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Upping the Sports Broadcast Game with Volumetric Capture | Comment

Sports broadcasters are constantly striving to bring more value and visual interest to their content, especially pay-TV broadcasters who must provide premium content to retain subscribers.

Seven League’s recent report, 7 Digital Trends in Sport, highlighted the growth of the “metaverse”, which encompasses developments surrounding virtual, mixed and augmented reality, and predicted considerable interest and exponential investment in these technologies in the years to come to provide exciting visual opportunities. As augmented reality graphics become more mainstream, we anticipate the next big thing in this arena will be volumetric capture – high-quality 3D video that can deliver never-before-seen viewing angles.

Volumetric capture is 3D video of a specific moment, taken at up to 4k resolution. It gives directors and, later, audiences unprecedented control over the angles they can see, and provides a graphical asset that can be inserted into live or recorded broadcasts and reused in many ways, including analysis, fan engagement activities and interactive video displays.

As experts in motion control, broadcast solutions and advanced photography, the MRMC team is very excited about the possibilities that volumetric capture offers, especially in the world of sports broadcasting. In 2019, we started working with Dimension Studios, who at the time were already leading the way with their volumetric capture studio at Wimbledon; and together created Polymotion Stage, a mobile capture studio environment for creating volumetric videos, avatars and still images.

Polymotion-Stage-Truck-3-scale

With the Polymotion stage, the green screen studio comes as an expandable truck, able to move to the talent. It houses 106 video cameras – 53 RGB cameras and 53 infrared infrared cameras that record depth and position in space, placed around the walls and ceiling – plus motion capture and accessory tracking equipment, and four microphones suspended to record audio as needed for projects. After capture, all images are stitched together to create a lightweight, seamless 3D video that can be streamed for use in WebAR, broadcast, AR, VR and more.

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The Polymotion stage was first used by Sky Sports for coverage of the 148th Open Golf Championship at Port Rush in 2019. Sky Sports wanted to create a viewing experience people had never had before and bring the senior level feedback team analysis. During the preparation for the tournament, competitors were each invited into the “Sky Scope” dome to record their golf swing in 360 degrees, with motion capture techniques used on golf clubs for greater accuracy (the video capture at 30 fps, while motion capture operates at 360 fps).

Within 48 hours an MP4 video file of every swing was available for broadcast, giving the Sky Sports team the ability to track, pause and analyze every element of the swing from every conceivable angle – even just ahead the player, which had never been possible before. The videos also engaged the players themselves, who saw the value of the assets for training and improving their swing in the future.

PolymotionStage_Dome_Golf

This technology can of course be applied to many other sports, and the video assets created can be saved for future and multiple uses. For example, players can record messages for sponsors, clubs or fans which can be added to AR or VR experiences; they can give an awards acceptance speech even if they can’t be there in person; or the video can be presented online to give viewers an augmented second-screen experience where they can manipulate the viewing angles themselves.

Having this technology available in a mobile studio brings significant benefits. Rather than asking sports stars, with demanding schedules and different priorities, to come to a static studio, the studio can go to the talent. This is particularly advantageous when the brief is to capture multiple players; the Stage Truck can be set up in a club or tournament where all the players should already be present, and the studio can be used during training or downtime.

PolymotionStage_Dome_Inside

The time spent with talent is also minimal; depending on the broadcaster’s requirements, two or three takes are enough, so busy gamers don’t need to take a lot of time out of their schedule.

The exciting part of volumetric capture is that we’ve only just started down this road. The possibilities are wide open and there are so many opportunities for mobile engagements, fan and stadium interactions, in addition to increased creativity in broadcasts and analytics. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Top image courtesy of Sky Sports.

Sara Gamble MRMC

Sara Gamble is Head of Volumetric Solutions at MRMC