Vizrt Heads to Races for Hong Kong Jockey Club

The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), the largest horse-racing venue in China, has begun broadcasting events at its Happy Valley and Sha Tin Racetracks in HD through the use of two newly installed Viz Arena systems. Hong Kong Jockey Club broadcasts to all betting offices, on their own television channel, and throughout the venues.

Viz Arena is a system powered by Viz Engine 3.2 and composed of Viz Artist 3.2 animation tools and Viz Video 3-D control application. Viz Arena enables broadcasters to superimpose static and animated 3D graphics over the live coverage of a sports event. It is the same system that was used to enhance coverage of high-profile events, such as the Olympic Summer Games.

The HKJC had been broadcasting in SD prior its installation of Viz Arena. “We went with Vizrt because of the company’s ability to provide robust services and features in HD,” says Oonagh Chan, head of broadcasting services, Hong Kong Jockey Club. “We consider the current version of Viz Arena unmatched in quality. And having a support team based here in Hong Kong was invaluable during the integration and installation of the Viz Arena software.

“Live sports-event broadcasting requires a system that is responsive and easy to use because there is no room for mistakes,” Chan continues. “The Viz Arena package offers powerful and accurate enhancements to our broadcasts.”

During the installation period, the Viz Arena system was calibrated at the Happy Valley and Sha Tin racetracks in two stages. First, camera lenses were calibrated independently from the venue. Later, at the venue, a second calibration was done to achieve the best match between the virtual images and real images.

Viz Arena can calculate real-time distance measurements and object placement during live action. Ideal for any sporting event, it creates graphics that remain in place while cameras track movement of athletes, cars, horses — whatever is competing on any surface from a race track to a swimming pool. The superimposed graphics can be static or animated 3D graphics.

HKJC uses Viz Arena to create several virtual lines on the track that show how far each horse and jockey are from various points along the track to the finish line. The resulting image helps viewers see the position of each horse and how the horses compare when crossing the finish line.

Viz Arena contains an improved feature set powered by the latest version of Viz Engine, version 3.2. Viz Arena is equipped with an internal keyer making it possible for broadcasters to employ multiple keyers during the same broadcast. When only one keyer is available, adjustments for variations in lighting have to be done as a whole over the image. Having an unlimited number of keyers, broadcasters are now able to assign multiple keyers to specific and separate portions of a field or track to better adjust for sudden changes.

Additionally, any area in the scene can be keyed by chrominance or luminance. This allows keying not only on differently shaded grass but keying over dirt tracks at the same time. This is of significant benefit to the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s broadcasts, since both venues have a turf track and an inner field that is dirt. Chroma-keying on the dirt is difficult — so Viz Arena allows keying on the brownish dirt track based on luminance. To find the optimum setup for the keyer, the operator can click into the live video or use one of the predefined hot spots of the individual chroma/luminance keyers.

Another key factor for the quality of the final result is the deinterlacer used on the live video in. Viz Arena uses DVS Centaurus II as the video board of choice for virtual sport enhancements. The DVS enables an adjustable overall delay from as low as 2 frames up to 10 frames if needed. DVS can work in SD and HD formats.

The newest version of Viz Arena also allows for real-time adjustments to keys during the event with a simple mouse click. A portion of the track can be isolated, evaluated, and adjusted to produce the best picture quality as the event occurs. Viz Arena includes dynamic, correct-perspective graphical overlays for any playing area. Users can create animated virtual advertising graphics and game analysis and insert those images live.

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