When Intel takes over a stadium, they do it with technology, able to bring a 360-degree experience from venue to home.
For this year’s Final Four in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Intel set up a pop-up experience with 28 cameras and 12 engineers covering the three-game event.
Learn more about how Intel made this stadium look to viewers at home via Tim Newcomb’s feature for Popular Mechanics. Here’s an excerpt:
Crews installed 28 cameras around the ring of the stadium’s seating bowl, providing 360-degree coverage of the entire court. Each 5K camera’s sensor comes identical, but the lenses vary, with some providing full views of the court and others zooming into more specific locations.
These cameras combine to provide a volumetric view of the court. Instead of pure pixels, think of them with volume—height, length and depth—turning them into voxels.
The cameras run during all live action, capturing everything in the defined space, as if creating a bubble of action. The technology then allows viewers inside that bubble, able to explore every x, y and z coordinate.
“We have total control within the bubble and have every coordinate covered,” says Jeff Hopper, general manager of strategy for Intel Sports Group. “We have unlimited views from anywhere inside.”
As the game happens, the 12-person engineering team—inside a tent in the highest reaches of the stadium next door to a server room with 52 servers handling the up to 5TB of data created from one game on custom-made racks specifically to house the technology—watches for moments. When they see one, the “pilot” of the system tells the servers to save the data, all connected to the cameras via fiber optics. With that clip, able to run up to 25 seconds at about 30 frames per second, the pilot then selects one of the 700-plus frames to reconstruct and build a clip around.
Then the system goes to work. In about 90 seconds, using as many camera angles as needed, it builds a complete bubble of the moment, in essence giving the engineering team a virtual camera. Moving this virtual camera through the moment—in any plane they choose—Intel shows a 360-degree view of the stopped action with stopping, pivoting and moving as needed.
The final clip, which includes the action both leading into the moment and directly after, gets sent to CBS and Turner for use in the broadcast, whether as a unique in-game highlight or a telestrator talking point.
While Intel prepares anywhere from 15 to 20 of these moments over the course of the game, CBS typically uses around two per game.
“It gives them lots of things they could never do,” Hopper says. “You can move around the court in the volumetric sphere.”