Personal zoom gives viewers control of TV

Taking cues from first-person gaming, an international team is developing a TV service that allows viewers to customise live coverage of sports and music events.

The €9.5m FascinatE project will enable people to move seamlessly between different camera angles and zoom in on specific aspects of coverage without a loss of picture quality.

Viewers will be able to use a remote control to select and follow different areas of the screen. This could be used to track an individual football player in a separate box, for example, to pan across the screen or shift the entire camera viewpoint to a different part of the stadium.

While attending live events, viewers will be able to use their mobile phone to access the service and zoom in on the part of the pitch or stage they most want to see. The project will also provide footage for 180-degree panoramic screens.

Eleven institutions and companies from across Europe are contributing to FascinatE, including the BBC, Technicolor, the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute and Salford University.

The Salford team are developing the audio aspect of the project, working on capturing panoramic sound and matching the direction of the audio to the changing video angles.

‘Part of the process is finding out what people’s preferences are,’ Salford’s research leader Ben Shirley told The Engineer. ‘We have to think about what happens if you zoom past the ball, for example. Do you want the sound of the ball to go behind you?

‘It will likely be different for different people, particularly for different generations. Older people who aren’t used to first-person gaming might not want the whole sound field to rotate, whatever you’re looking at.’

The challenge for the video teams on the project will be integrating different camera feeds and rendering them into one output stream. Panoramic shots will be captured on a high resolution Omnicam but other cameras for zooming will have different definitions.

The service must also be made ‘format agnostic’ so that it can be watched through mobile phones as well as TV and cinema screens. An intelligent networking system will be needed to respond to the different devices’ bandwidth capabilities.

The teams hope to give the first demonstration of FascinatE at the IBC expo in Amsterdam in September 2011, although the system will need further development before it can operate in real time.

FascinatE is funded by the EU under the Seventh Framework Programme as a large scale integrating project.

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