling” into the game . Viewers who would watch a match transmitted via renderings could, with the help of the operator, position themselves practically on the pitch and experience emotions almost like a member of the NBA team . The idea itself sounds really futuristic and inviting.
Of course, technology continues to evolve so there is no shortage of bugs . However, as we can see on the example of the match between the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets, the new system is heading for the better.
This means that soon NBA fans may be able to fulfill their dream of sharing the dance floor with LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo . The Future Is Now Old Man !