The way of watching football has evolved a lot in recent years. LaLiga, as responsible for the Spanish competition, has been able to read it and has been in full conversion to digital. Its roadmap only contemplates the use of the latest technology in augmented reality, big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Among its menu of devices, it has the Inferno computer, which dedicates the excess power of the tracking of pirated content to the health investigation against Covid-19. And it is only one of the pillars that supports the technological infrastructure that provides data, statistics and content to millions of viewers of all the world.
Beyond the impossible images thanks to the latest generation cameras, the next step they have taken goes hand in hand with the augmented reality. Thanks to it, data is shown that we could never have guessed with the addition of fine integration with the party.
LaLiga news for this season have been based on 4 pillars on which they have been working for a long time. The first, as part of an expansion policy, is the use of aerial cameras in more stadiums as one of the most innovative perspectives when viewing a football match.
The Real Sociedad, Eibar, Levante and Cádiz stadiums are added; amounting to a total of 14 the number of fields with this technology. LaLiga’s intention is to inaugurate another pair of aerial cameras this season at the Martínez Valero (Elche) and the Osasuna stadium (Pamplona), which is in the middle of a remodeling.
Also incorporating 360 degree replays in more fields. “There are already 8 stadiums that have this technology,” said Roger Bosel, head of content and programming at LaLiga. Namely: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético de Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Athletic de Bilbao, Betis and Real Sociedad. According to LaLiga, they are also working on the volumetric content production. “A camera that follows the action as if we were a footballer who is on the field running alongside the protagonists.”
Similarly, the pandemic has forced the emptying of football stadiums and LaLiga has chosen to include more cameras at angles that avoid viewing the field without amateurs. “We position the cameras to be closer to the action,” says Bosel. Before the stadiums were emptied, it was unthinkable to place cameras in according to what positions because they directly prevented the spectator from seeing.
The absence of an audience in the stands “is detrimental to what is a quality television show and we believe that it is very distracting to the public.” For this reason, from LaLiga they have incorporated virtual fans in the stands and also in the audio. For the latter they have turned to the developer EA Sports, responsible for video games such as FIFA who know a lot about incorporating ambient audio into a football match. Both technologies are present in all LaLiga first and second division matches.
Although the most important innovation, as they point out, is the integration of the data collected live by Mediacoach combined with LaLiga’s own augmented reality engines and capturing them in real time.
Augmented reality and football
Media coach is a system that LaLiga developed for all first and second clubs that is dedicated to collecting all kinds of data on matches and players. Until then, each team had its own system and, on many occasions, they were not compatible.
“In the beginning, Mediacoach was only intended to be used by the coaches and players of the teams.” But they decided to make it available to the public. To carry it out, they installed a large number of cameras in all stadiums that carry out a detailed monitoring of the meeting and they provide data of all kinds.
Mediacoach data is available in real time so that they can be inserted on the grass in football matches using augmented reality. “It helps the viewer to better understand the game, have a greater interest and deepen the story telling of the parties, “says Basel.
“The monitoring cameras send the data to Mediacoach and, from there, it is sent to the headquarters of Mediapro which is where all the data paths of all the first and second matches are received. “At the moment, the augmented reality is available for the first division although they hope that it arrives at the parties of second the next season.
Until now, LaLiga had already inserted some content in augmented reality in certain important matches. “Before, production was done in mobile units, but not all of them had the capacity” to work with augmented reality. What they have achieved this season is to centralize everything and thus not depending on the technology that has moved into the stadium.
Attack zones, heat maps, all kinds of stats, lineups, tactical graphics, performance data, and even where corner kicks are thrown most often. “At the moment we are working with 5 types of graphics but we have a palette of up to 12 and we will launch them as the season progresses.”
Drones in stadiums
It is another of the elements that LaLiga is currently working on. It’s only been a month since Mediapro obtained the necessary permits from the air safety authorities to use drones during LaLiga football matches. As reported, the intention is launch the drones as soon as possible.
This type of ships controlled from the ground will allow to have images never seen before and plans that, otherwise, it would be totally unthinkable. It should be taken into account that despite the small size that these devices can have, their speed is very high and their recording quality is very high. In this way, it is possible not only to record the stars of the competition in maximum detail, but also to be able to follow them no matter how fast the band rises.