As A-level live sports productions continue to grow and advance technologically at a staggering rate, one of the main training grounds for the next generation of workflows is in replay.
Right now much of the world is tuning into World Cup broadcasts that are overflowing with slo-mo replays of fans and athletes, giving viewers deeper insight into the emotions that are at the core of the world’s most popular sport.
Specialty cameras and 4K replay have muscled their way into current HD workflows and showed their mettle, providing replay angles with more pixels and greater clarity than ever before, giving a director an additional tool to tell a story with.
But a full 4K production? That’s still a ways off for the majority of the even with four such productions taking place this month at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
“I think the technology needs to evolve before it becomes a bit more mainstream,” says FOR-A’s Jay Shinn, VP of Americas. “There really isn’t a large selection of 4K production switchers, for example. We’re still early days and, I think, a number of years before the whole chain of 4K even becomes available.”
In the meantime, manufacturers and broadcasters are working together to incorporate more future replay enhancements on more productions. The workflow has evolved over a short window, according to Fletcher Sports’ Vice President Dan Grainge.
“The biggest change that we’ve seen is functionality,” he says. “We’ve gone from recording everything in the head to now, with the Grass Valley and I-MOVIX system, recording into an EVS or [Grass Valley] Dyno at up to 600 frames in 1080p all the time. No more trigger. Quality doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore; we’re not talking about that. What we are really talking about is price point and functionality.”
So what’s next in pushing the limits with replay? A common trend that some manufacturers are seeing is that more and more cameras of a live production deployment will feature high frame rate capabilities.
“When you’re playing back a replay in sports, it’s always slow mo,” says James Stellpflug, vice president, Sports Products, The Americas for EVS. “It’s very rare that you see a replay played back at full speed. So since we’re always playing back slow mo, it would be behoove us to always – if we could – have every camera and recording device be at a high frame rate.”
As the workflow continues to mature, is there a place for 4K cameras with a high frame-rate?
“With 4K, it’s all fine and dandy if someone can afford it,” says Inertia Unlimited’s Jeff Silverman, “So, right now, our main focus is going to remain on 720 and 1080 done properly. Flex 4K, the biggest issue besides cost is that it takes a lot of infrastructure. It’s a niche within a niche. I don’t see it being used widely in the near future. We have three [systems] at the moment and I’m not sure how many more we’re going to offer.”
FOR-A’s Shinn believes that using 4K as high-speed can actually help deliver more pixels and crisper slow-motion images to a live production.
“I guess we have the privilege of introducing something new to the marketplace with the FT-1 where we have a 4K camera at high speed up to 900 frames-per-second,” says Shinn. “We were lucky enough to be involved with a lot of early adopter experiments. I think the ability to tell a story in football or boxing have been quite rich in terms of what the viewer has been able to experience.”
The Technology in Sport Series - In association with SVG Europe.
Ken Kerschbaumer is the Editorial Director of The Sports Video Group