Sports JRN learns about immersive broadcast tech with FOX Sports

IMG_0106.jpgBy Zach Swiecicki

MSU Sports JRN senior

Leading up to FOX’s broadcast of Michigan State-Notre football last Saturday night, 10 members of the MSU’s sports journalism program were able to tour the FOX compound setup. I was one of the lucky few. We were among the first student groups in the country to see this technology in action, thanks to FOX Sports U’s invitation.

Along with seeing the production truck, learning about the complexity of a live broadcast, one of the points of emphasis for the tour was FOX’s venture into VR and 360-degree technology, and their ability to implement all of that content into the national broadcast.

While I was previously aware of VR and 360-degree technology, I had never seen the behind-the-scenes of what goes into incorporating such equipment to bring the product to the viewers. With a whole truck dedicated to this endeavor, I was expecting it to be packed wall-to-wall like the production truck, but that was not the case.

The truck dedicated to the VR experience was relatively spacious, with much less computers, screens and people, rather it featured a few tables and a small staff focused on perfecting the system.

In the same truck, we saw the newest camera used to fly over the field on Saturday night, in replace of the more-common “Skycam”. The aforementioned camera is able to shoot in 10K (the high-end television definition is 4K, for reference) to ensure everything that will be in the VR experience is in as high of a quality as possible.

Deeper into the truck, we were introduced to another new piece of technology, a camera that allows the operator to take an immersive 360-degree picture and zoom in to any specific spot and vary the viewer’s point-of-view. In this instance, the camera was placed outside of the broadcast booth in Spartan Stadium, giving the viewers a full view of what it would be like to be Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt.

We were also able to go into the stadium and onto the field, thanks to our great tour host –  former NFL player-turned-FOX sports executive Jeb Terry –  to see the actual application of the technology we had just seen in person. Learning about all of the possible applications for the new equipment was a reinsurance that the world of sports broadcasting has only begun its journey into the continually-changing landscape of technology.

In what was only a brief tour of FOX’s setup, I was able to learn more than I had thought possible about a technology that could forever alter the way companies are able to bring sports to the consumers.

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