The Atlanta Hawks and Intel Sports invited me to witness the unveiling of Intel’s ‘True View’ platform at State Farm Arena last Friday. Fans can see it in action tomorrow night, Nov 20, when they host the Milwaukee Bucks during the Peachtree Night home game. NBA owners do not like when a venue is not full, it’s not a good look for the league so here comes sports technology to the rescue as executives, management and staff experiment with implementing different solutions, systems and products to enhance the live sport experience should your team not be in the top tier of attendance. The professional basketball fan experience is sports tech loaded with engagement, interactivity and flat out fun as the Hawks and Intel partnership leads the way.
The Sports Techie community blog was front and center in the media room for the Hawks + Intel ‘Future of Sports Viewing’ Lunch and Learn expert panel consisting of Steve Koonin, Hawks CEO, Howard Wright, VP of Business Development for Intel Sports and former Hawks player, and NBA TV On-Air Host Reporter, Jared Greenberg, as they discussed this new sports tech powered immersive media used in-arena, on TV on Fox Sports Southeast, and across digital and social media channels.
A select group of bloggers, writers and sport personalities then took a tour of the arena where thirty-eight, 5K HD cameras are strategically installed and mounted to capture these amazing action shots taken from unique angles regular cams cannot take.
Intel Sports, Rich Green, Director of Strategic Business Development, discussed volumetric voxels and Intel’s 3D 360-degree view of a 2D pixel with the group. He used the example of a bumble bee flying around an object as being similar to using their proprietary True View platform as their partners are now doing at State Farm Arena when generating highlights as you can see in the YouTube video below on the video board above him to enhance the live fan experience.
We completed the tour with a special look inside both the server room and control room where 360-degree Volumetric Video highlight clips are processed providing a ‘Be The Player’ perspective, freeze frames and a top cam view.
The complied video is then distributed to broadcast, digital and mobile feeds to be shared with the fans watching inside a stadium, while streaming on smartphones, tablets and computers, and over connected TVs and SmartTVs.
Digital Story Telling
This was my second go around with Intel as several years ago I was an iQ by Intel contributor for a series of articles. Intel Sports and the Hawks are a fine example of a win-win partnership powered by advanced sports technologies to the benefit of consumers, sponsors, as well as sport franchises, leagues, associations, and federations, alike.
“Intel Sports is excited to partner with the Atlanta Hawks to enhance the fan experience through innovative immersive media experiences in the state-of-the-art State Farm arena. The Hawks are a dynamic partner for Intel Sports because they are eager to experiment and push the boundaries of technology to provide new and compelling ways to engage their fans. Atlanta has a vibrant technology community with a loyal fan base that is ready for enhanced digital storytelling that Intel True View enables,” said Wright.
Howard started off by telling the audience how digital storytelling in sports is changing the way providers deliver live action resulting in an immersive media experience. Vast amounts of captured data are providing opportunities past generations were not privy too. Right says Intel has a $250 billion market cap so they understand the 1’s and 0’s like no other.
I listen to Koonin on 92.9 The Game, the Hawks official radio outlet, as he talks about where the team has been, where they are at now and what the future holds on a variety of topics and initiatives. One theme constantly resonates with me and that is the notion that the organization has a younger fan base. This team is being called the Golden State Warriors of the East and I like the comparison.
Second year point guard Trae Young aka ‘Ice Trae’ is truly playing like an All-Pro and leader beyond his 21 years. The team’s average age is three years less than that what an NBA Playoff team averages but look out as all the shrewd drafting, scouting and coaching is creating a winning atmosphere for the long-term.
Steve says the next-gen arena is positioned to serve this new culture and hungry fandom. Millennials and Gen Z view the game differently and expect to be entertained whether the team wins or loses, according to Koonin, which is why the partnership with Intel Sports makes perfect sense in my digital eye. He went on to say, “99% of NBA fans have never stepped into the arena.” Imagine that opportunity.
Howard said fans are watching broadcast partners such as FOX across dedicated media channels using an iPad or some other second screen.
He shared a story about Houston Rockets legend, Hakeem Olajuwon, one of favorite players, getting dunked on by the Hawks GOAT, Dominique Wilkens, providing Wright with a one-of-a-kind perspective underneath the basket only he could see. Capturing these types of ‘iconic moments’ is a core component of True View’s capabilities. By digitizing terabytes of data, oscillating it, and then storing it, the Hawks can also easily show it later with the press of a button because of archiving and search capabilities.
I asked Steve whether True View was used as a strategic competitive edge for the Hawks say be the coaching staff during a game? He answered, (Because of True View) “During the prep for the draft and March Madness, we decided to draft up for De’Andre Hunter with the number 12 pick of the (2019) NBA Draft.”
Right now the NBA is not using True View at the NBA Replay Center in New Jersey but they should in my expert opinion. The need for real-time is not as important as it was deemed by those I asked about this idea. It take 5-6 seconds to process a True View highlight. Fans around the world know if can take up to a couple minutes and even longer to check out all the available angles before deciding on a call at the NBA Replay Center so taking the small amount of time to use this technology during the review process in really a no-brainer.
When asked about the future, Wright responded with, “The nexus of media, technology and sports.” I like how that sounds.
Ultimately, Wright feels there will be a tie in with both Virtual Reality as well as following a player around with a synthetic camera on the court, on the field and on the pitch, throughout the whole game as the capture and storage of data expands with time. Koonin believes an arena will one-day become an entire production studio. When 5K or 8K meets 5G, this combination of technologies will also open up even more possibilities for this partnership to uncover.
State Farm Arena
This was my second time inside the renovated State Farm Arena, the first was last year when my son and I attended the free Open Party.
After undergoing a $200 million transformation, State Farm Arena reopened on Oct. 20th, 2018. As the venue celebrates its one-year anniversary, State Farm Arena has been recognized as a premier live sports and entertainment venue, being named No. 1 in Game Experience and Food and Beverage for the 2018-19 season by the NBA, as well as being awarded the Kulture City Sensory Inclusive Venue of the Year and winning both the IAVM 2019 Venue of Excellence and ALSD Spotlight Award for Best Premium Club Spaces.
Joe Abercrombie, Senior Vice President Live Experience and Production, Atlanta Hawks, talked about their True View use case and how from the new State Farm Arena control room they push out the 360-degree Volumetric Video views and highlights to the bowl, video boards, and through social media and digital platforms resulting in a pinnacle of matches between their state-of-the-art venue, and Intel’s cutting edge fan engagement and viewing experience tech.
Inside the arena’s new control room we learned in detail how the True View processing happens. Intel Sports True View volumetric video 360-degree highlights are made at State Farm Arena by the Atlanta Hawks production team using the thirty-eight, 5K HD cameras. Soon they will be able to go from a single clip to entire videos that NBA fans can experience on their own.
Sports Techie, check out True View for the first time when the Hawks play the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday and see the unveiling of the 2019-20 Peachtree City Edition jerseys by Nike named after the most iconic street name in Atlanta. The new court design will also feature the Peachtree logos and colors. Halftime and post-game entertainment will be by 2 CHAINZ.
Live sports is at the top of Nielsen ratings by the hundreds making the NBA a happy property. If the Hawks can sneak into the eighth seed for the playoffs, State Farm Arena will be rocking and so will TV ratings. If not, you can still be fully entertained by the ambiance, amenities, promotions, and now True View.
Taking the R&D and PHD’s towards a project with a partnership like the Hawks is what gets Wright, Hill and Intel Sports truly excited.
This sports tech business relationship is about the trillion of dollars and billions of eyeballs the Hawks and Intel hope to earn and influence respectively, together.
Go Hawks and I don’t mean the Seahawks this time!
See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!
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