Professional sports production for all levels is fantasy or fact?
By Michel Bais, managing director, Mobile Viewpoint
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s how many professional sport production companies have reacted to the COVID crisis and managed to quickly adapt their own game. By utilising a raft of new approaches to remote production and cloud-based offerings, they have continued to provide professional game coverage, but without the need to send a whole outside broadcast crew to site.
But what about the lower leagues and those grassroots sports that do not have the luxury and resource of a professional production team at their disposal? The problem of spectators not being allowed to games has compounded the problem. So now more than ever they would like the ability to provide a live stream of their games that would be welcome by fans and parents alike. But actually, before COVID, there was a gradual change in how many sports clubs viewed their content with the realisation they could potentially monetise it, either through adverts, sponsorships or subscriptions. And this trend will continue after COVID has passed.
Higher production values, lower investments
But for monetisation it is not good enough to have a single amateur camera person on the side of the pitch doing their best to follow the action. The expectation will be a professional production, with live scores graphics, timings and replays. Of course, the lower league games and smaller clubs do not have the money or resource to create such a production. At least that was until the advance of artificial intelligence (AI) came into the picture.
AI can be used to replace the camera person and removes the need for a director or indeed having anyone onsite. Currently it is possible to semi-permanently install a panoramic camera above the field of play which captures the whole pitch in super high resolution and, using AI, a virtual cut-out of the action can be created in high definition that follows the action of the players and the ball. This virtual camera shot can be live streamed, complete with graphics and score either to a traditional broadcaster, to an OTT platform allowing clubs to charge a subscription, or directly to social media including YouTube.
The future is here
What does the future hold? Actually, much of what was thought of as futuristic is already here. The ability to create and insert automatic replays based on a specific highlight such as a goal being scored we have already developed. The ability to have side cameras creating a multi-camera production and allowing the AI to switch between cameras automatically is already here. The ability to create multiple streams involving off-the-ball action such as a referee argument is already here.
So, what does the future really hold? AI is not seen as a replacement for a multi-camera team production for top games such as the English Premier League, but AI is enabling those organisations, sports clubs and high schools that could not afford to create a professional production to do so and monetise that content. Elite sports clubs are, however, interested in it for training and youth sports. As the system captures everything, it creates a comprehensive video feed that is ideal for existing training and analytical packages. This allows training packages to evolve as more video inputs become available.
And the system is continually evolving for other sports. What started out as an AI production for indoor and outdoor ball games has now evolved into another dimension. We are now training AI as to what a bicycle is so they can be tracked in velodromes. We are also training the AI in what a horse is so the platform can be used in showjumping, dressage and horse racing events. Winter sports is also in the offing.
Certainly for us at IQ Video Solutions we see that making live sports available for everyone is our primary raison d’être. Remote production can now be combined with AI to enable the live streaming of professional productions for all sport-related parties, whether it’s high schools or premiership clubs and everyone in between, we are on a road to making all sports available to view for everyone without a massive investment.