The Minnesota Vikings are one of the 32 franchises that compete in the National Football League. Having joined the league as an expansion franchise in 1960, the team currently competes in the National Football Conference (NFC) North Division and have claimed the division title twice in the past five seasons.
The Vikings’ current home is US Bank Stadium, which is an enclosed stadium located in downtown Minneapolis. Built on the former site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the indoor stadium recently opened in 2016.
In 2019, the Vikings’ broadcast department, Skolvision, was looking to elevate the graphics for their in-game highlight packages. They were searching for new ways to engage a fanbase that had become more captivated by data and in-game statistics. The Skolvision team wanted to build graphics that visualized player speed, distance travelled, and separation on multiple camera angles, all in real-time. At that point in time, no other NFL franchise used optical technology to derive and visually track informational graphics for in-game, fan entertainment and the Vikings wanted to be the first to do so.
Ross had recently acquired PIERO Sports Analysis and presented the solution to the Skolvision team over several remote sessions. Custom demo clips were built that detailed player speed and pass launch angle as Skolvision staff developed their vision for enhanced video edits using the Piero system. The server was integrated with an EVS server over a DB9 serial connection, allowing the PIERO system to control the EVS output channel via the Sony BVW protocol.
Ross trained several members of the Vikings staff to operate PIERO in a hands-on classroom setting at US Bank Stadium. In a group brainstorm, operators brought up several different visual effect ideas, including zoom/magnification and running back vision on the Vikings’ Skycam. These innovative ideas sparked powerful new ways for the Skolvision producers to tell in-game stories on the fly. Ross staff stayed in Minneapolis for game-day support as the Vikings ran two different operators on the PIERO system to get them live experience. The operators used several different effects and camera angles to determine their preferred options.
The Vikings were delighted with the results, and they were able to engage their fans with next-level optically-tracked informational visuals that, to that point in time had only been seen on flagship network broadcasts. Player speed and distance travelled were visualized on several different angles, including a wide “All 22” and the Vikings’ Skycam shots. The creativity exhibited by the first NFL game-day team to sink their teeth into PIERO has furthered the Ross-Vikings partnership, giving the PIERO R&D team a future roadmap destined to lead to more incredible advancements.