NVIDIA, Sportvision Bring Gold Medal Effects to NBC’s Winter Olympics Broadcast

Sportvision, Inc., leveraging the computing power of the Quadro graphics processing unit (GPU), is bringing new effects to NBC’s coverage of many of the events at the Winter Olympic Games. Sportvision has partnered with NBC during the Winter Olympics to present viewers with a variety of GPU-powered broadcast effects that provide insight into the action taking place.

The “SimulCam” effect superimposes one athlete’s performance over another to graphically illustrate the differences between the competitors’ strategies, approaches, and even flaws. NBC has shown Bode Miller flying down the mountain racing neck and neck against Ivica Kostelic in the Alpine Skiing Men’s Downhill, and Lindsey Vonn and Andrea Fischerbacher chasing each other down the super-G course. Yes, these are solo competitions, with each competitor racing against the clock, but SimulCam gives viewers the ability to instantly compare one skier’s performance against another’s, helping better explain why one skier just beat out another by mere tenths or even thousandths of a second.
“StroMotion,” another Sportvision effect, repeatedly freezes athletes in motion during a given segment of their routine to demonstrate, within a single frame, the entire evolution of their movements. A StroMotion-enhanced video sequence lets the viewer see into the mind of an athlete as they execute a routine. StroMotion technology has enhanced coverage of the Moguls competition, along with several other events.

SimulCam and StroMotion were initially developed as sports training applications by a group of video professionals in Switzerland known as DartFish. StroMotion and SimulCam work by compounding video images into a frame-by-frame sequence.  StroMotion is based on stroboscoping, a means to analyze rapid movement so that a moving object is perceived as a series of static images along the object’s trajectory. SimulCam is a video processing application combining video sequences with Spatial-Temporal alignment. Given two video sequences, a composite video sequence can be generated which includes visual elements from each of the given sequences, suitably synchronized and represented in a chosen focal plane. For example, given two video sequences with each showing a different contestant individually racing the same down-hill course, the composite sequence can include elements from each of the given sequences to show the contestants as if racing simultaneously. Both StroMotion and SimulCam technologies are part of the DartFish DartStudio system.

The SimulCam technology involves background recognition, a process that identifies the pixels that belong in the background and calculates how those pixels move throughout a series of successive images. Those calculations are made possible by leveraging NVIDIA graphics processing units (GPUs).

Differences in the camera angles between every two images of two videos are determined, and then every image of the second video is geometrically modified so as to match the viewpoint of the corresponding image in the first video. SimulCam then blends the two images together.

StroMotion similarly utilizes NVIDIA Quadro GPUs to compute the camera movement between every two successive video images. Once determined, it stitches the images together, and using redundancy, it’s able to remove the moving object from the image. Then, from the computed camera movement, StroMotion can determine how each video image relates geometrically to each other and to the panorama. The identification of pixels belonging to moving objects is based on the change-detection of each video image within the corresponding area in the panorama.

Ultimately, it’s a combination of DartFish software, Sportvision hardware, which includes NVIDIA Quadro GPUs, input and guidance from a number of on-site Sportvision producers, and NBC’s camera feeds, production, and on-air personalities that are bringing viewers an enhanced Winter Olympics viewing experience.

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