Sony Europe tracks into sports action analytics with new software tool

One of the delights of IBC remains spotting something interesting out of the corner of your eye as you bowl around the halls. Under that category this year was Sony’s R&D project Catalyst Perform (Soccer) – a promising coaching tool awaiting a launch name.

“We are looking to offer versions targeted at each sport,” said Mark Grinyer, Head of Live Sports Innovation at Sony Professional Europe. “We are creating a coaching tool which can consolidate video, tracking data and event data, to enable coaches to easily create presentations without getting lost in complex workflows or tools.

“That combination allows us to offer functions like high quality broadcast graphics, dynamic offside lines, and formations. Although we are able to handle 4K quality video, we have supported laptops as the main platform for the application thus far,” he added. “Our entry point for a system is a single Actioncam, memory cards, software and laptop. We can expand from there to a 4K multi-camera system, using PXW-FS5, with multiple clients and Navigator Minimam content management.”

Sony is working with a top English Premier League club for finishing the software R&D stage. Hawk-Eye already has SMART coaching systems for tennis and cricket, and all the video recorded into SMART is time stamped for synchronising with data feeds.

“We are using an Agile development model, which has proven very beneficial to both parties, and we have had the pleasure of working with a very skilled team,” said Grinyer. “For some time we have been building a software ‘parts bin’ of components and knowledge. When combined this enables us to create software tools for individual customers. You can see these ‘parts’ being used in those Hawk-Eye solutions.”

Sony has used the market experience from its 4K Stitch Platforms as the basis for Catalyst Perform. What will the coach get?

“Whilst we can ingest multiple cameras, the key camera for soccer coaching is an entire pitch view as this enables coaches to see things that are not captured with a panning camera or on a cut feed,” said Grinyer. “There are options for this type of capture: you can use multiple cameras stitched together or you can use a single wide camera to capture the pitch, with secondary angles covered by additional cameras. Basically, its up to the coach.”

An exciting prospect for many sports, what is the full scope, and where will the finished product sit in the workflow for big sport presentation companies like Sky?

“For all sports broadcasters the Catalyst Perform can offer a cost effective tool for the creation of sophisticated action analytics without broadcast hardware,” said Grinyer. “This could be for second screen at larger events or as the main tool for lower value content creation. We are seeing a lot of interest in a combined solution with the Smart production platform service offered by Hawk-Eye.”

Looking beyond Arsenal and Chelsea, surely small clubs and franchises from Rugby to basketball and hockey will give the tool a volume market?

“Yes, those clubs are the target, and we have worked hard to create an entry point for them which reflects their budgets,” said Grinyer. “As they grow they can add functionality within the software, maybe the player tracking system and other analytics features they identify.”

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