AR drone technology makes its debut in the Bundesliga

16 April 2020 – The DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga is further enhancing matchday productions for Bundesliga fans: For the first time in a live football production, the DFL recently successfully integrated augmented reality (AR) graphics into aerial footage captured by drones during Bundesliga matches. By feeding the graphics directly into the live signal, it was possible to make the graphic elements appear, as if they were actually floating above the stadium. The AR elements were inserted into the basic drone footage during FC Schalke 04’s draw with Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 9 of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season. The technology was also showcased at „Der Klassiker“ on Matchday 11, when FC Bayern München faced Borussia Dortmund.

The floating effect was achieved using tracking data provided by additional software, without the need for additional technology to be flown alongside the drone capturing the shot. When creating augmented reality graphic elements, it is essential to know the exact position of the graphic elements and the camera. Only in this way graphic elements can be inserted into the image and follow the camera movement. For this to work, the camera’s positional data has to be generated and transmitted to the graphic engine as metadata.

The DFL subsidiaries Sportcast and DFL Digital Sports have developed impressive AR elements, which can be made accessible to numerous national and international licensees via world feed. This achievement unlocks plenty of opportunities for production teams to enhance the viewing experience for Bundesliga fans.

A year-long development phase saw Sportcast and DFL Digital Sports work with live broadcast graphics provider netventure and mobile television service provider TVN MOBILE PRODUCTION to integrate AR graphics into drone footage. This period was vital to ensure that the technology was able to provide the industry-leading production quality that Bundesliga fans and DFL partners are used to ahead of live integration tests.

The DFL subsidiaries have been working on integrating AR elements into matchday productions since the idea first came up in 2015, using AR elements in combination with an Aerial Camera System (ACS) at the DFL‘s Innovation Match 2015. To achieve the project’s goal, Sportcast was tasked with bringing together and coordinating the various technologies and services needed. DFL Digital Sports handled the design and creation of the various graphic elements, such as club crests, player portraits and match statistics.

And there is more to come: Further tests of the AR drone technology are scheduled to take place throughout the 2019-20 Bundesliga season – and the DFL will continue to monitor its progress, as well as seeking out new ways to expand the use of AR technology.