Live from Super Bowl LI: Inside SMT’s Development of the First and Ten Line for Skycam
SMT is bringing a Super Bowl first to tomorrow’s big game as it will be the first Super Bowl to have the virtual First and Ten line placed within images captured from the Skycam, a major technical accomplishment that create new uses for augmented reality graphics and more.
Historically First and Ten virtual insertion technology relies on reading data from a fixed camera position and then matching that data (pan, tilt, and zoom) up with a virtual map of the field of play.
“That is a one level of feat but have a moving camera where you don’t have fixed reference points and you need to rely on image recognition is another,” says Gerard Hall, SMT, founder and chairman.
The challenge in working with a moving camera in realtime is that when the subject in the image gets closer or further away is it because the subject and camera are physically closer or did the camera zoom in or out? The new system has image processing algorithms that know with some degree of accuracy where the camera is on the field and then visual anchors (a hash mark, yardage line, the yardage numbers on the field) are analyzed to find out exactly where the virtual insertion needs to be placed.
“This technology can expand for all sports and things like advertising content or things like introductions of players on the field,” says Hall. “And this can also be used to bring image stabilization to a fixed camera that might be on something like a mast.”
It also could be used to replace the existing hardware-based insertion technologies that require extensive set up and calibration.
“With this you could just show up and within a day have the cameras good to go,” says Hall. “And in a world of distracted viewing putting virtual ads into the actual game is going to become more and more important. In this case, we were just solving the problem of a First and Ten line but this technology has a lot of other applications.”