Disney alliance with UCD to revolutionise sports coverage

19 Mar 2010

Entertainment giant Disney has joined forces with a UCD research centre to examine how the use of multiple cameras can enhance the high-end broadcast of major sports events.

Disney Research and the Irish-based CLARITY: Centre for Sensor Web Technologies, a Science Foundation Ireland-funded Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET), have officially launched a multi-year collaborative research project in broadcasting and sports visualisation.

The research will explore ways in which use of multiple cameras, even dozens, can enhance the high-end broadcast of major athletic events. It will also examine how such systems can provide opportunities for less well-known sports to develop larger fan bases, for youth sports to be viewed remotely, and for how enhanced visuals and statistics can be used by coaches.

ESPN could have new opportunities

The research could be applied widely in sports and broadcasting and could yield new opportunities for ESPN, the world’s leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment company which is 80pc owned by The Walt Disney Company.

“We are very excited to be working with CLARITY in this research effort,” says Dr Joe Marks, vice-president of Disney Research.

“Disney Research was created to determine how the next generation of technologies will transform the businesses of The Walt Disney Company. This project could lead to groundbreaking broadcast technologies and opportunities for ESPN and The Walt Disney Company.”

The initiative is aimed at enhancing the work of sports directors by providing additional camera coverage resulting in the ability to cover wide ranges of sports and athletic events in a cost-effective manner.

The project team consists of researchers from Disney Research Labs in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh and researchers in CLARITY: The Centre for Sensor Web Technologies. CLARITY is a partnership between University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin City University and Tyndall National Institute (TNI) Cork.

Field hockey first

The team will initially focus on the sport of field hockey for its analysis by outfitting the UCD hockey pitch with up to 21 cameras in order to capture a wide variety of information for evaluation by researchers on a weekly basis.

At the project launch on 18 March 2010, the camera system was observed “in action” as the project’s researchers and film crew captured the action of the Ladies A Exhibition Match between Ireland and Germany.

“This initiative represents the fruition of extensive work,” states UCD Prof Gregory O’Hare, a principal investigator within CLARITY.

“It is truly pioneering and establishes a state-of-the-art facility based at the National Hockey Stadium at University College Dublin (UCD).”

Artie Kempner, the Emmy Award-winning sports director, will provide practical feedback to the research team and will allow the research to be continually pushed to provide professional broadcast quality results, and to create a compelling story for each event.

Training Dublin’s film crew

Kempner travelled to Dublin last month to actively engage in training the project’s film crew. He has returned for today’s project launch, and will provide feedback and broadcasting insight for the research team on an ongoing basis.

“The Walt Disney Company is the world’s largest media and entertainment conglomerate, and its decision to form a strategic partnership with the Science Foundation Ireland-funded CLARITY Centre is an endorsement of the expertise and pioneering work being carried out in our laboratories and third-level institutions,” Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Conor Lenihan TD, said yesterday.

This collaborative research project is supported by Disney Research, University College Dublin, Dublin City University and the IDA.

The work is part of a larger collaborative research agreement between Disney Research and CLARITY, where the teams will conduct advanced application-oriented research in sensor networks, wireless motion sensing/tracking, motion capture, Wi-Fi network modelling and human-computer interaction.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Artie Kempner, the Emmy Award-winning sports director, at the launch in National Hockey Stadium UCD

Photo by: Conor McCabe/Jason Clarke Photography


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years