ESPN Sets ‘Virtual 3’ Tip-Off

ESPN said Saturday night’s matchup (January 30) between the San Antonio Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers on ABC will mark the debut of ESPN  Virtual 3, a technology that illuminates the three-point line for every 3-point shot attempt.

The on-screen, virtual component will illuminate in red when a three-point shot is attempted and, when a 3-point basket is made, will stay  illuminated until the ball is turned over the opposing team. The illumination will end instantly after a 3-point attempt is missed.

ESPN said the new element will “provide a subtle, yet impactful new way” to enhance the game and to “give viewers instant clarity on whether a 3-point shot has been attempted, which hasn’t been consistently evident during a live telecast”

In addition to Saturday’s game, set for an 8:30 p.m. ET tip-off,  ESPN Virtual 3 will be used for all NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC broadcasts this season, the network said.

"This has the potential to enhance our basketball coverage much in the same way that our Emmy Award-winning systems have done for football, (1st and Ten), and baseball, (K-Zone),” Jed Drake, SVP, production innovation, said in a statement. “ In some respects ‘ESPN Virtual 3’ completes a trilogy of enhancement on our major sports properties."

In a deeper discussion about the technology posted here, Drake said ESPN must “match the existing line, and then mask it.” That virtual line, he added, “needs to give the appearance that it is actually on the court surface with players running over it. While it looks very simple, it’s incredibly challenging. We spent a great deal of time on mapping, occlusion and keying.”

ESPN developed the technology in-house with the Princeton Visual Technology, acquired by ESPN 2010 from Cablevision Systems.