While the fallout of COVID-19 means that attending games will no longer be as possible and as exciting as it used to be, the adoption of the RSI video capturing, editing and streaming technology by the European Hockey Federation could allow clubs and leagues to take fan engagement to another level.
Clubs, athletes and fans around the world are yearning for the (re-)start of the various sports seasons regardless of the implications of social distancing. While sports governing bodies and authorities are working out how this can be achieved, chairmen and treasurers explore every avenue that might boost their income stream. Legislation that advocates social distancing means that fan attendance, and the subsequent gate fees, remain restricted or limited for the time being. The European Hockey Federation (EHF) wants this to change quickly by embracing new technologies. It has identified the RSI video hardware and software plans as a viable way to live stream matches. “It will certainly open up new avenues for hockey to market the sport to people. Fans can now watch a game from the comfort of their home. This includes fans who, otherwise, wouldn’t have visited a game in the first place,” says Jokko de Wit of the European Hockey Federation. Going online to watch a feed certainly appeals to younger fans and players. “Promoting a sport starts with enticing the youngest generation. This also happens to be a generation that is very familiar with social media and consuming online content.”
RSI is currently busy fine-tuning the technology. “We have identified the high-resolution, non-static, cameras that we intend to use while we are adjusting the software we already use to tag captured footage to allow trainers and players to improve their game. By entering a partnership with Team TV, the footage we capture can be enriched with overlays and statistics before it is streamed directly through various media channels,” says RSI Business Manager, Bart van den Acker. The smart technology should work without the involvement of a broadcaster or professional editor.
The use of non-static cameras and the level of sophistication of the software will set RSI apart from those claiming to provide a similar system. “The cameras we will use can pan, tilt and zoom automatically. They will be connected to intelligent software that will instruct the camera’s actions and sequence based on set parameters. These parameters will be drawn from previous, similar, incidents,” he continues. The way a penalty corner will be captured is a good example. “Once the system registers many players of one team standing at the centre line, with some of their compatriots standing on the goal line and their opponents grouped around the circle line, it will automatically conclude that a penalty corner is about to be taken. The software will decide the picture settings for each camera and, automatically, decide how the footage of the various cameras should be sequenced.”
Van den Acker foresees that the technology will deliver instant footage for broadcasting on a website or social media platform. It doesn’t involve a technician or editor to rework or relay the footage in the process.
He points out that the system will also able to edit footage from earlier games. “It can produce a clip that only shows the highlights of a game; a clip that shows all goals scored during different matches played on a particular day or even produce a clip that only shows actions of a particular player. All it takes is to define the parameters that you want to show as well as the total length you want the clip to be. From there the technology will take over and deliver.”
One thing we will not change for this upgraded version of the software we already use is the ability to quickly share clips. Our goal has always been for footage to be tagged and shared between coaches and players to allow them to review the footage and to learn from their successes and mistakes. I envision sponsors being keen on streaming or broadcasting small clips via their own platform or being eager to receive footage where their name or slogan is visible. The system will automatically take care of this
More Value for Sponsors
RSI and the EHF are set to roll out the technology for trial purposes in a European league as soon as competitions resume. Jokko de Wit is convinced that, when coupled with a proper sponsorship package, the technology will offer a sponsor more value for money. “The low production cost associated with televising games this way will now make it possible for smaller companies to address a larger group of viewers,” he says.
Apart from the static sponsorship opportunities like side-perimeter boarding or shirt sponsoring, modern communication tools like video clips, banners on websites or footage embedded on corporate websites can soon also be considered. “One thing we will not change for this upgraded version of the software we already use is the ability to quickly share clips. Our goal has always been for footage to be tagged and shared between coaches and players to allow them to review the footage and to learn from their successes and mistakes. I envision sponsors being keen on streaming or broadcasting small clips via their own platform or being eager to receive footage where their name or slogan is visible. The system will automatically take care of this,” Bart van den Acker points out. As the technology operates completely independently, without limitations like operating hours or adherence to public holidays, the system can be pre-programmed to televise or stream as you please. “This means that sponsors and their slogans will be shown more frequently,” he adds. All information captured is translated to data, which can be helpful to measure the result of the investment.
A Level Playing Field
Both Van den Acker and De Wit wouldn’t be surprised if the technology levels the playing field. “Every sport has its own clubs or nations that have been dominating the tables for ages. Without taking anything away from the successes and praise they deserve, clubs or nations that embrace this technology will certainly have some advantages that can disrupt established reputations,” Bart van den Acker says. The fees involved make the technology and software available to any league or club, regardless of their budget.
Historically, hockey has always been the first to embrace new solutions and technologies. Van den Acker says that the RSI video capturing, editing and streaming technology will also be suitable for use in different sports. “It doesn’t really matter for which sport you intend to use it. The quality of the cameras and sophistication of the software can handle any sport.” The same applies to the match statistics and overlays that the system produces automatically. “Once you have instructed the system on how it should interpret certain parameters and what it is that it should do with this content, it will automatically enrich the content by showing player or match statistics, heatmaps, or even historical facts.”
When written in the Chinese Mandarin language, the word crisis (weiji) is composed of two characters: one representing ‘danger at a point of juncture’, the other representing a ‘changing point’. Many people are currently still busy digesting the dangers they possibly will experience when they get to the juncture. RSI and EHF have already decided to move into a new direction. One that will change hockey for the better.
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