Trail Blazers Pioneer AR Broadcasts with Handheld Cam in NBA



by ZAIN UL ABEDIN

Trail Blazers Pioneer AR Broadcasts with Handheld Cam in NBA
© Brian Bahr/Getty Images

In a groundbreaking collaboration with disguise, the Portland Trail Blazers have ushered in a new era of sports broadcasting by introducing augmented reality (AR) graphics in live NBA games, tracked using a handheld camera.

This innovative approach enhances the fan experience by delivering real-time statistics and player insights directly on the court, marking a significant leap in sports coverage. The partnership between disguise and the Trail Blazers is a testament to the team's commitment to in-house production excellence, being one of only five NBA teams to produce all their live broadcasts internally.

Over a six-week period, the collaboration involved installing sophisticated tracking hardware in the Moda Center, utilizing the RedSpy tracking system. This system features an infrared camera that tracks markers on the arena's ceiling, integrating seamlessly with a disguise px+ media server.

This setup enables the Trail Blazers to render dynamic Unreal Engine AR graphics, complete with live data integration, enriching the viewing experience with immersive, in-depth analytics. Control of these cutting-edge graphics is managed through the disguise Gateway, incorporating Viz Trio and the innovative Porta solution for native Unreal Engine control.

The Creative Services team at disguise played a pivotal role, offering expertise in data visualization, concept development, and the implementation of Unreal Engine graphics. This technological marvel allows Trail Blazers fans to enjoy a unique viewing experience.

Graphics appear as part of the arena, offering a vivid, interactive display of player and game statistics. From the opening tip-off to the final buzzer, these AR elements provide an engaging and informative game presentation, far surpassing traditional lower-thirds graphics.

Notably, an AR line graph vividly illustrates the fluctuating shooting percentages throughout the match, updating with each field goal attempt.

Revolutionizing Broadcast Analytics

The introduction of AR graphics by the Trail Blazers signifies the dawn of a new, more analytical era in sports broadcasting.

It promises fans an experience akin to being courtside, all from the comfort of their homes. John McConnell, the Trail Blazers' graphics producer, emphasizes the novelty and challenges of this endeavor. "Integrating live handheld tracking in a fast-paced basketball game was uncharted territory," he explains.

"disguise, with their expertise in broadcasting technology and AR, coupled with their enthusiasm for basketball, was the ideal partner to bring our vision to life." As pioneers in the NBA for utilizing AR handheld graphics, the Trail Blazers foresee a future rich with possibilities.

Potential enhancements include integrating additional cameras and incorporating player tracking data from the NBA's Hawk-Eye system. This could pave the way for even more interactive AR elements in NBA broadcasts, potentially borrowing concepts from the gaming world, like NBA2K, to overlay additional player-related statistics on the court.

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