The content is mesmerising.
Watching the All Blacks, the most successful sports team in history and on a 12-year unbeaten streak in World Cup games, not only playing sumptuous rugby, but seen through 3D cameras that put you on the pitch, and which move to give you the perfect view every step of the way.
This Rugby World Cup, one tech company has done something above and beyond the hackneyed hijack content, showcasing its innovative tech to allow us a glimpse into the thrilling future of sports coverage.
The Big Idea
Canon, the Japanese camera company, has deployed a Free Viewpoint Video System for its home Rugby World Cup, providing highlights and angles ‘not possible with conventional cameras’.
What They Did
Commentator Nick Mullins states it’s the work of hundreds of cameras dotted around the stadium.
It conjures memories of Keanu Reeves limboing his way through gunfire thanks to The Matrix’s ‘bullet time’ technology.
Canon has multiple high-res cameras around the International Stadium Yokohama to capture 3D images of the RWC matches played there, from which users can freely move a virtual camera around.
The content is being hosted on a near-impossible-to-find site (more on that later), and provided to broadcasters around the world. Seven matches in total will receive the treatment, starting with last weekend’s titanic clash between South Africa and New Zealand and concluding with the final.
There’s also a RWC hub on Canon’s site with a rather lovely advert, featuring photographer Dave Rogers and Martin Johnson reminiscing about the shot Rogers took of the former England captain after the 2003 final as he lifted the trophy aloft.
The outcome is a dream to any sports fan: it puts you on the best part of the pitch at every moment.
We see the accuracy of the pass, the pace of the attackers, the crunching tackles…everything but the blood, sweat and tears, and there’s still time for that too.
The result is a thrilling and immersive experience, and the kind of content I want to show to non-rugby-supporting friends to sell them on the beauty of the sport. I can’t wait to see what sports coverage has to offer in the future, and there’s a huge opportunity for tech companies to be pioneers in this space.
And I love how Canon is putting its products front and centre, showing us the amazing things cameras do. Not just with this innovation to coverage, but the advert that tells us the story behind an iconic image, and a gallery of the best shots taken at the World Cup so far.
But Canon is also suffering the same old issues as many international corporate giants: a lack of marketing cohesion.
This technological brilliance came to light via the official Rugby World Cup’s social channels, not Canon’s. I couldn’t find it on Canon’s feeds, and soon gave up.
Canon has a Rugby World Cup hub, accessible via its home page, yet remarkably this amazing content isn’t on it (the aforementioned ad is, along with some rather uninspiring-yet-functional articles about photography, whilst the gallery of best shots from the tournament is shockingly under-populated).
It took far more searching than any consumer would ever do to find that Canon has a separate sports website, on which this Free Viewpoint Video content sits, both uncurated and unloved.
Canon has done something really quite remarkable here – if only it had recognised it and given it the prevalence it deserved, and then built on it.
Where is the consumer-friendly story on how it was achieved?
Why isn’t it clipping jaw-dropping highlights for its social channels?
Why not get some former players to commentate on the footage and tell us about the extraordinary skills we’re seeing, which are only possible due to this technology?
Well done Canon for such amazing innovation, but if this is the near future of sports broadcasting, let’s do it justice.