Powered by Viz AI, Vizrt Object Tracker Improves Fox Sports Graphics at the 2022 Daytona 500
Technology adds graphical enhancement to new front and rear bumper POV cameras
Player and car tracking is on the rise in sports production, and this month the technology has been further improved. At Daytona 500 2022, Vizrt unveiled its Viz AI solution for enhanced broadcast graphics.
“We’ve been working on this AI-driven object tracker that only requires video input for some time,” says Richard Einstein, Senior Product Manager, Vizrt. “It was initially trained for humans, but over time we’ve adapted it to other use cases, primarily around racing events.”
The idea of AI-powered object tracking has been around for a long time in Vizrt. At the beginning of last year, the company decided to make it available to customers. On the surface, the technology is able to detect and track objects on any incoming video stream. Based on Vizrt’s traditional production setup – graphic design through Viz Artist, streaming through Viz Engine, and a recently introduced control app called Viz Arc – veteran Vizrt users are familiar with the UI and ecosystem. With Viz Arc, the operator can identify objects and assign them the correct ID or driver. Once objects are specified, AI tracking can be linked to graphic design in Viz Artist and can loop real-time external data, such as speed and location.
After drawing the attention of Fox Sports SVP, Graphics Technology and Integration, Zac Fields, the initial concept gradually became a reality. To bring the software up to date with the size, shape and intricate detail of a stock car, Vizrt used stock footage from the 2021 Bluegreen Vacations duels at Daytona. Since these races were taking place at night, the images 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 to the solution in December 2021 and January 2022, the next task was to polish it before the start of the 2022 NASCAR season with the network and SMT.
“We started doing an on-site test with Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum,” explains Sales Manager Vizrt Pino Barile. “We worked together to optimize our workflows as well as the additional feedback we received on graphic design placement and scaling.”
During this pre-season run, the three groups worked with multiple camera angles, including the Roof Cam POV and other on-board cameras. For NASCAR’s biggest race at the 2022 Daytona 500, SMT was responsible for implementing these cleaner, less intrusive graphics into 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,” explains Barile. “Everything was put together quickly, but the collaboration between us, SMT and Fox Sports has yielded incredible results.”
Since the app isn’t widely available until April, Fox Sports was the first to implement the technology on-air. Viz AI can be used in environments other than sports: for example, real-time tracking in news and entertainment. For sports broadcasts, the solution is designed to provide a complete and viable option.
“I think the possibilities are limitless,” says Barile, “because it’s about customers giving us their own images and getting the software to learn and see what [the objects] look like under different conditions. From a financial and time perspective, you can prepare a lot of stuff off-site, so we think this offers a whole new level of sports storytelling.
Object Tracker technology, powered by Viz AI, will be commercially available in early April.