NVIDIA AND SPORTVISION BRING GOLD MEDAL SPECIAL EFFECTS TO NBC’S 2010 WINTER OLYMPICS BROADCAST

by Danny Shapiro

Have you been watching the 2010 Winter Olympic
Games
?  Over 80 nations are competing in 15 different sporting events taking
place in and around Vancouver, Canada, through Feb. 28th. The Olympics provide
captivating drama that only sporting events on a massive, global scale can
provide. From Alpine Skiing, Curling, and Figure Skating, to Ice Hockey, Ski
Jumping, and Snowboarding, there’s an incredible amount of action going on, and
NVIDIA and Sportvision are helping deliver that action via NBC to TV and
Internet audiences in unique ways.

Vancouver Olympics 2010

Sportvision, Inc., leveraging the massively parallel computing
power of the Quadro graphics processing unit (GPU), is the company bringing you
incredible, new effects to many of these events at the Winter Olympics.

Sportvision is the company behind “RACEf/x,” those real-time info ‘balloons’ that track the cars
at NASCAR events, and “1st and Ten,” the superimposed first-down marker that you
see displayed on the field during NFL games. Sportvision has partnered with NBC
during the Winter Olympics to present viewers with a variety of
broadcast effects that provide key insights into the action taking place.

One cool effect, called “SimulCam,” superimposes one athlete’s performance
over another to graphically illustrate the differences between competitor’s
strategies, approaches, and even flaws.

If you’ve been watching NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, you’ve watched Bode Miller flying down the mountain racing neck and neck
against Ivica Kostelic in the Alpine Skiing Men’s Downhill, and/or Lindsey Vonn and Andrea Fischerbacher chasing each other down
the super-G course; no, you weren’t imagining it— you DID see two skiers racing
down the mountain to the finish line at the same time, mere inches from one
another. Yes, these are solo competitions, with each competitor racing against
the clock, but SimulCam gives viewers the ability to instantly compare one
skier’s performance against another’s, helping better explain why one skier just
beat out another by mere tenths or even thousandths of a second.

The second intriguing video effect, called
“StroMotion,” repeatedly freezes athletes in motion during a given segment of
their routine to demonstrate, within a single frame, the entire evolution of
their movements. A still photo is one thing. But a StroMotion-enhanced video
sequence effectively lets the viewer see into the mind of an athlete as they
execute a routine.

StroMotion technology has enhanced coverage of the Moguls
competition
, along with several other events.

OK, now for some drill-down on how these technologies work. SimulCam and
StroMotion were initially developed as sports training applications by a
group of video pros in Switzerland known as DartFish.

StroMotion and SimulCam work by compounding video images into a
frame-by-frame sequence.  StroMotion is based on stroboscoping, a means to
analyze rapid movement so that a moving object is perceived as a series of
static images along the object’s trajectory. SimulCam is a video processing
application combining video sequences with Spatial-Temporal alignment. Given two
video sequences, a composite video sequence can be generated which includes
visual elements from each of the given sequences, suitably synchronized and
represented in a chosen focal plane. For example, given two video sequences with
each showing a different contestant individually racing the same down-hill
course, the composite sequence can include elements from each of the given
sequences to show the contestants as if racing simultaneously. Both StroMotion
and SimulCam technologies are part of the DartFish DartStudio system.

The SimulCam technology involves “background recognition,” a process that
identifies the pixels that belong in the background and calculates how those
pixels move throughout a series of successive images.

Differences in the camera angles between every two images of two videos are
determined, and then every image of the second video is geometrically modified
so as to match the viewpoint of the corresponding image in the first video.
SimulCam then blends the two images together.

StroMotion similarly computes the
camera movement between every two successive video images. Once determined, it
stitches the images together, and using a high level of redundancy, it’s
actually able to remove the moving object from the image. Then, from the
computed camera movement, StroMotion can determine how each video image relates
geometrically to each other and to the panorama. The identification of pixels
belonging to moving objects is based on the change-detection of each video image
within the corresponding area in the panorama.

Ultimately, it’s a combination of DartFish software, specialized Sportvision
hardware, which includes NVIDIA Quadro professional GPUs, input and guidance
from a number of on-site Sportvision producers and, of course, NBC’s camera
feeds, production, and on-air personalities that are bringing viewers a very
cool Winter Olympics viewing experience.

Whether you’re watching the Winter Olympics on NBC TV or via the Internet at
www.nbcolympics.com, you’re sure to continue seeing SimulCam and
StroMotion in action.

So continue to enjoy watching all of the gold medal winning Winter Olympics
performances through this weekend, enhanced and enriched by Sportsvision and
DartFish, using the power of NVIDIA Quadro GPU technology, which continues to
help make the impossible possible.