Sportvision settles lawsuit; heats up NFL with Freezecam

By Ken Kerschbaumer

It’s been a busy few weeks at Sportvision as the company today settled a long-pending patent infringement lawsuit with SportsMEDIA while heating up CBS Sports NFL coverage with Freezecam. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, SportsMEDIA, which provides virtual first-down technology to NBC Sports and others, will take a license under Sportvision’s patents in the virtual insertion technology area. As a result, the patent infringement case has now been dismissed between the companies.

“We’re very please to announce the settlement,” says Hank Adams, Sportvision CEO. “We’re enthused because it validates our intellectual property and we’re more than happy to compete with market-based solutions.” Sportvision now holds roughly 80% of the virtual first-down market.

Adams says there were a number of patents involved, including how to key the first-down line color under a player via multiple inclusion and exclusion of colors and using a 3D graphic model of the field to do insertion.

With the lawsuit behind them Sportvision can now turn its full attention to creating new enhancements, like the Freezecam that debuted during the CBS Sports record-breaking broadcast of the Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots game two weeks ago.

Freezecam allows CBS football analysts to freeze a high-resolution image of a play during the telecast and scan around the image to point out aspects of the play that were not originally broadcast to viewers.

“When the user freezes the video where, say Tom Brady is going back to pass as the system pans out it transitions to the still photo which has a wider field of view,” explains Adams.

The system works by slaving a Canon 1Ds Mark II 16.7 megapixel camera to the broadcast camera lens. The Canon 1Ds has a wider field of view than the video camera and is controlled remotely from the production truck. An EVS server at the truck captures all uncompressed camera feeds while another computer runs the Freezecam application and matches the video and the still photo.

“The user then creates an animation by moving and zooming around the still image,” adds Adams.

While the use by CBS marks the first time Freezecam has hit the gridiron viewers may have seen it before. Last year it was used by ESPN during the NBA playoffs.

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