NBC Gets Graphic at Kentucky Derby With SMT

The Kentucky Derby has always been an event centered on tradition, but NBC Sports Group’s expanded data and graphics offerings during the Derby telecast will be anything but. This year, NBC has brought in a large chunk of the team that produces Sunday Night Football, including producer Fred Gaudelli, and they have brought their tech-minded philosophy with them. The Derby will feature a host of new data-fueled graphic elements, many driven by technology from SMT (SportsMEDIA Technology Group).

“We’ve been providing services for the Kentucky Derby for several years, but it’s going to be radically different this year,” says SMT founder/CEO Gerard J. Hall. “Fred Gaudelli wants to bring a higher level of technology integration, and that is reflected in what we are doing this year. Sunday Night Football is one of the most comprehensive things that we do, and Fred wants those same toys available for the Kentucky Derby.”

The DMX Switchboard
Much of the SMT technology deployed during the Derby telecast will rely on the DMX Switchboard, the company’s data-integration product that has been custom-engineered for the Triple Crown. DMX Switchboard absorbs, collates, and synchronizes multiple on-site live data feeds into a proprietary SMT Live Horse Racing database.

DMX Switchboard provides up to 16 separate channels for integrating live data and timecode-synchronized data into a mix of on-air and off-air displays for real-time and replay features.  Additional SMT products plug into the DMX Switchboard for prerace analysis, live race presentation, and post-race analysis.

Place Your Bets
During the lead-up to the race, SMT’s Autograph Ticker, working in conjunction with DMX Switchboard, will produce a continually updating on-air display of real-time odds and payouts for each horse from live data provided by United Tote, Churchill Downs’ in-house wagering system.

In addition, SMT’s Talent Interactive Prompter System (TIPS) gives on-air announcers and producers access to its Live Horse Racing database via individually customized touchscreen displays. TIPS provides on-air talent with access to live racing statistics and other real-time information on horses, trainers, and jockeys.

Real-Time Running Order
Once the horses are out of the gate, SMT’s Live Leaderboard System will show the running order of the top six horses based on data received from Churchill Downs’ newly installed, real-time horse-tracking system. This positional data, which updates 30 times per second for each horse, will be available for the first time at this year’s Derby.

“The new real-time tracking system allows us to update that graphic more quickly as changes in position happen,” says Hall. “It’s the fastest two minutes in sports, so it’s tough for someone to manually keep track of the running order. It’s never actually been 100% accurate. This will be 100% accurate and 100% timely.”

In addition, SMT’s Track Map System will provide a thumbnail virtual graphic in the corner of the screen that allows viewers to see exactly where horses are located on the track.

“The Track Map is going to be very useful as a visual anchor or reference that immediately lets you know where these horses are,” says Hall. “Two minutes can be an eternity if you don’t know where the horses are. You can look at the video and watch the race itself, but, peripherally, you can see that they are in Turn 3 or Turn 4.”

When the horses round Turn 4, SMT’s SMART System will virtually insert “distance to the finish” indicators on the track surface at 200 yards, 100 yards, and 50 yards out.  This visual reference informs viewers how much track real estate is left as the horses head to the finish line.

The ISO Track System
SMT’s ISO Track System allows the broadcaster to identify, point to, and visually track two horses simultaneously, both live and in replay. Viewers will see an arrow pointing to each tracked horse. In addition, live data associated with a tracked horse (speed, current standing in the field, and distance from the finish line or gate) can be displayed and will update on-air in real time. The ISO Track system, which has been used for IRL auto racing and the Tour de France, uses SMT’s proprietary timecode-synchronization server to support live and replay modes.

“Our ISO technology is very sophisticated in terms of the algorithms that are running to make it work,” says Hall. “You’ve seen pointers on sports telecasts before, but this is different. The pointers that are usually deployed are active systems where you need a stationary configured camera.

“Our ISO technology is all image-based processing and does not require a stationary camera,” he continues. “So it can be used with the blimp camera or other moving cameras. We can isolate an object based just on the algorithms and four corners of the screen.”

NBC and Versus will also deploy SMT’s Video Annotation System, for virtual telestration during replays, and its CG Interface System, which provides data integration and real-time information to three dedicated Chyron Duet character generators on-site.

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