SVG Europe Sit-Down: Vizrt Executive VP Sports Stephan Würmlin Stadler reflects on IBC highlights, graphics innovation

The latest versions of the Viz Engine 4K multi-channel graphics and video playout server, and the Viz One MAM were among the many items of interest on the Vizrt stand at IBC2015. Executive VP sports Stephan Würmlin Stadler reflects on these and other IBC highlights, as well as more general developments now shaping the deployment of broadcast sports graphics.

IBC is always a great opportunity to see concepts introduced at NAB become reality and also offer up some new ones. What did stand visitors have a chance to see this year?

We brought a lot of new capabilities to IBC this year with the idea that broadcasters need to not only be very efficient in their workflows, but also very flexible. An example is the video playout capabilities of Viz Engine that we introduced earlier in the year and released just before IBC. Viz Engine has served as the core of the Vizrt broadcast graphics workflow and now it also functions as a multi-channel video playout server for HD and 4K, while also allowing streaming IP video out. The same Viz Engine can be used for live graphics today, a video playout server tomorrow or drive a video wall with with both graphics and video the next day. The cloud-based version of Graphic Hub allows easy multi-site collaboration and disaster recovery for the metadata, images and scenes that make up real-time graphics designed in Viz Artist and rendered by Viz Engine.

Another example of adding flexibility to workflows is the new Showmaker tool, part of Viz Opus. Here we have introduced a tool for broadcasters who do not have a traditional MOS workflow, to be able to easily build rundowns, complete with graphics, video, scripts and automation commands for our Viz Opus compact control room system.

Of course our big news from IBC was the introduction of Viz Eclipse. The technology exploits our image-based camera tracking and keying capabilities to allow sports rights holders and broadcasters to virtually replace field-side advertising boards.

Graphics analysis tools continue to become more capable on a wide number of fronts, whether it is data integration, speed to air, and of course the overall look and feel of the tools. What are some of the advances that Vizrt has accomplished in those areas?

We have always excelled at data visualization, whether that is for elections, finance, sports or even social media so what is new for us is how we are able to increase those capabilities and add verticals to our products for utilizing data. We have a partnership with Opta to deliver live event data and data from archived games to Viz Libero. Users of Viz Libero can then use this data to visualize performance information of an individual player or the entire team in a multitude of ways. At the same time, we are taking this Opta feed and sending it to our media asset management system, Viz One, so that the video for the match is stored with all the metadata making it easy to search for key moments in a game and clip those off automatically. We also work with most data providers available including STATS Inc. for many types of sports.

We also work with deltatre’s Magma platform to create data-driven live virtual graphics, including live player-attached graphics exploiting live player tracking data and at the same time attach statistics to the player. We are also integrating tools from the Vizrt Social TV solution so that Tweets, Instagram photos, and Facebook messages can be applied to the player and, thus, adding audience participation to the live sports event.

One thing new we are showing at IBC is the capability of Viz Libero to take advantage of Viz Engine’s full design and animation capabilities. All the annotation and telestration tools in Viz Libero get a huge boost with this integration allowing the users to have extreme flexibility of design for the visual analysis.

Obviously has the tools become more popular you hear from more and more clients about what they want to get out of the tools. What are some of the trends in terms of new ways your tools are being put to use and changing the way sports content is created?

We are seeing new ways mainly in our customers doing some very unique storytelling that is at the same time excitingly new for the viewers. Virtual presenter – placing the presenter on the football pitch to analyze the game, immersive tactical tables, or the virtual ghosts done for Red Bull’s Air Races are some of the cool and very innovative things that our clients have done with our tools. These really show the flexibility and openness of Vizrt’s broadcast graphics platform where third parties or broadcasters can design completely new ways of using our tools that even we did not consider.

The UHD era appears to be on the horizon. How do you see that impacting the way your tools operate in terms of computer horsepower, etc.? Are there speed-to-air compromises if someone wanted to offer analysis in UHD?

There are no compromises needed for our customers. With the capabilities of modern graphics cards like the NVIDIA M6000, all graphics done within Vizrt just scale to the new formats. Quite a few of our customers are already experimenting with 4K for sporting events and I’m proud to say that we were the first to accomplish 4K graphics production for sporting events such as the World Cup and Ryder Cup. We designed the software so it easily scales for whatever the needed output format – be that HD, 4K or maybe even 8K in the future.

The Rio games are also around the corner and at NAB you unveiled a new system that integrates data from Deltatre. Has that system evolved since NAB and what will it offer to broadcasters from around the world?

This integration between Viz Engine and deltatre gives our customers an end-to-end data-integrated solution with the provided data feeds. Since it is directly integrated with Viz Engine, we are able to use this data everywhere, from having data-driven virtual sets and immersive graphics, to touchscreens, to general results graphics. The key here is that we are providing the broadcasters the sandbox with everything they need to be as creative and as competitive as possible.

You also had some great partners on the stand. What developments did they bring to the show?

We do have some fantastic partners who bring a lot to our customers with our tools. Astucemedia was very busy during the show displaying their platform for visualizing any data type. They’ve done an excellent job of parsing data so that it fits nicely for whatever story needs to be told.

RCS was in the sports lounge with us to show their Launchpad interactive system. This is a tool they designed for broadcasters to be able to easily drive everything a presenter would need for a broadcast from a touchscreen, including real-time player, team and match data; video replays; Tweets; telestrations; and analysis.

And, of course, we have to mention deltatre’s Magma platform which integrates with Viz Libero. This is going to be a big part of that little sports event that is happening in France next summer.

Anything else you wanted to add as far as Vizrt at IBC 2015?

I think Viz Eclipse is really a breakthrough for sports rights holders to generate needed new revenue without high overhead for equipment. Televised sports will always be a live commodity and Viz Eclipse will allow targeted, regionalised advertisements to be added to live games in an unobtrusive way. We recently accomplished virtual insertions of region-specific advertisements during live games for international coverage of the NBA playoffs. Using Viz Arena, we were able to place virtual advertising for Chinese audiences on the basketball court during the live game, downstream in the broadcast center. The same technology is used here but applies more sophisticated techniques for keying over the multicoloured boards placed field-side during a game.

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