SBJ Plugged In: Gerard Hall, founder and chairman, SMT

Gerard Hall, founder and chairman of Durham, N.C.-based SMT, isn’t a household name among sports fans. But he and his company have played a significant role for nearly 30 years in reshaping how sports are presented on television. The technology company works with every major sports network and several leagues domestically and abroad. SMT recently acquired rival outfit Sportvision, best known for innovations such as football’s virtual 1st-and-10 line, in a move that consolidated its power within the industry.

On the advantages of acquiring Sportvision: There is no denying that Sportvision has changed the way certain sports are presented on television. At the heart of all these Sportvision innovations are state-of-the-art core technology components that SMT will repurpose to other sports and other visualization applications. A slew of next-generation products, services and solutions in SMT’s pipeline will benefit from the incorporation of these core Sportvision technology components.


On forthcoming innovation in TV sports production: A big push will be toward the maximization of computer automation in order to save production costs. Automation will impact camera coverage, director line cuts, replay workflow, insight analysis and performance analytics. It’s not too farfetched to imagine a 100 percent automated production of a sporting event.


On the continued advance in player tracking technology: Tracking objects 10, 15 or 30 times a second produces an exponential explosion of data. Harnessing this firehose of data and creatively applying it is the current challenge. Data growth must be offset by corresponding logarithmic data reduction to make the data manageable and meaningful. Player tracking data will move sports and sports coverage into a world of “Moneyball” on steroids.


On the rise of 4K resolution technology: 4K and higher resolutions create a very immersive viewer experience since the increase in pixels create a greater perceived depth of field, and will pay off the promise of what 3-D should have been.


On challenges facing sports TV production: As eyeballs become divided across 500 channels, and even more significantly, as eyeballs are subjected to the constant distraction and interruption by mobile phone screens and social media, the traditional flow of a sports telecast will need to adapt. On the production side, less eyeballs means less budget. All productions will be looking for cost-cutting efficiencies, and these cuts will be significant.


— Eric Fisher

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