Aston 7 your lucky number for Sports Graphics


Aston Broadcast has been supplying CG products for long enough to know that the world of live sports graphics presentation never stands still for long. Programme directors like to push the boundaries on visual effects in order to wow the viewer and to differentiate the presentation from that of rival channels or programmes.
More often than not, Aston is able to squeeze new graphics features and effects into the current CG hardware platform, whether it be the popular Ethos, Motif or ViVid products. More recently, however, the demands for exceptional step changes in visual effects and content connectivity have led to the company architecting and launching a brand new graphics platform.
The Aston 7, Aston’s next generation graphics system, brings four key benefits to the sports graphics operator – ‘Real Time 3D graphics presentation’, dependable & fast usability with smart preview functionality, full support for High Definition video, and unrestricted support for all forms of multimedia and dynamic data content within A7 graphics ‘pages’.
Animating graphics in three dimensions is not in itself a new feature, but the key benefit that A7 brings is that the 3D movement is rendered at the time of live output. This offers significant advantage to the graphics operator as dynamic content, such as sports results, can be overlaid onto the animating objects throughout the animation. Even more importantly, with real-time rendering, the operator has the means to make last-minute changes to any element of the animation at any point in time before output to air – this is not possible on other ‘pseudo’ 3D graphics products.
Whether or not high definition video is needed today, anyone investing in a new graphics systems would be wise to choose an HD ready solution. The Aston 7 is SD / HD switchable for both video input and output which makes it ideal for outside broadcast use where there is increased use of HD cameras and transmission.
The trend for graphics presentation at live sporting events is for the display of point by point match data to be managed by a 3rd party custom application on site at the event. Likewise, there is every likelihood that graphics content such as video clips, still images, audio, and even 3D models will need to be imported, with ease, into the sports graphics system. The Aston 7 is compatible will almost all common PC image, video, audio and 3D model source file formats so that the user can quickly browse, preview and import graphics content into the current project. Dynamic graphics content, such as players names, images, and team results, that change in real time, may be linked through the A7 content gateway (also knows as Aston Datapools) to dynamic external sports results databases. This means that whenever a results ‘page’ is taken to air, the page will always be automatically synchronised to the latest results and team data.
Looking at real world examples, the Aston 7 was used recently at the world PGA golf tournament held in the UK at the famous Wentworth course in Surrey. The screen shot above shows how the pre-prepared leaderboard graphic is populated through the A7 content gateway, at the time of use, with players names, country, and their current points & position.
Each row of the leaderboard was constructed using a 3D bar which allowed the graphics designer to achieve an effective tumbling effect where each row, with its dynamic text content, to tumble down into place over a few seconds. Three dimensional perspective is also applied such that the leaderboard appears, initially, at an angle to the TV screen, and then straightens up into ‘standard’ 2D perspective.
Another example of the A7’s deployment at live sporting events is for football coverage – Setanta Ireland use Aston 7 CGs regularly to provide graphics output on football matches on their pay TV channels. Again, the use of real-time 3D provides a modern and visually effective presentation for the graphics output.
In some cases, Aston are asked to develop a simple custom control panel (see example above) so that the live operator has a simple means of controlling the display pre-prepared score updates, team changes, and other match statistic graphics. A7 custom control applications are built to drive the scoring mechanisms of each sport, so for example a football application would increment goal scores one by one, but other more complex scoring systems, such as for tennis, are implemented according to the scoring rules. Custom control apps are usually designed to facilitate the fast import of content, such as team player lists, and live match scores, from Excel spreadsheets and other standard file formats. The key advantage that A7 custom panels brings to a live event is ease of operation – it is easier to train the graphics operator and there is less scope for operator error.
The ability to share and output graphics content between different A7 users and A7 systems is seen by Aston to be a vital issue as the A7 product is increasingly deployed around sports graphics facilities and broadcasters. In the past, it has been possible for the same CG product to be loaded with different feature options making it uncertain, at the very least, whether a specific graphics project could be created by one agency and broadcast from another. The company has taken the decision to ensure that all A7 systems are supplied with the same extensive feature list.
In conclusion, these real-world sporting examples illustrate how Aston has brought together a powerful set of features in the A7 that allow the operator to achieve superior visual presentation of their sports graphics, to deploy a contemporary 3D ‘look and feel’, to link to external live sports data content, to allow shared use of existing graphics images, video clips and 3D models, whilst making the life of the live operator as painless as possible.

Tags: aston | brainstorm | aston 7 | sports graphics | graphics | iss021 | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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