SMT’s ISOTrack System In Spotlight on Key NBC Championship Races

Historic races have been the norm at NBC Sports Group this spring and summer with California Chrome making his dramatic – albeit failed – attempt at thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown and now the drama of cycling’s own crown jewel, the Tour de France.

At the center of the network’s coverage again has been SMT, providing the broadcaster with critical graphic enhancements and real-time data tracking that help even the casual viewer follow the action.

SMT's ISOTrack system live tracked California Chrome during last month's Belmont Stakes.

SMT’s ISOTrack system live tracked California Chrome during last month’s Belmont Stakes.

As the Tour de France roared through Stage 4 earlier today, SMT’s ISOTrack system was a key piece of the production puzzle as the tracking and pointer technology helped NBC point out key riders throughout the race.

“If the yellow jersey is in a group of 20 riders, we’ve got to point him out,” says Ben Hayes, account manager at SMT. “If you’re looking at the helicopter shot above the field, and there’s 20 or 30 riders, we can pick him out [for the viewer] and than track them through the group.”

While most tracking technology of this nature is used in replays and in postproduction work, SMT’s system is capable of providing these graphics live and in real-time. It’s vision-based tracking technology is operator by two SMT staffers on-site who lock on to the body-in-motion that needs to be followed. Its non-invasive to the athlete and does a world of good for the viewer at home.

The live capabilities of ISOTrack were paramount during NBC’s coverage of the Belmont Stakes when the eyes of the sports-viewing nation were on just one one horse in an 11 horse field: California Chrome.

Because the first Triple Crown since 1978 was at staked, NBC asked SMT if ISOTrack – which was typically used by NBC in horse racing on on one of the first replays to track the winner’s course to victory – could be used live on-screen to track California Chrome during the race. Following some practice runs on some races earlier in the day, SMT was able to pull it off live and for about 10-15 seconds of the Belmont Stakes, SMT’s ISOTrack was on screen pointing out California Chrome’s position to the viewer at home.

“There was a lot of pressure,” admits Hayes. “We’ve done it live in a lot of other situations in cycling and marathons where the viewership certainly is not as high and usually it’s in a situation where there’s some space and its very obvious who we are pointing to. There was a lot of talk behind the scenes of how we were going to execute this. So yes, there were millions of people watching, yes it was a historic moment, but by the time that we got there, we were as comfortable as we are running any of our other systems. We were never nervous about delivering this.”

In addition to ISOTrack’s moment in the sun, SMT’s DMX server is the centerpiece to all of the data tracking around massive race events such as the Belmont Stakes or the crowded Tour de France. At the Tour, SMT ingests race data from three different data providers and aggregates them in various real-time tracking banners and graphics.

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