Tech And COVID-19: Stop Using Video Game Graphics For Fake Crowds, Fox
from the not-working dept
Professional sports is now fully in the weeds trying to navigate reopening live sports events during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not going great, frankly. NFL players are beginning to opt out of the season, citing health concerns. Golfers have been trickling out of events due to positive COVID-19 tests. MLB, meanwhile, just found itself with four teams unable to play the other night due to roughly a third of the Florida Marlins popping positive for the virus. Given that these leagues just started reopening, it’s not a good sign.
Still, I won’t lie and say it hasn’t been nice to see baseball back on my TV again. And, as we wrote about recently, what the league is trying to do with innovation around piped in crowd noise and its MLB app is downright cool. But not all tech solutions are good ones and Fox Sports’ use of video game graphics to input fake crowds into stadiums on the screen is pretty terrible.
While I would still argue that even that promo video shows some of the problems with trying this, please don’t be fooled with how relatively good it looks. The Cubs played on Fox the other day and I was shocked at how bad it all looked. From the pitching angle camera, the crowds aren’t there. During wide cutaways, they suddenly were, but not in the seats along the foul walls or right behind home plate. Any view of the crowd that was closer than a wide shot looked childish.
Fox Sports felt like that without a crowd, the games would feel like practice, so it enlisted production company Silver Spoon, which does motion capture and character creation, to create the virtual fans.
“Our goal is to make sure that the view looks normal,” says Zager. Normal this ain’t, but neither is 2020.
Sorry, but it doesn’t. While I certainly appreciate the attempt to make us feel like we’re in normal times, there are limits to what technology can do and creating realistic and consistent fake crowds at MLB games is apparently one of those limits. We got the crowd noise, but I think we’re going to have to cede stadiums filled with fans to COVID-19.