IU Athletics, students first in the nation to use award-winning freeD technology
Mar. 2, 2016
It is no secret that Assembly Hall is under construction, but there’s one change to the historic campus landmark that has nothing to do with renovation and everything to do with innovation.
Drilled into the balcony overhang are 28 holes, all facing the court, that house newly installed freeD technology cameras. The new instant-replay technology taking the sports world by storm was a gift from IU alumnus Mark Cuban as part of the Mark Cuban Center for Sports Media and Technology, and IU is the first university in the nation to use the equipment.
The freeD technology is growing rapidly in popularity, having been used at major sporting events like the U.S. Open and, most recently, the Super Bowl. In 2013, freeD won an Emmy in Technical Achievement for its work with the New York Yankees.
The 28 cameras are strategically placed around Assembly Hall to capture images from multiple angles. Each camera has its own sensor, collecting pixels and assigning them specific coordinates, or a location. This data is then sent to a control room, where “pilots” and “navigators” harness the data to create a revolutionary 3-D replay experience. The state-of-the-art technology will allow Hoosier fans to see pivotal, “wow factor” moments from virtually any angle, freeD operational team leader Daniel Bricken said.
“It’s like 'The Matrix' but on steroids,” he said.
As if that weren’t unique enough, IU students will be the ones making the magic happen. A group of 10 students recently completed a five-week freeD training program. Because IU is the first university to use the equipment, they are some of the very few people in the world who know how to operate the complex freeD system.
“We are so excited to have freeD technology in the Cuban Center," IU Athletic Director Fred Glass said. "Our video board shows, highlight and recruiting videos, and television broadcasts will be unlike anything you can find in intercollegiate athletics. To be training IU students for these high-tech jobs in sports truly fits Mark Cuban's vision for the Cuban Center.”
Brian Singer, an IU senior studying sport communication, said he has been a sports fan all his life. He jumped at the chance to learn the ins and outs of freeD.
“The freeD technology is innovative, and it’s where sports media is heading,” Singer said. “I know that this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m so thankful to freeD and IU Athletics for making this possible.”
While the rewards are abundant, the training process was not an easy one, Singer said. First, students were trained on the technical aspects. Then, they learned what it takes to be a “navigator,” which focuses on coding and troubleshooting the data collected from the cameras. It also involves adjusting the live feeds from all 28 cameras to ensure good, cohesive color quality. Finally, they learned the role of a “pilot,” whose job is to take the data and actually create the replays.
Singer said the best part about working with the technology is the hands-on experience in a field of study he enjoys.
“This opportunity is a blend between college and the real world. It’s very symbolic of exactly what a college student should be doing” he said. “I am confident that this will lead to a career for me at some point.”
IU junior Olivia DeWeese, who studies sports broadcasting, sees the benefits this technology brings to not only her and the other students being trained, but the fans as well.
“FreeD Replay is going to be featured in every major sports broadcast in the near future, so as an aspiring sports broadcaster, I will be seeing a lot more of this company,” she said. “I think this technology will draw viewers to our broadcasts of games, and I also think it will enhance our fans' experience. Assembly Hall already has the best student section in the nation, now the game atmosphere will be even more amazing with FreeD Replay on the Jumbotron.”
Catch the technology -- and IU students -- in their debut action at the upcoming March 6 IU basketball game against Maryland.
The new technology and student training aligns with several priorities in the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a commitment to student success.