Sports Graphics Forum Q&A: ChyronHego’s Kevin Prince

At SVG’s inaugural Sports Graphics Forum at HBO’s Michael Fuchs Theater this week, ChyronHego SVP, Business Development, Kevin Prince sat down with SVG to discuss the new demands of data visualization and virtualized graphics, MLB’s player-tracking system, and more.

As graphics become more advanced and an increasingly crucial part of the storytelling process in live sports coverage, how is ChyronHego adjusting to the new demands of data visualization and virtualized graphics?
That’s a really interesting question. We are on the data-gathering side, where we collect all the player-tracking information, or the XYZ data, 30 times a second, and, because we’re collecting this massive amount of data, we’re also on the visualization [side], so we can visualize all of that data. But it’s more than just collecting the data; it’s also about how to maximize the data onto the broadcast cameras. We have to not only track the players [but] also track all of the camera movements — the PTZ aspects of the cameras moving around — so that the illusion of the graphic stays with the player on the field.

Kevin Prince speaks at the SVG Sports Graphics Forum.

Kevin Prince speaks at the SVG Sports Graphics Forum.

We actually feel that we’re at the forefront of all of that — collecting data and trying to work out what helps to tell the story — because having all of the XYZ data 30 times a second is of not much value unless you know how to interpret that data, and the interpretation of that data [has] to be in sympathy with the storytelling.

I think 2015 is going to be an interesting year. This will be the first time for both NFL and MLB when all of the games will have that type of data acquired, and we’re working out how to display all that. We’ve done the simple graphics — the top fonts, the pointers to players, trails on the field, circles around the feet — [and] all of those types of things are now almost becoming passé.

Now it’s a case of how we can analyze that data and give even more interesting and stunning impacts. Plus, as the season goes on, we’ll be collecting a bunch of that data so we can have season-type graphics like heat maps or shock charts or whatever, depending on the sport. All of that information is where we’re all experimenting as to what truly helps to tell the story. So I think 2015 is going to be a really interesting year as the collecting of the data is now almost [completed] and now we’ve got to work out what the graphics look like.

The first season of MLB’s player-tracking system was well-publicized and pretty popular among fans. What lessons were learned in year 1 of that project, and can we expect anything new in the 2015 baseball season?
In 2014, there was a limited number of stadiums, so the emphasis for 2015 is to deploy in all stadiums. The core aspect now is, we’re gathering so much data — 2,500 games of MLB — and we’ll be gathering the player information for all of that. It’s a massive amount of data to be analyzed, so we’re concentrating on automatic graphics creation, automatic recognition of plays, because the number of events that would have to be publicized is going to be so huge and become too human-intensive.

Automatic detection of certain types of plays is one thing, and then, as the season progresses, what new information or what new graphics can we create based on the massive collection of the data? Quite honestly, that becomes an interesting aspect because, as we collect all the data, we’ve got to be able to search for it in a way that’s meaningful enough to help tell the story. I think you’re going to see a lot more development behind the scenes rather than truly upfront, although you can expect some really interesting things for the All-Star Game and, obviously, the postseason.

This is our first Sports Graphics Forum. What are you personally taking away from this event?
From our perspective, we’re a tremendous supporter of SVG in the first place. SVG has always provided a very focused environment, where all the vendors and all the clients really focus on what they’re trying to do. This event is a further narrowing of that focus to graphics, and, with all the collection of data that’s going on and the new techniques of what is video, what are the distribution mechanisms, etc., I’m really looking forward to having the conversations and experiencing how people are thinking of using all this information in the field to augment their stories.

Plus, I’m really interested to find out where the other outlets are, because, obviously, it’s not just broadcast any more. It’s Web, IP video, second screen, whatever you want to call it; there’s that linkage between those two types of environments. I think that what we’re also going to start to see — what I’m hoping is going to be talked about here — is how the audience can be directly related or can become directly in contact with the graphics. There are some really interesting opportunities there once we’ve worked out how to present the data in a meaningful way, where the audience can really interact with the graphics and drive the whole process. I think there’s a monetization process as well for the industry.

Brandon Costa contributed to this report.

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters