Matrix-esque 360 degree replays to hit the NFL turf

By on July 29, 2013, 11:00 AM
camera, nfl, sports, matrix, football, bullet time

Important touchdowns can be difficult to review. NFL referees are given limited video angles, and must use what little they have to make major decisions. Not only does the lack of video evidence make end zone calls unpredictable, but they often lead to lengthy game delays that bore the fans. To combat these issues, NBC is ready to install a new 360-degree replay system at each of this season’s Sunday Night Football games.

Follow up: New details and corrected information on this post -- 360-degree replay system coming to Sunday Night Football

According to Gizmodo, the 24-camera network will allow “every possible play perspective to be stitched together into one comprehensive view”. Each of these specialized rigs will be installed in both end zones, starting with the Giant/Cowboys game in Dallas on September 8th. 

Interestingly, the underlying technology behind the innovation may be linked to the latest “Bullet Time” camera rig developed by NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation’s Technology and Research Laboratory.

Bullet Time involves using both time-freezing video and photo capture techniques to successfully stitch together a scene; it gained widespread appeal following its use in the popular 1999 sci-fi flick The Matrix.

The traditional method requires the cameras to be setup in either a circle or line, with individual photos being snapped in short bursts, one after the other. Although this approach has proven to be effective, the fixed-camera-system means that moving objects can only be captured if they are confined to a small space; a setback that's less than ideal for an NFL end zone. However, the NHK system employs a moving rig, effectively eliminating this constraint.

“Using this system, you can create the effect of stopping time, and moving the viewpoint all around the subject. Previous methods used a fixed camera, so they could only capture subjects moving in a narrow or limited space. But this multi-viewpoint robot camera system can film dynamically moving sports, or subjects at lots of locations in an extensive space,” the company explained in a statement.

From NBC’s perspective, launching the new video system is a no-brainer. Sunday Night Football is already television’s highest-rated and most-watched TV show, and the network is eager to remain at the top. According to sportscaster Chris Collinsworth, Sunday Night Football is “trying to be a show that really appeals to everyone”.

For those interested, here’s a demonstration video detailing NHK's robotic camera system, which will possibly be in use by NBC this football season.

Football image via ESPN

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