NAB 2019 Reflections: Vizrt’s Stephan Würmlin Stadler on the new global sports division
When Vizrt’s NAB booth opened for action it marked a new era for the company following its acquisition of Newtek on April 1. But Vizrt had another announcement that day as well as Dr. Stephan Würmlin Stadler was named president of Vizrt’s Global Sports unit. “Things worked well previously but the potential in sports for our tools we wanted to spin out sports and move them into one global business unit with all sales, pre sales, and support,” says Stadler. “It’s a big segment and an interesting challenge as sports broadcasting is only a part of the customer segment. It is also about what we can do for teams and federations and also sports venues are big, especially here in the U.S. And then there is also Esports which truly is global as companies like Riot Games are spinning off things around the world.”
The acquisition of Newtek and how the two companies would blend was a big topic of discussion at NAB.
“We strongly believe in both brands and we plan to keep Newtek as a brand with its own sales channel, partners, and products,” says Stadler. “We have partnered with them on certain confined areas in the past like adding our Trio graphics to the Newtek Tricaster and also our Mosart automation system. But we have two great R&D entities with complementary skills and a lot of opportunities to create new products.”
The big news at NAB was Viz Engine 4 which Stadler says has been under development for nearly a decade. It addresses the need for a compositing engine that can bring in real-time data and also handle new formats like HDR.
“We worked a long time on this and invested a lot of money into it to really make it something that will be at the forefront of broadcast workflows and rendering,” says Stadler. “It can also run in parallel with the Viz Engine 3 core so that a facility can upgrade at its own pace as some graphics can run on the older core while others will want to be run on the new one with new effects like photo realism, shading, reflections, and more.”
A completely new chroma keyer for virtual sets is also on board and makes use of the new power of the Reality Fusion render pipeline. Physical-based rendering and global illumination are among the techniques put to use to allow for more realistic augmented reality graphics and virtual studio operations.
“Storytelling in sports is more important and at the core of everything, including graphics which is really a means to end to tell a story,” says Stadler.
But graphics are also poised to open up new advertising opportunities as virtual advertising with systems like Vizrt Arena and Eclipse both holding potential.
“Virtual advertising is not in its infancy but legislation that has blocked it in the past is changing and technology is easier to apply,” he adds. “But things like regionalization of advertising is an important business benefit for our customers.”
Beyond virtual advertising there is the move to virtualized hardware which Stadler sees as both a challenge and opportunity for both manufacturers and their customers.
“When you think about virtualization it has to be the right use case,” says Stadler. “I truly believe a virtualized control room makes a lot of sense because they are not being used all the time. That is why we have virtualized installations of our automation products at U.S. broadcasters.”