NBC Sports Group, RF Wireless Take Viewers Onto the Ice at NHL Winter Classic With RefVu Camera System
Mounted to the referee’s helmet, the miniature camera can be shaded in real time
NBC Sports Group gave hockey fans an up-close-and-personal look at Tuesday’s NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium courtesy of the RF Wireless RefVu camera system outfitted on a referee’s helmet throughout the game.
Although the use of a helmet-mounted camera on a referee is not a new concept for NBC’s Winter Classic coverage, the RefVu system offers the ability to shade the camera with remote real-time RCP/CCU control. As a result, the camera angle went from what was previously a purely iso record solution for replays to a true live solution for the line cut. Given the ability to have the referee POV camera match NBC’s other cameras more closely, the production team was able to cut to the referee POV live throughout the broadcast, as well as using it for replays.
“RF Wireless has known that a wearable [camera] was something we needed to be able to offer our client base,” says RF Wireless President Rob Bunn, “but we knew everything else out there wasn’t at the level that the live–sports-production market needed. For it to be a true resource to broadcast, it had to have RCP/CCU control and be [able to] be used in a line cut as opposed to only living in a replay device as an iso record. Tailoring our two-way communication from the wearable was key to delivering what our clients came asking for.”
The current RefVu system operates at 1080i with similar latency to other high-end handheld cameras used in live sports coverage.
Off and Running: Rogers Sportsnet, NBC Tap RefVu for Regular-Season Action
RF Wireless launched RefVu in September as part of a 30-game package of NHL regular-season games for Rogers Sportsnet.
“We knew that, when we went to market, it had to have camera control. It was important to us that our clients could make RefVu match with other elements in their monitor wall,” says Bunn. “The opportunity to work with the team from Sportsnet meant we had to come with our A game: these guys are rock solid; they breathe live hockey coverage and do it well.”
NBC first used the RefVu on Dec. 12 for a Chicago Blackhawks–Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday Night Hockey game at Chicago’s United Center. According to Bunn, the NBC Sports production team became so comfortable with the system’s reliability and shading ability so quickly that the angle was cut into the line cut multiple times before the first period had ended.
Bunn notes, “Wearables have the ability to take the viewer inside the event while giving production groups the ability to capture stories from an intimate angle that can truly show the speed of the game.”
NHL All-Star Game, Stadium Series and Beyond
Rogers Sportsnet will be using RefVu for the NHL All-Star game in San Jose, CA, later this month. NBC will deploy it at the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series Penguins-Flyers matchup at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field on Feb. 23.
The paintable RefVu is the first of many configurations moving into the market from RF Wireless. With prototyping in the works for other configurations and options, Bunn and company look forward to keeping creativity flowing and putting more units in the field.
“We are excited to see what our clients will dream up for this technology,” says Bunn, “It can be packaged to meet virtually any need. And to have it all in the licensed spectrum, this light and small, RefVu is a game-changer for live wireless wearable POV coverage.”