Sports Graphics Forum: Automated Workflows Are Vital to Handling Increased Data

SVG’s inaugural Sports Graphics Forum kicked off Wednesday with a look at the technology that brings broadcast graphics to life. And across the board, top of mind was integrating the ever increasing number of data points into on-air graphics while simplifying — and automating — workflows.

“The main focus for us — and it has been for the past few years — is workflow and bringing all this data and all these tools to be available everywhere [on multiple] platforms,” said David Jorba, SVP, operations, Vizrt Americas, speaking at a session titled Broadcast Graphics: Technology Update. “Trying to make sure that you can push any kind of data, whether it’s social data or content or interactive graphics or whatever you want to put on-air, and making sure you can go across all your different production areas.”

A Sports Graphics Forum panel discussed broadcast-graphics technology: (from left) RT Software’s Steve Hart, Vizrt Americas’ David Jorba, ChyronHego’s Soren Kjellin, NBC Sports Group’s David Melfi, and wTVision’s Mario Sousa

A Sports Graphics Forum panel discussed broadcast-graphics technology: (from left) RT Software’s Steve Hart, Vizrt Americas’ David Jorba, ChyronHego’s Soren Kjellin, NBC Sports Group’s David Melfi, and wTVision’s Mario Sousa

Broadcast graphics vary in form and complexity, from the static scorebug to more-dynamic graphic elements — inserts, wipes — to augmented and virtual reality. But, if broadcasters cannot operate these tools quickly and efficiently, the tools won’t integrate well within a live production environment.

“Everybody’s about workflow, ease of use, quick turnarounds, and all that. We’re all just taking a little bit different approaches,” said ChyronHego CTO Soren Kjellin. “One thing that we’ve been focusing on quite a lot, which is also coming along quite well, is marrying data with video on a field-based resolution. Player-tracking data, for example, is something that we’ve been investing quite heavily in and what we’ve managed to do now is to get all of this data and all of the camera-tracking data to travel with video so that you can create different narratives out of the same video and the same data simultaneously.”

wTVision CEO Mario Sousa described how his company’s technology can work with the graphics engines, automating graphics so that fewer operators are needed.

“If all [the graphics engines] can do augmented reality,” he said, “we can control them and also maintain the focus on the data side and produce graphics automatically, with less and less manual operation. We can use, as we do today, single-operator editions of all of our software to cover more than 40 sports around the world. We don’t need to have a huge team to collect the data because we can collect the data and import the data from other providers but also collect the data directly.”

Automation can be achieved by embedding Web control into graphics, eliminating the need for manual data input. “You’ve got the creation of the graphics, and then you’ve got the control of the graphics,” said Steve Hart, development director, RT Software. “If you can embed much of the data into the creation of the graphics, then the control of the graphics becomes much simpler.

“The more flexible you can make your graphics engine, your workflow tools, the better off you are,” he continued. “And we see Web as a way to solve that problem.”

Kjellin echoed the need for automation, stating that enhanced metadata is key to richer, more intelligent graphics: “If we are able to make that automatic as much as possible, we can focus our intelligence and our editorial knowledge on the things where it really makes a difference.”

Speaking from the broadcaster’s point of view, NBC Sports Group’s David Melfi stressed the need for scalability and flexibility. NBC Sports has an easily identifiable graphic look that must be executed on every broadcast, from Super Bowl XLIX to a regional sports network’s midweek baseball game.

“Our graphics need to be flexible enough to accommodate that vast difference in property, they have to be flexible for the users in the field, and they have to be easy enough for the best operators and the worst operators to use,” said Melfi, who serves as senior Duet designer. “Then, we are constantly dealing with all the different hardware configurations in the field. When we do a show like the Super Bowl, we get the best hardware in the field, we get brand-new stuff, but, when we do a high school game somewhere, we get whatever the truck has, so the same graphic package has to work across all those different hardware configurations.”

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