Powered by Viz AI, Vizrt Object Tracker Enhances Fox Sports Graphics at 2022 Daytona 500
The technology adds graphic enhancement to new front-, rear-bumper POV cameras
Player- and car-tracking are on the rise in sports production, and, this month, the technology received even further improvements. During the 2022 Daytona 500, Vizrt unveiled its Viz AI solution for enhanced broadcast graphics.
“We’ve been working for quite a while on this AI-driven object tracker that needs only a video input,” says Richard Einstein, senior product manager, Vizrt. “It was originally trained for humans, but, over time, we’ve adapted it for other use cases, mostly around racing events.”
The idea of AI-powered object tracking has been around in Vizrt for a long time. Early last year, the company decided to make it available for customers. On the surface, the technology is capable of detecting and tracking objects over any incoming video feed. Based on the traditional Vizrt production setup — graphics design through Viz Artist, playout through Viz Engine, and a recently introduced control application called Viz Arc — previous Vizrt users are familiar with the user interface and ecosystem. With Viz Arc, the operator can identify the objects and assign the correct ID or driver to it. After the objects are specified, the AI tracking can tie back to the graphical design in Viz Artist and can loop in external real-time data, such as speed and place.
After gaining the attention of Fox Sports SVP, Graphic Technology and Integration, Zac Fields, the initial concept gradually became a reality. To bring the software up to speed with the size, shape, and intricate details of a stock car, Vizrt used archival footage from the 2021 Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona. Since these races took place at night, the footage not only allowed the solution to understand the physical structure of the car but also how lighting conditions affect tracking.
After Fox Sports signed on for the solution in December 2021 and January 2022, the next task was to fine-tune it prior to the start of the 2022 NASCAR season with the network and SMT.
“We started to do an onsite test with Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum,” says Vizrt Sales Manager Pino Barile. “We worked together to optimize our workflows as well as the additional feedback we received about the graphical-design placement and scaling.”
During this preseason race, all three groups worked with multiple camera angles, including the Roof Cam POV and other in-car cameras. For NASCAR’s biggest race at the 2022 Daytona 500, SMT was responsible for implementing these cleaner and less intrusive graphics in Fox Sports’ new graphics package with the use of Elgato’s Stream Deck.
“We hadn’t had the chance to work with SMT on NASCAR,” says Barile. “Everything was put together quickly, but the collaboration between us, SMT, and Fox Sports provided incredible results.”
Since the application isn’t widely available until April, Fox Sports was the first to implement the technology on-air. Viz AI can be used in other environments besides sports: for example, real-time tracking in news and entertainment. For sports broadcasts, the solution is designed to provide a well-rounded and viable option.
“I think the possibilities are limitless,” says Barile, “because it’s a matter of customers giving us their clean footage and getting the software to learn and see what [the objects] look like under different conditions. From financial and time perspectives, you can prepare a lot of elements from offsite, so we think this provides a whole new level of sports storytelling.”
The Object Tracker technology, powered by Viz AI, will be commercially available in early April.