You know that moment when you’re watching a sports match and the instant replay just doesn’t live up to that amazing play? Like when a player’s arm or the referee is blocking the view? Well, Israeli company Replay Technologies has the solution and the result looks like something out of the Matrix movie. The company’s technology is so impressive that the NBA has selected to use it for its upcoming All-Star Game.
With dozens of cameras set around the stadium, in combination with sophisticated software tailored to create seamless footage, “FreeD” enables broadcasters to show a reply at every angle – and even change angles on the go. “FreeD is an immersive experience,” says COO Aviv Shapira, “the viewer becomes an active part of the game.”
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FreeD (meaning “free dimension”) creates a 3D depth of field effect. The algorithm developed by Replay Technologies synchronizes the cameras to create the effect and specialized hardware to attain the speeds needed to produce the replay.
The company’s co-founders say their expertise in various disciplines has enabled them create a unique product: COO Aviv Shapira is an aerospace engineer, his brother and CTO Mateo Shapira is a graphic designer and CEO Oren Yogev is an electro optical engineer.
The company’s first big break came in 2011, when the London Olympics committee secured a $2 million investment from Cervin Ventures in order to create a prototype of the system to use during the competitions. The company was officially founded in September of that year and the first demonstration of the technology took place only three months later.
When American broadcasting giant NBC used Replay Technology’s footage to analyze the gymnastics event, the team knew the big leagues had given FreeD their seal of approval. “It was the first time the public saw and accepted 3D reconstructed scenes as reality and it had details and angles never seen before,” Mateo tells NoCamels.
Chasing the American dream
So far, Replay Technology was used by a PGA tournament, a NCAA Football game, the NFL, and the entire 2013 season of the New York Yankees. “The system takes about two weeks to set-up and after that it is stationary, so we aim to set up in multiple stadiums to be able to cover competitions taking place at the same time in different places,” Shapira tells NoCamels.
Shapira exclusively told NoCamels that FreeD will be used by the NBA to cover the All-Stars game this February in New Orleans. The technology will incorporate 22 cameras and be used to cover both the highly-popular Slam Dunk Contest and the game itself. “The challenge is to use the small commercial breaks to quickly render the footage and have the replay ready for the viewers in time.”
Giving the user the control
By 2016, Replay Technologies plans to integrate its product with smart TVs, allowing home viewers to interact with the footage and choose the angle. The company aspires to enable viewers to go as far as choosing a single player to follow in a sporting event, or another element, such as following the ball itself.
“We are also considering advancing to other sports such as MMA (mixed martial arts), and maybe even enter the film industry,” Shapira tells NoCamels. However, he admits there are still serious limitations, such as dependency on strong lighting and increasing the field of view, while still keeping the outcome clear and with enough pixel quality to allow zooming in on the action.
Following the $2 million raised for the Olympic Games, Replay Technologies is currently in the process of closing its second round of financing of up to $10 million. Shapira tells NoCamels that the company is not pushing for an exit – they’ve patented the technology and plan to further develop it to become the world leader in immersive video technology.