SMT, SkyCam Team Up To Tackle Saturday’s Titans-Patriots Game From Every Angle

Play-marking system, dual aerial cameras will combine for enhanced player tracking

The Tennessee Titans travel to New England this weekend to take on the reigning Super Bowl champions in the AFC Divisional Round. To capture the action on the gridiron from every angle, CBS Sports will rely on dual SkyCam WildCat aerial camera systems with SMT’s Next Gen Tele and play-marking systems, as well as its virtual 1st & Ten line.

A look at SMT’s graphics on SkyCam during last week’s AFC Wild Card game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Next Gen Tele System, which debuted during last year’s AFC Divisional Round, channels the NFL’s Next Gen Stats (NGS) data into an enhanced player-tracking telestrator. Combined with SMT’s proprietary play-marking system, which enables rendering of four virtual-player routes on the SkyCam video and its virtual 1st & Ten line, Next Gen Tele System provides a multitude of options for on-screen graphics that CBS Sports talent can leverage to better tell the story of the game.

“From a production standpoint, everything is about storytelling and conveying the story behind the game,” says Robbie Louthan, VP, client services and systems, SMT. “It’s handled in many different ways, but one way is obviously graphics. The advantage there is, you’re able to tell relevant, compelling information in a quick and succinct way without having to have the talent verbalize it to [viewers]. When you can get it reduced down to a graphic that is relevant to the viewer, you’re guaranteeing that the information you want to convey is being handled in a very quick, succinct manner, because there’s very short time frame between plays.”

During Saturday’s game, SkyCam will focus the lower camera system on the actual game play at the line of scrimmage, showing the quarterback’s point of view. The upper system will provide more of a tactical, “all 22” look at the field. Both systems will feature SMT graphics that enhance their respective camera angles and roles.

“Our camera angle creates a view that helps tell the story better than other camera angles,” explains Stephen Wharton, CTO, SkyCam. “Our view just establishes the storytelling for those graphics better than any other camera can, and then, when you add the motion that our camera brings with it, it makes those graphics — whether NGS, routes, and lines or first-down markers —- get placed very well within the angle of the shot, so that that story is being told.”

SMT will deploy four staffers to Gillette Stadium to support the graphics on the dual Skycam system: one operator to support the Next Gen Tele System, a dedicated operator for each of the camera systems, and one to oversee the operation and help produce the content. SkyCam will have a team of nine on the ground in New England, including five operators on the lower camera system (an engineer in charge, an assistant, a rigger, a pilot, and an operator responsible for the camera’s pan/tilt/zoom) and four on the upper camera system (an EIC, rigger, pilot, and PTZ operator).

The same system will return the following week during the AFC Championship Game, and similar systems will appear in other games throughout the NFL playoffs. And, while the action on the gridiron is sure to excite throughout the playoffs, the graphics overlaid on the dual Skycam system will only increase the level of storytelling that the talent can deliver and fans can expect.

“We’re excited about showing off a new way of using Next Gen Stats and really focusing on where the players are running, where the routes are, and creating that sort of Madden look, if you will,” says Wharton. “If you [look at the broadcasters, they’re] usually telestrating: they’re saying, Here’s this guy, and they draw the little yellow line of where he ran. Now we’re leveraging the NFL’s Next Gen Stats system to get that data to create the graphics with SMT and then overlay that from our angle. It creates a very compelling shot.”

Echoes Louthan, “It’s another tool in the toolkit for the announcers — in this case, for [analyst] Tony Romo to use graphics to help tell the story of what he sees. It has been exciting for us to work with Tony on fine-tuning these graphics to [enable] him to use his incredible insight into the game to tell the story.”

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