Being there without being there: Vislink on adding ghost-game drama

Live sport and live events bring enjoyment, escapism and a sense of community belonging to millions across the globe, writes David Edwards, live production product manager, Vislink. With many communities currently in total or partial lockdown, populations are finding that without sport, there is something missing from their lives.

To reinvigorate the need for human camaraderie and tribal belonging, and to complete unfinished business, many sporting leagues are moving towards completing season competitions behind closed doors when it becomes safe to do so.

But without the presence of spectators there is something missing. The atmosphere of the event can feel empty and lacking in energy for those watching the televised events.

At this critical point in time, with the COVID-19 virus forcing us to look differently at how we all behave, perhaps we should ask if now is the moment to instigate new technologies and novel techniques that would benefit and revolutionise the television experience for the viewer?

Dramatic change

TV production has been through instances of dramatic change before. Avid cricket followers may, for example, recall Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. Although now long gone as a series, this sporting competition created shockwaves in the industry that broke free from tradition and bought new excitement to a televisual experience that had been stuck with a set production formula. The on-screen animated duck when players were out for 0, the stump microphone which later led to the stump camera, all invigorated and created massive new viewer engagement in sport, all from a single point of inflection.

For several years, sports production teams have been experimenting with novel ways to make televised events more immersive and engaging for audiences. It has been shown that by getting viewers closer to the heart of the action, those watching at home feel more involved and closer to their sporting heroes in the drama unfolding on the field of play. Close-in shots of the action, goal line cameras, touchdown close ups and point of view shots from player and referee cameras all build a sense of engagement.

It is these dynamic moments of televised action which often create the talking points and social media engagement that continue long after the game completes. But the human desire is often for more. To follow a team in the build up to the match, to be a fly on the wall during the half-time talk, to see a goal, a try, a touchdown from the player’s point of view and to be in the centre of team celebration can all create a golden moment for any televised production.

Dynamic views

Today’s technology allows for small point of view camera systems and mobile pitch side cameras to be positioned in places that give dynamic views to engage audiences with close up action and minimise the distraction of empty seating or to be positioned without intruding, for example in dressing rooms.

Wireless camera transmission systems are often the key enabler for the greater production creativity that audiences crave. Cameras can be positioned without being incumbered by cabling, allowing rapid deployment. Wireless camera systems can also be quickly integrated onto mobile, remotely controlled systems that can track the gameplay and distance the operator from the players. When coupled with miniature point of view cameras, pitch side or even body-worn on the players, the potential is there for the action to really come alive.

With immersive wireless camera technology already proven as a readily deployable solution, and with vast TV audiences clamouring for social togetherness whilst still practicing physical distancing, the rekindling of sporting events behind closed doors could be seen as the perfect vehicle to experiment with new ways to increase social engagement and greater viewer participation to deliver a more immersive experience to a vast, ready and willing global audience.

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