Instant Replay in College, Part 2: XOS Digital Unveils Uncompressed HD
For college football, instant-replay software has transitioned from luxury to requirement. Conferences are now expected not only to provide instant-replay systems but also to train technicians in how to use it and constantly upgrade to the highest-available quality. Over the next two weeks, SVG will profile the major players in the instant-replay–software market.
Instant replay at the college level dates back to 2004 and the Big Ten’s experiment. DVSport was the first in the market, followed closely by XOS, according to Dean Blandino, founder of Under the Hood Inc. and an instant-replay consultant. Today, he says, instant-replay systems are widespread, with half of college conferences using DVSport and the other half using XOS.”
XOS Digital, which has been providing instant-replay software since 2005, introduced its first HD instant-replay system this fall. In addition to both SD and HD products tailored to football, the company also offers a scaled-back system for basketball and hockey. XOS currently counts 40 clients using its instant-replay product for football. The SEC, Big 12, WAC, and Conference USA deploy the HD version; the Sun Belt Conference works in SD.
“Our HD product is unique in that we offer an uncompressed format,” explains Randall Malone, instant replay services manager for XOS Digital. “We get our video feed straight from the TV truck as a program feed, and we bring it up to the replay official, record it, and play it back uncompressed. It is 25 times greater quality than Blu-ray and far better than what the audience is seeing at home. The video quality is far greater than anything else that’s out there in the market.”
With five years’ experience as a replay technician at Auburn University, Malone is particularly well equipped to compare the quality level of the XOS Digital product.
“In my experience with uncompressed HD, the number of reviews we’ve had has been cut down because the official is getting such a clear look at the play that he doesn’t have to stop the game,” he says. “When the game is stopped, the review time seems to be shorter. Overall, I think it’s speeding up the game because the quality of the video is so great.”
Backup for SD
If, for some reason, a game is not being broadcast in HD, XOS’s HD replay product will still work.
“Our HD replay system will accept any format, so, if it’s broadcast in SD, the officials will just watch in SD,” Malone points out. “If the game is not being broadcast at all, they’ll take the in-house feed that’s being broadcast to the video board. They’ll have direct contact to the control room to get the looks that they need.”
Hi-Def, Low on Gear
The equipment required to install the XOS Digital replay system is minimal — just a computer server with the replay software installed and three HD monitors.
“The replay technician has a touchscreen to do all the data entry and marking of plays,” Malone says. “The replay official, who also sits in the booth, has a remote with a jog/shuttle on it where he can rewind and go frame by frame. That’s really the only piece of equipment that he needs.”
The replay technician, who is trained by XOS Digital during the summer months, is tasked with ensuring that the equipment works properly throughout the game, as well as with entering data points. For each play, the technician logs down and distance, the line of scrimmage, time on the clock, and any penalties; associates that data with the play; and makes that available for officials to review.
Adapted to the Court and Rink
Because the number of hockey and basketball plays available to review is different from that in football, XOS Digital’s replay product is scaled back a bit for the court and rink.
“In basketball and hockey, we just mark certain points on the video, and only one person runs the system,” Malone says. “There are far less reviews for these two sports — in basketball, reviews are usually only for timing infractions or to see if a guy’s foot was on the three-point line — so we do not have to review every single play. The system is a little bit less in-depth.”
Although the company’s first choice is always to make a conference-level sale, XOS Digital has sold a replay system to an independent school for basketball. Currently, the Mid-American Conference, Sun Belt, and WAC are using the system for basketball, and, all together, XOS Digital counts more than 120 clients across all sports.
XOS Digital does not release pricing information for its products, but Blandino says that the XOS and DVSport products have very similar pricing. “If there is a difference,” he says, “it’s minimal.”