NAB 2016

SVG@NAB Perspectives: Astucemedia CEO Leclerc on Leveraging Data in Real-Time Graphics

With sports broadcasters looking for new ways to showcase data in visually pleasing and easily digestible ways, graphics providers must find ways to integrate ever increasing amounts of data into their systems and still play out in real time. At NAB 2016, Vizrt is showcasing a number of vendor partners who are helping the graphics giants to do just that, including Astucemedia, a provider of real-time broadcast-graphics design and data-integration services.

At Booth SL2417, the company unveiled the latest version of its Astucemedia Data Platform (ADP) for Sports, a powerful, full-featured solution that simplifies creation and management of live broadcast graphics infused with real-time data feeds. The company is currently demonstrating the system’s data-driven–graphics capabilities, including modules tailored to the unique needs of soccer, football, basketball, hockey, golf, tennis, and motorsports. In addition, through its partnership with Vizrt, Astucemedia is showing off how the platform integrates with graphics software from Vizrt, such as Viz Trio, Viz Content Pilot, Viz One, and — of particular interest to sports broadcasters — the Viz Libero 3D live replay generator.

SVG caught up with Astucemedia CEO Alexandre Leclerc to discuss the latest features of the Data Platform for Sports, the importance of integrating with Viz Libero, and the company’s recent successes — and future goals — in the sports industry.

Tell me about the Astucemedia Data Platform (ADP) for Sports.
We’ve had this platform for a couple years, but this is the latest version. We ingest data from different data providers — like OPTA and STATS — and we have a full web interface to monitor incoming data from these data providers. So, for soccer, we have player stats, team stats, formation information, match events, rankings, heat maps, touch and go — a lot of data from data providers — that we ingest into a local database. Then we also have plugins into Vizrt to generate graphics.

One of the struggles for designers is, you have data providers but how do you integrate data into a package? That’s a big thing where [larger sports broadcasters] have programmers in-house [whereas] other stations don’t have budget for doing this. … Then, there’s also the digital side, where sometimes designers make graphics but don’t know what field they have to display and how they have to display, so our plugins include data integration as well some kind of layout for a specific piece of data for a specific sport. There are multiple sports we’re doing, like soccer, basketball, baseball, golf, tennis, motorsports. … The big focus for NAB will be soccer, American football, basketball, and baseball.

What’s new for this latest version?
We did the integration for Viz Libero, so that’s a new thing. Our data platform integrates directly inside Viz Libero, so one of our interfaces is inside Viz Libero to ingest data, and we’re making up a section of the data providers. So it doesn’t matter if it’s off their stacks; it goes through our data platform. You can tie match events [and other data points] into Viz Libero, and the data would actually go inside Libero. And you can also, since we’re getting the match events, scrub into the video on the Libero and see where the goals are or where the yellow cards are.

We’re ingesting data so we have all the match events and all the player stats, so you can actually show player stats dynamically from the Viz Libero — that’s something you plug in for basketball, baseball, and American football. Previously, we only had soccer, so that’s a new thing as well. These are the new elements this year for NAB, as well as kind of a refreshed interface. We have a web interface to monitor data that’s more modern and fresh from what we had last year.

Was the integration with Viz Libero and the refreshed web interface a reaction to or anticipation of client demand? How did this come about?
We felt that, if we didn’t have this Viz Libero integration, then a customer would have to go to the data provider plugins. We want to be the main platform where everything goes and gets data, so, without Libero, then we were kind of [stuck]. We went to a few places, and people asked us [if we] integrated with Viz Libero, and we didn’t. So, in some perspective, we saw some demands. We want to be kind of the master of data, so we want to be centralized. Otherwise, if some systems are not using our platform, it defeats a bit of the purpose of being the centralized platform for data for the entire facility.

With so much data produced per sports event, how do you handle the sheer amount, from a technical and bandwidth perspective?
There are two levels. If you refer, let’s say, to motorsports — where we did a standalone application for Panasonic, for instance, and we’re doing the Indy 500 — that’s a standalone app with telemetry data. There’s a lot of telemetry data in racing, so that’s very specific for them. As for studio graphics, where you could manage any kind of leagues or sports or competitions, then the data stuff is a bit less big than the telemetry data but still a lot of data. So we typically go to a customer, and they take their leagues. It’s usually reasonable. … Of course, if you want to cover the entire planet with all the sports and leagues, it becomes very heavy and you need a bigger infrastructure in terms of hardware and servers. But we can handle that. We handle the load of data. Basically, we have a cluster — two servers in cluster — that ingest data and also for failover redundancy: if one fails it goes to the other one. There’s a whole level of redundancy to the setup.

Astucemedia has been very involved with Indy 500, Texas Motor Speedway, and now Bristol Motor Speedway. How are they using your application?
It came a couple years back with Panasonic. Panasonic got the deal with these tracks to provide the big displays, so one of the big ones is Big Hoss at Texas Motor Speedway. Basically, they needed some nice graphics [integrated] into this, so, two years back, we actually implemented graphics for Texas Motor Speedway and integrated telemetry data from the car for NASCAR, IndyCar, motoGP, NSACAR truck, and other series. We’re expecting data from the track itself, so they’re providing us leaderboards and things like that and also getting telemetry data from the actual series that have other partners to track such data, We’re ingesting all of this data and displaying on the big screen inside the venue.

This is the 100-year anniversary of the Indy 500. Will Astucemedia be doing anything special for that event?
It’s more or less revamping what we’ve done. Last year was kind of a preparation for this year. It’s more or less the same thing as last year, but we’ve revamped a few things: we’re doing support onsite, and the team’s going to be there for the Indy 500. Things are relying on our software, so we provide the graphics and software for that.

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