Fox Sports Reimagines On-Air Graphics — Again — With Hego US, Sportvision
As the network that mainstreamed the full-time on-screen score-and-clock bug, introduced America to the glowing puck, and revolutionized the way NFL audiences understand the first down, Fox Sports continues to innovate graphics creation.
The 19th season of NFL on Fox, which premieres this Sunday, will be no different. Taking a page from its NASCAR playbook, Fox Sports will add a graphics system developed by Hego US in conjunction with Sportvision for player identification.
“We’re really excited about this technology that essentially tracks players on the field, follows them in real time, and IDs them from wide shots,” says Fox Sports Media Group Co-President/COO Eric Shanks. “So when Troy [Aikman] is talking about a particular matchup out on the left side, those guys’ names will pop up and follow them. I think it will be one of the most helpful innovations that we’ve [added] since the [1st & Ten] line.”
Player-identification pointers are created using two banks of eight robotic cameras, set high in the stadium at the 35-yard lines, that track the moving objects on the gridiron. After technicians identify and tag each player by number, the technology generates the player’s name, number, and additional information in an on-screen graphic.
The technology relies on Hego US’s Tracab tracking system and interface and Sportvision’s graphic rendering. (Sportvision is also responsible for the 1st & Ten line.) Pointers remain on-screen until removed, enabling analysts to quickly point out a particular player and follow him throughout an entire play.
“Rather than the old-fashioned way of Troy drawing a circle on the guy beforehand, and not taking anything away from Troy’s drawing abilities,” quipped Shanks, “this is probably a better way to do it and a more technically efficient way to do it.”
Saying OK to 4K
Last season, Fox Sports established a workflow for high-resolution capture and extraction known as Fox Super Zoom. Built on a high-speed Vision Research camera, Fox Super Zoom enabled operators to zoom in on a shot — a foot on the sidelines, a knee on the ground — and not lose HD resolution.
That workflow gets a boost this season with the Sony F65 4K camera, equipped with a FUJINON zoom lens and PL mount. Working with Fountain Valley, CA-based hardware/software manufacturer PsiTech, Fox Sports will capture and transport the 4K stream to a Sony CDU on the truck, where it will be split into four HD feeds.
“PsiTech has been working to establish control and normal operations for that 4K camera, like tally and comp and things that our cameramen are used to,” explains Mike Davies, VP, field operations, Fox Sports Media Group. “By the time we’re done with it, it really should look and feel like a normal sports camera.”
Super slow motion will continue to play an integral role in NFL on Fox coverage. The network has added at least one super-slow-motion camera and one Inertia Unlimited X-Mo v642 to every A-, B-, and C-level telecast.
“It worked out great last year,” says Davies. “Our video operators were really able to make that camera match both in its live and in its replay modes, and it’s just been absorbed as part of our workflow. It’s basically how we do TV now.”
Ready for Football
Fox Sports is scheduled to broadcast 103 regular-season games, including nine editions of America’s Game of the Week (NFL on Fox’s national doubleheader window). Each week, coverage begins with Fox NFL Sunday, featuring Terry Bradshaw and Curt Menefee as co-hosts alongside analysts Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson, and Michael Strahan; NFL insider Jay Glazer; and comedian Rob Riggle.
Former NFL head coach and Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator Mike Martz, former NFL fullback Heath Evans, and reporter Erin Andrews join the NFL on Fox team. Joe Buck, Aikman, and Pam Oliver return as the network’s lead broadcast team.
“We feel we’ve got the strongest talent group out there, and it’s really building on what we’ve done in the past,” says Fox Sports Media Group EVP/Executive Producer John Entz. “We’ve got some fantastic matchups this year, as we do every year. In week one, we’re ready to get going.”