Brooklyn Nets and Canon show volumetric sports broadcasting
Off to the “Netaverse”: The Brooklyn Nets are experimenting with volumetric broadcasts of basketball games. With a VR headset, you could be on the court with the stars.
The potential of volumetric videos has been brought out of the drawer again and again since the big VR hype around 2016. And rightly so, because 3D real-time broadcasts of sporting events and concerts, for example, would be a potential VR killer app.
However, the technical effort for these videos has not yet been mastered on a large scale. The data volumes are gigantic, the computing effort is high and the transmission quality is still modest. The Brooklyn Nets, an NBA club, is now trying a different approach together with Canon.
Brooklyn Nets rely on Canon technology
Around 100 cameras in the Barclays Center, the Nets’ arena, film the game from numerous perspectives. The video data is then passed to Canon software, where it is stitched together to create a 3D reconstruction of the real game scene. This conversion is said to happen “within seconds,” so that a live broadcast is within grasp.
However, there are still many drawbacks in visual quality compared to the traditional broadcast: The 3D reconstruction looks like an older video game, has image errors, and does not yet capture the atmosphere of a live spectacle. The footage is currently more interesting as a supplement for replays from different perspectives or for post-game analysis.
Does Apple crack the potential of volumetric videos?
Volumetric footage is relevant because it offers a completely new viewing experience that is only possible with VR: Instead of just looking at a band or athlete through a pane of glass, you can stand on the stage or field with them. Unlike traditional 360° videos, you can also move around the scene and change perspectives freely, which increases the level of immersion.
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Canon launched a volumetric video initiative last year and is working with a number of other companies, including RED and Nvidia, to improve video quality while reducing production overhead. So far, there hasn’t been a major breakthrough.
Perhaps Apple will bring new momentum to the topic: The tech heavyweight would have the means to significantly advance the technology, and maybe also the interest, since a completely new market could open up here. Apple has already invested significantly in XR streaming technology and immersive videos with the acquisition of NextVR in 2020.