OLYMPIC SPECIAL REPORT: Broadcast Enhancements

Sure, the pretty HD pictures from Torino will make Olympic fans happy and provide a “wow” factor. But once again it will up to Sportvision to provide some different types of thrills as its broadcast graphic enhancements and data services give viewers insight into the competition.

Sportvision, which created such technical innovations as ESPN’s “KZone” for baseball and the First and Ten marker, will give some of its high-tech toys the HD treatment this year. That means sharper-looking flags will be inserted on the ice during speed skating races giving viewers a real HD treat.

“Our goal with the speed skating is to mimic some of the stuff we’ve done for NASCAR,” says Jeff Jonas, Sportvision EVP, business development. “When we started doing the NASCAR work it fundamentally shifted our business as we moved away from graphic enhancements to combine graphics and data creation.”

That means that speed skating fans will be able to keep tabs on the competition like never before. “Viewers will be able to tell things like a skaters speed or acceleration in realtime as well as how they’re doing vs. the leader’s time,” says Jonas.

The technology doesn’t involve putting anything on the skater. Instead, small POV cameras located in the rafters of the venue will keep track of the skaters and push data back to Windows-based PCs.

That fact alone shows how far technology has come in a little more than a decade. When Sportvision first launched the graphic computational power required the use of SGI workstations. “Once we were able to do things on the Windows platform we were able to adapt a lot more quickly because more engineers could work on things,” says Jonas.

Sportvision has about a dozen people in Torino working with NCB on the games. Its technology will also be used on ski jumping where the First and Ten technology will be put to different use. “We’ll be putting virtual lines over the snow that will show where the leader landed, previous jumps, and world records,” says Jonas. “The goal is to help build storylines and give the viewer immediate feedback because watching ski jumping without it is a lot like watching football without the First and Ten line.”

For the downhill skiing event Sportvision is partnering with Dartfish on Simulcam which will let the performances of two skiers be overlayed, giving viewers a virtual side-by-side race. The two companies will also collaborate on Stromotion, a technology that was used in 2002’s Winter Games, the 2004 Summer Olympics for diving and other events and, most recently, the Winter X Games last month.

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