SVG Europe Sit-Down: ChyronHego’s Jesper Gawell on virtual graphics opportunities and player-tracking technology
Fresh from a hugely successful edition of NAB that saw a marked increase in the number of stand visits from sports broadcasting professionals, ChyronHego’s chief marketing officer, Jesper Gawell, took time out to sit down with SVG Europe to discuss the company’s headline projects present and future.
As well as discussion of recent launches such as TRACAB, Coach Paint and Virtual Football, the conversation touched upon the continued migration towards software-based solutions and ongoing broadcast industry consolidation…
How would you describe overall activity levels for ChyronHego in 2016 compared to 2015?
So far, 2016 has been a fantastic year for ChyronHego and we’re seeing a major increase in activity compared with 2015. A good example was this year’s NAB Show, our busiest overall in quite some time. In particular, we saw a big upswing in booth visits by clients and prospects from the sports broadcasting world – including major sports leagues and clubs. The fact that so many of these organisations are now attending NAB is an interesting development.
In terms of sports broadcasting, which are the areas and applications in which you see the greatest growth at present – and why do you think that is?
From ChyronHego’s perspective, there is tremendous growth in the area of sports tracking applications such as our TRACAB optical tracking solution and ZXY, our tracking solution based on wearables. We’re also seeing the adoption of sports tracking technologies by less traditional sports such as horse-racing; e.g. the Swedish Trotting Association’s use of our tracking, analysis, and virtual graphics solutions to enhance its broadcasts. These examples point to a more general trend of major sports leagues and federations that are building out their own highly sophisticated broadcasting operations.
Another large trend is sports clubs’ adoption of advanced telestration and analysis tools like ChyronHego’s Coach Paint, a version of our popular Paint product designed specifically for coaches of all team sports. Coach Paint is a direct response to demand from sports clubs for a telestration tool like those they’ve seen the sports pundits use on TV broadcasts. With this tool, they can apply those same telestration techniques to make training more interactive, relevant and engaging. They’re using Coach Paint for everything from reinforcing correct technique to simulating game situations and enhancing scout preparation.
ChryonHego has been greatly involved with VR and AR-related applications, so what is the company’s latest development in this area?
At ChyronHego, we place strong emphasis on making advanced technologies easier to apply and use – and VR/AR is no exception. In the sports realm, the best example of that is our Virtual Football tool, a powerful and yet easy-to-use image based solution for virtual graphics enhancements such as virtual offside replays, team logos, freekick distance and more. Virtual Football is designed with live OB production in mind and only requires a single operator, and it doesn’t require any camera sensors.
Sports customers are also using our virtual graphics technologies increasingly for virtual advertising; examples are team or commercial logos inserted on the sidelines for many different sports. Again, our emphasis is on providing tools that are as easy to use as possible for creating the industry’s most sophisticated virtual graphics.
What did the recent NAB Show tell you about the way in which VR and AR are likely to evolve in sports broadcast over the next few years?
One important trend at NAB this year was the massive interest in virtual and augmented set technologies – and how virtual graphics can be used to enhance storytelling in sports as well as news and weather. We see a bright future ahead for virtual sets and graphics in sports broadcasting, especially as these technologies become more accessible and easier to use.
With the pace of change continuing to accelerate, what steps will need to be taken by vendors and integrators to help broadcasters make the right investments at the right moments – and also provide the necessary support to their technical staff?
One important change that we’re all hearing about is the ongoing migration away from traditional hardware-based workflows and towards integrated software solutions that leverage standard IT hardware and technologies. More and more, customers are requesting solutions that will help them build a more OPEX-based business model. For vendors and integrators that have been primarily hardware-focused in the past, this means much more than just shipping a box – it’s about selling a complete solution that includes software, services, and support. That integrated strategy is becoming a central focus at ChyronHego and is informing all of our product development into the future.
Operational support is also becoming more important, particularly for our sports customers in Europe. Many of our clients have brought us onsite for live events, and we can provide skilled staff in the OB van to operate the equipment.
If you had to nominate a recent sports broadcast project to have made particularly innovative use of ChyronHego solutions, what would it be?
Probably the most innovative recent example is Kanal 75, the media arm of Sweden’s trotting and thoroughbred horse racing organisation (the Swedish Trotting Association or ATG). Kanal 75 has installed 17 systems consisting of our ZXY transponder based tracking solution, Virtual Placement for live Virtual Graphics enhancements, and the GS2 graphics engine. The solution delivers unique real-time enhancements to the broadcasts and is one of the largest of its kind in the world of horse-racing.
We see increased amounts of competition and diversity in the graphics segment, so what do you think is the outlook on a business-level? Will we see more mergers, acquisitions etc…?
The consolidation of the broadcasting industry is ongoing, and it’s a trend that we’ve been able to take advantage of in recent years through several very successful acquisitions. Into the future, ChyronHego will continue this growth-by-acquisition strategy as part of our ongoing drive to become the premier provider of end-to-end media production workflows.
Finally, can you give us a few hints about what is brewing in the ChryonHego R&D department at this time…?
For sports, ChyronHego is the undisputed global leader in sports tracking technologies that encompass the entire graphics production chain from data acquisition to advanced visualisation layers. Moving forward, we’re continuing our strategy to develop the industry’s most powerful and yet easy-to-use tracking and visualisation tools for traditional broadcast graphics as well as VR and AR applications.