The Story of Virtual Eye Cricket

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At Virtual Eye our approach has always been that technology should be used to enhance viewer comprehension of a sport, and to deliver viewpoints that television cameras cannot. When Virtual Eye first ventured into ball-tracking Cricket in 2006, explaining the game being played between the bowler, his captain and the batsman was our main objective. The cameras we used in 2006 operated at 120 frames a second, which was more than adequate for the television coverage of the time.

With the advent of the Umpire's Decision Review System, and the use of 'predictive path', the demands are higher. During the 2010/11 Ashes series (where we're known as Eagle Eye) four cameras are tracking balls at 230 frames per second, providing points of reference available to the third umpire to make a decision. Our computer works out, like the umpire, where the ball would have gone had it not hit the pad. The more frames, or points of reference we can give it to do that - the better the prediction. We see our function in this instance as providing Umpires with tools they can use to assist them when they need it.

The Virtual Eye Cricket package allows cricket commentators to track every shot played by any player in a match in full 3D with matching animations of the players, all in an exact replica of the ground the match is being played at. Commentators can track every ball bowled as well as where the batsman plays it. All Fielders are displayed in their real positions on the field, and are also tracked, allowing a captain's decision making to be examined in depth. Commentators are also able to move the virtual fielders to desired positions while explaining the process, a new twist on telestrator graphics.

'Wagonwheel' graphics are used to display a batsman or team's innings data, showing where on the field they've hit and scored their runs - Wagonwheels are also used by commentators to summarize batting tactics against a particular bowler and/or fielding formation. Other features of the Virtual Eye Cricket package include 3D flyovers of the stadium and surrounds, Deviation graphics (which make use of a virtual protractor to show the angle of a ball's deviation from the bounce), live video playback on screens in the 3D stadium model, and a wide range of data that can be presented in overlay form - for instance, with the batsman wagonwheel we can additionally overlay the percentage of balls landing at each length, runs scored off each length, the percentage of batsmens total runs scored off each length and the strike rate of each length.

NZ vs. Zimbabwe Cricket test at McLean Park, Napier in January 2012 - clips from the live broadcast by Sky TV

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Outstanding Ashes

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May,2011 - Australian broadcaster Channel Nine won the Logie for Most Outstanding Sports Coverage at the 53rd TV Week Logie Awards. Cricket commentators Tony Greig and Michael Slater told the audience that high production values and sophisticated use of technology (including Virtual Eye) had clearly contributed to Channel Nine's 'The Ashes 2010 First Test - Day One at the Gabba' beating a strong list of nominees.

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