Live From Super Bowl LVII: Inside SMT’s 3D Top Fonts and What It Means for Football Replays
The telestration system is based on the company’s OPTICS puck and player tracking
Super Bowl LVII viewers will want to keep an eye out for a new technology from SMT. The 3D Top Fonts telestration system will allow the Fox Sports production team to offer replays with graphical enhancements and analysis much more quickly than previously possible.
The system is built around the OPTICS puck- and player-tracking system that SMT created for the NHL. Coupled with SMT’s OASIS AI engine OPTICS can detect real-time events and trigger OPTICS to provide virtual graphics.
“We’re just applying it to football to speed up the process,” says Rob McCarney, special projects manager, SMT.
According to SMT COO Kirk Brown, the key is not having to wait the 800 ms for the NFL’s Zebra official on-field player-tracking data.
“We’re taking the Zebra data when the guys are in the huddle, so we know who is who,” he says. “But then, we’re tagging them with our AI as they go up to the line. At that point, we track everybody optically and predefine who we want to isolate and automatically render the replay.”
McCarney says that, before the play begins, the producer chooses the players and the type of graphic elements to be rendered as the action happens. That allows SMT team to roll the dice, and, if the player does something noteworthy, the replay with player trails or a preview of the route is ready.
“Our producer will be able to choose what he wants to do and make a tag and put a disc under a player or show a connector between two players to show relative position,” he says. “If the players aren’t involved in the play, it can be used to build packages for later.”
McCarney cites the NFC Championship Game, when Eagles center Jason Kelsey was able to pull and move for three of the Eagles rushing touchdowns.
“The producer noticed that,” he says, “and we were able to illustrate each of them for a package later in the game.”
SMT sees a lot of potential for the system, especially for bringing new types of graphics to the live broadcast, not just to replays. Andrew Lorenz, director, business development and technical integration, SMT, says the plan is to use the upcoming USFL season as a Top Fonts testing ground to push the limits of a live application. “For something like that, where no one knows the player’s names to begin with, Top Fonts is going to be a phenomenal addition.”