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NHK Virtual Competition Camera For Comparing The Differences In Tight Heats
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NHK Virtual Competition Camera For Comparing The Differences In Tight Heats

The Virtual Contest Camera system is being developed by NHK for use in time-trial sports such as alpine skiing. This system creates a virtual race between different contestants making it easy to compare and analyze their performance.

"In time-trial sports, the results only show that two competitors differed by a few seconds. But by actually making them race against each other at the same time, it's possible to check what the difference looked like in terms of distance, their tracks and approaches, and how they went past flags. With this system, all those things can be confirmed visually."

This system was co-developed with ViewPLUS. It combines a 4K camera, with four times the resolution of Full HD, and a platform which repeats the movements of the camera automatically.

"When the first contestant tackles the course, the camera tracks that contestant. The information about how the platform was operated is saved in the PC, so when the second and third contestants do the course, the camera can use the same movements to shoot them, based on the stored information. That means you only need to superimpose the footage of each contestant, to create images like this, which look just as if the contestants are racing each other."

Using a 4K camera means that if the pictures are broadcast in HD, they can be cut down to a quarter of their size without losing detail. Using this system, images can be taken with a wide view, and later trimmed to create the camera-work.

"For example, if there's a time difference between two contestants, it's possible that they won't appear in the same frame. But by shooting with a 4K camera and trimming later, you can minimize the amount of time contestants are out of the frame. That's the advantage of this feature."

"As an extreme example, you can shoot so wide that this whole slope is in the picture. In that case, you don't even need the cameraman there, they can adjust the frame size and do the camera work later while looking at the entire frame."

"With this system, the image processing load is quite low. In fact, synthesized pictures of the current contestant and the one before can be created with just a three-second delay. So even in live broadcasting, you can do a replay for comparison with the current contestant."

"The system won't quite be ready in time for this summer's Olympics, but we hope it'll be used for the next Winter Olympics."

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