J.League Feeds Fans Around the World With AI-Created Clips From WSC Sports
Artificial-intelligence software turns key moments into highlights
The J.League, Japan’s professional soccer league, increased the number of video clips pushed to social media this year to satisfy its growing international fanbase. It did this not by hiring new editors but by working with WSC Sports, an Israeli company that uses artificial intelligence to turn a game’s best moments into sharable videos.
WSC deploys its AI tools to search out key moments in matches and turn them into short clips. That means looking for dunks in basketball, goals in soccer, or tries in rugby. It’s careful to trim clips so that the commentary is never interrupted. The software searches out important moments, which could mean understanding that the referee has just awarded a red card, then working backward to identify the action that caused the penalty.
When moments are identified, they’re segmented into individual clips. Once the software has run through a game and generated clips, the league can share clips individually or have WSC’s software create highlight reels to tell a longer story.
This season, the J.League created highlight reels showing the best moments of its international players and sent these highlights to the players’ home countries, along with videos showing other key moments from the games. Doing so helped the league grow outside Japan. For example, fans in Thailand have been enjoying clips of Chanathip Songkrasin, a Thai star of the Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in the J1 League. Thanks to WSC’s work, home-country fans are able to watch more clips than they could before.
“The AI that we used has been developed internally by WSC,” explains Guy Port, head of Asia Pacific, WSC Sports. “It looks at various factors in the broadcasts, such as visual factors, movement, scene changes, and what’s going on the screens. It’s better than what a human can do. When you look at manual editing and creation, we’re all about speed and scale and delivering a lot of videos with various stories to multiple destinations at the same time.”
For J.League, the decision to work with WSC came down to trust. The league includes three divisions and handles more than 1,000 games each year. Generating clips manually from all those events proved too arduous a task. Knowing that WSC handles the same task for the NBA, which needs to create far more clips, was a good endorsement for J.League.
“It used to take a long time to create a single highlight, but now we have to wait only a moment to create one,” says Kazuki Matsubara, director, J.League Media Promotion. “In addition to regular highlights, we can now create highlights for a home club, highlights for an away club, or easily create a video featuring a player or goal scene.”
Working with WSC, Matsubara says, the league had a few requests. For example, it wanted highlights to always include a player’s entry scene, so that was added to the AI specification. Through trial and error, he says, the league has gotten the tool close to the quality of human editors. And it works in a fraction of the time.
The AI editing system is entirely cloud-based, thanks to a partnership with Imagica Live. The system ingests videos, creates clips, and hosts them all in the cloud. Distribution to other platforms is automated and guided by a pre-established set of rules.
WSC works with a variety of sports leagues, so it needs to customize its tools for different actions. It also needs to adapt to changes in play. For example, because some football leagues now use VAR (video assistant referee), WSC’s AI has to be able to tell when a play is reviewed and disallowed. No one wants to promote a clip for a play that was disallowed a few seconds after the clip was completed. WSC can currently create AI clips for 15 sports, and it counts MLS, Bundesliga, the NBA, FIBA, Cricket Australia, the World Surfing League, and the PGA among its clients. It learns from every client, and that applies to the J.League.
“For us, [the J.League] is an exciting one,” Port says. “I think it’s our first major football league in Asia that we’re working with, and it’s been exciting with a lot of the innovation that the J.League’s doing.”