360 Degree Technology Gives Fans New Way to Watch Tennis

By Marcin Bryszak,
Special to ATN-Tennis.com

We’ve had HawkEye. We’ve had smart sensor racquets. Now, it’s time for the newest technological advancement in tennis: say hello to the FreeD technology. It’s much like the Matrix – except that it is the reality.

Introduced for the first time to tennis at the BNP Paribas Open tournament in Indian Wells, California this month, the FreeD, or Free Dimensional Video, technology lets a viewer watch 360-degree replays of action sequences, which are recorded by 22 high-speed ultra HD cameras. Television producers are then able to pause the motion and create still images of the action, which they can rotate on any plane – much to the excitement of commentators who can analyze in detail the strokes, rallies and movements of the players.

“It’s not about a representation of reality, but it is the reality itself,” Diego Prilusky said who is the Creative Director and Head of CGI at Replay Technologies Inc. – the brains behind the system. This American company has previously brought the system to the NBA, NFL, the PGA Golf Tour, and Major League Baseball.

“We use multiple cameras and we combine all the different information in one, three-dimensional space and you get a 3D scanning of all the arena. Having that 3D scanning, you can really move the camera around, and you have the freedom to shoot from all around [the arena] at once,” Diego said.

The idea for the 3D image came when Replay’s founders Oren Yogev, Matteo Shapira, and his brother Aviv Shapira discovered that they could create a 360-degree video instant replays, and noticed that there was a gap in a market which constantly seeks new ways to enhance the viewing experience of broadcast events.

The FreeD technology allows for a more comprehensive representation of reality and action than the conventional, 2D footage, which is constrained by the ability of a camera to shoot footage only from a single angle at a time.

The system is new to tennis, but its creators admit that they found inspiration in the famous scene from the 1999 movie The Matrix, where the main character Neo leans back, almost to ground-level, to dodge the numerous oncoming bullets.

“Everyone was amazed at the ‘bullet-shot’ technology of The Matrix films. The movies were an inspirational catalyst for the creation of Replay technologies and FreeD technology,” said Eric Finney, Executive Vice President at Replay Technologies, Inc.

Indian Wells became the first tournament to use the technology after ATP Media approached the company’s CEO Yogen after seeing FreeD in action on Sunday Night Football and the NBA’s All-Star Weekend 2014. Soon, however, the Replay Technologies’ FreeD system will be used at more events.

“We have signed a contract with Roland Garros, so FreeD technology will be used at the French Open 2014,” Finney said. “We are actively pursuing deals for FreeD to be used at the other remaining Grand Slams, including Wimbledon and the US Open, but nothing has been finalized yet.”

Marcin Bryszak is a sports writer based in the UK. Follow him on Twitter @marcinb93

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