Baseball in 5G and 4D: 4DReplay Brings 360-Degree Coverage to KBO League
Korean wireless carrier LGU+ leverages the angles for an immersive experience over 5G
The spring season has unfortunately been a silent one, absent the crack of ash bats and the pop of fine-leather gloves. With the upcoming Memorial Day weekend being the first one in a long while without MLB games, fans will have to continue looking overseas to the KBO League. This season, the South Korean baseball league has given U.S. fans a now-familiar sight with 4DReplay angles and offered Korean fans a whole new experience with a mobile-streaming experience over LGU+’s 5G network.
“We installed 60 cameras at Jamsil Baseball Stadium, the home of the LG Twins and Doosan Bears in Seoul,” says Henry Chon, COO, 4DReplay. “Each camera captures 4K video, and they get fed into a cloud streaming server that we set up with LGU+ and get pushed down into mobile phones through 5G.”
The (Inter)National Pastime in 5G: Catered Second-Screen Viewing
For a sport that is trying to engage younger demographics, the KBO League is doing its part to gamify at-home viewing with this new offering. With accessible views from any seat in the house, local fans can live-stream the entire game while also navigating to different vantage points between pitches, innings, or plays.
“A user is able to change camera angles from left to right, so viewers can watch the game from the third-base or first-base sides or [from] the camera from behind home plate,” says Chon. “They can also zoom in and out and move backwards and forwards [on the timeline], so [they] get to choose how to watch the game.”
A major detail in this effort is camera positioning. To provide an authentic angle, 60 cameras are placed in premier locations for optimal viewing without obstructions.
“We’re allowed to put our cameras extremely low near the backstop fence,” Chon points out. “When we show those replays, viewers are watching the game at the eye level of the players, and it gives you a really good perspective of the action.”
Bat Flips, Dingers, Close Calls: Officials and Commentators Rely on Full-Circle Coverage
With all eyes on the KBO League, the organization wanted to bolster production quality by giving Korean fans a taste of what U.S. fans have become accustomed to seeing. Since major television networks like ESPN, TBS, and Fox Sports are using 4DReplay, South Korean networked decided to deploy the same services.
“We’ve been working with [the KBO League] since the beginning of last season,” says Chon. “This year, they decided to purchase our feed and provide it as a broadcast replay to all of the broadcast networks in Korea.”
With one onsite worker at every LG Twins and Doosan Bears game, the 360-degree shots are being picked up by Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. (MBC), Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), and SPOTV (the feed that ESPN has used).
The camera setup varies with the country. For example, in the U.S., Chon and his onsite team are allowed to break down the movements of pitchers, whereas the KBO League allows the cameras to be fixed only to the batter’s box. On the other hand, MLB does not allow the cameras to be as low as in South Korea.
Despite the differences, the KBO League and simulcasts on ESPN are still finding immense value when it comes to analyzing the nuances of a batter’s approach and swing mechanics as well as assisting instant replay from both a fan and an officiating viewpoint.
Chon notes, “There was a game where there was a play at the plate, which happens every once in a while, but the traditional cameras won’t be able to catch it since the play is blocked by the umpire or someone else. Since we have a lot of cameras, we were able to find the angle that was on the play, and the video replay was able to show that the runner was clearly safe.”
4DReplay Sets Sights on More International, Domestic Partners
Although 4DReplay has become commonplace in various U.S, baseball competitions — the 2018 MLB Home Run Derby, 2019 MLB All-Star Game, 2019 College World Series, even the 2019 Little League World Series — the company is still looking to expand both abroad and within the U.S. Besides giving the KBO League a new avenue for wireless streaming and a new way of digesting over-encompassing video, the company has received inquiries from Japan’s Nippon Professional League about 5G streaming capabilities. Defending champions Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks are leveraging the technology for all of their home games in the Fukuoka Dome this season.
Back in the U.S., NBA and NHL teams are working alongside Chon to figure out a way to stream entire games over a wireless network.
The KBO League continues on ESPN tomorrow night (Thursday, May 21) with a matchup between the NC Dinos and Doosan Bears at 5:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The game will be rebroadcast at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2.