Heads & Tails brings new camera angles, business ideas to sports broadcasts

Screen shot of Heads & Tails broadcast of New Britain Bees game earlier this year.

The idea of watching a baseball game from an umpire’s viewpoint is no longer a future dream but a possible reality thanks to some new camera and distribution technology being demonstrated by a startup called Heads & Tails of Bonsall, Calif.

Led by longtime sports marketer Tony Loiacono, Heads & Tails today is debuting its “NewAngle” camera technology with shows from the NBA’s summer league games from Las Vegas. With miniature cameras that can be placed just about anywhere, the Heads & Tails streams can give fans a unique perspective on events, like the “pylon cams” recently used in football game broadcasts or the GoPro views from events like the Tour de France.

What makes Heads & Tails’ offering different is patent-pending technology that includes encoding and transmission capabilites right into the camera. By linking directly to a remote production facility via the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE-based content delivery network, Loiacono said the point-of-view streams can go from playing field to Internet audience without the need for an on-site production truck. Though no costs associated with the system or business plans for monetization have yet been divulged, the Heads & Tails approach is most likely much less expensive than a traditional broadcast system, and it could allow for any number of sponsor-activation programs centered around the custom content.

Earlier this summer, Heads & Tails started running a 30-game pilot of its systems with the minor-league baseball New Britain Bees in New Britain, Conn. Fans could pick which live camera feed they wanted to watch on either YouTube, Facebook or LinkedIn. The camera angles showed unique game perspectives, like watching from behind an umpire’s mask at home plate, or watching an up-close view of plays at first base from behind the bag.

The new views supported by Heads & Tails’ camera technology (which Loiacono said originated in Verizon’s Innovation Labs) are the next step in a career built around bringing the passion of sports to fans, Loiacono said. According to Heads & Tails, in 1991 Loiacono debuted The Upper Deck Cam in New York’s Madison Square Garden, Chicago Stadium and the Los Angeles Forum providing NBA basketball and NHL hockey fans a unique view from the scoreboard when he was vice president of marketing for The Upper Deck Company.

“I love sports, man!” said the enthusiastic Loiacono during a recent phone interview. “I want people to understand the magic of seeing a batter dig in at the plate. Yes, the technology drives it but it’s also unique and fun, and the passion of sports is where we’re coming from.”

BELOW: Some Heads & Tails coverage from the NBA summer league.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football Expands Social Media Presence

Sunday Night Football on NBC

I was reading an old NBC Sports press release this morning and an interesting note caught my eye on its growing use of social media as a tool in reaching fans. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all will feature much more prominently in the networks pro football efforts.

The first thing I saw was that for what seems like a first you will be able to get live video updates from the sidelines of Sunday Night Football. It seems that NBC’s broadcast team sideline reporter will be posting updates directly to Twitter.

As the ultimate in mobility, if not image quality, it looks like instead of a traditional camera they will be using an iPhone, according to Mashable, to record the updates that will be provided by reporter Michele Tafoya and then post them to @SNFonNBC.

I think that this is a great idea because it will enable her to expand beyond the role that sideline reporters often seem to fall into such as asking blindingly obvious questions to the coaches and occasionally providing an injury update when they can squeeze them into the broadcast.

During sports broadcasts I do not like the breakways from the action that seem to increasingly occur. ESPN almost ruined Monday Night Football for me by having a guest in the booth and talking with them and showing the conversation rather than the action that was on the field. I did not tune in to hear Mark Wahlberg tout his latest movie!

Apparently the Twitter effort started in the preseason and I managed to miss it, as I followed my tradition of not watching preseason games, or pretty much caring about their results aside from the injury reports.

For the second year NBC will also be employing Instagram as a tool to send images to fans, both ones that it generates from the control truck, field and locker-room but also fan-generated ones as well who can submit via Instagram using #SNF that be sent into a special Instagram tab on the Sunday Night Football Facebook page.

The centerpiece of the social experience will be its Facebook page, Facebook.com/SNFonNBC that will serve as an aggregation site for all of its various properties including NBCSports.com, ProFootballTalk.Com and RotoWorld.com as well as the Twitter feed and the Instagram postings.

I think this is one of the best uses of social media by a broadcaster and shows that as the broadcasters, at least this one, are getting a grasp on the fact that fans view events and gather information about them with a greater variety of media tools than ever before and that reaching them all takes a more concentrated effort.

Olympic PoolCam Reveals Strange Creatures Via Twitter

Creature in the Olympic swimming pool?

Amid various athletes taking verbal swipes at each other and the paranoia of network PR types overreacting to 140-character opinions is the beauty of Twitter, photography and swimming at the Summer Olympics — direct from a submerged camera.

Specifically, throughout the swimming competition, the Twitter feed L2012 (@L2012PoolCam) has posted 17 tweets — all stunning images from the bottom of the pool at the Aquatic Centre in London.

The image to the left is captioned: “Aargh, what creature is this that’s upon me?”

The Twitter’s description, without human identification, reads: “I match the world’s best swimmers, stroke for stroke. They speed along on top. I race along the bottom, always looking up – and always wet.”

Here’s another sample:

The feed has attracted a wide following of more than 17,000 since the Summer Olympics began. And although the swimming competition largely concludes Aug. 4, two events will remain, the women’s 10km on Aug. 9 and swimming’s concluding event, the men’s 10km, Aug. 10.

James Raia is an editor and publisher in Sacramento, California. Visit his site: www.tourdefrancelife.com

Xirrus Gets Yellow Jersey for Successful Tour de France Mobile Wi-Fi Network

That white circular thing at upper right is a Xirrus wireless array, doing its duty in a Tour de France press room. Credit: Xirrus.

Just like Britain’s Bradley Wiggins, Wi-Fi gear vendor Xirrus had a pretty good Tour de France, as its wireless arrays finished off a successful string of supporting the demanding needs of the world’s media during the 21-stage event.

According to a Xirrus press release, the company supplied its gear to French wireless supplier Orange, which delivered Internet access to the race’s start and finish areas, a challenging task that involved quick setup and teardown in the host cities. The Xirrus release said that its network for Orange supported “125 TV broadcasters, 2,300 journalists, 70 radio stations, and 450 newspapers transferring enormous amounts of media-rich files from the Tour’s Start Village, Timing Locations, Sprint Locations, Media Centers, and Finish Lines.”

If you’re not familiar with the demands of sport media, the still cameras alone at a big event like the Tour de France can account for millions of megapixels. Typically the photographers, who spend most of race days on motorcycles, decamp at the finish line press tents and start immediately downloading huge files of photos to their main offices, where the images are posted on web sites or readied for print publications. And they are just a subset of the throng of local broadcasters, national and international print writers and radio commentators who all need big broadband pipes to get their information from race site to website.

That’s where Xirrus and Orange came in, designing a highly mobile network infrastructure that featured Xirrus’ modular access points, which can be configured with more radios as are needed to handle bandwidth demands. That Xirrus was as up to the task as Wiggins and all the other riders who traversed the race’s thousands of kilometers was proven in part by the money quote from the apparently satisfied client, Henri Terreaux, Events Projects Manager at the French Operation Division of Orange:

“Orange is focused on providing the Tour de France, NBC Sports, government dignitaries, and thousands of media professionals during the race with reliable, high-performance wireless connectivity. Xirrus makes it easy to support the thousands of devices, simultaneously transferring large amounts of video and photo files through a robust network that, due to the race, must be redeployed on a daily basis, across 21 cities, in extreme environments. The array-based platform is the most powerful and trusted solution we’ve tested, and very quick to set-up.”

Here are some more details on the Xirrus blog.

Highlight Hunter Helps Sports Fans Create Video Highlight Reels

Amateur sports videographer? Soccer parent? Career little league coach? Just like to shoot video? All of these, and most of the rest of us have miles of video and for most users, no real skills in video editing so we force people to watch hours of bad film for the few minutes of footage that you are truly proud of.

The ease of shooting video, much like the low cost of digital photos, has lead to a huge backlog for many people who then need a solution to help sort this all out. There are a number of solutions out there seeking to solve this issue for you and one that we just recently bumped into is from Highlight Hunter.

Program helps to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff in videos

It will not actually fix any backlog issue you have but going forward could tremendously ease the task of finding the highlights in the video you are shooting at to edit it much faster, by as much as 8x according to the company.
It is a simple three step process. The first is simply record your video, as much as you want. Taking the example that Highlight Hunter uses, let’s say you record 3 hours of a ski trip of a group of friends on the slopes. The second step is very simple. After any event that was noteworthy you bookmark it by simply putting your hand over the lens of the recording device for one second.

A user then downloads the video into the company’s app and it will automatically create a 30 second highlight backtracking from the one second bookmark. So for a three hour video a user could do all of their editing within ten minutes rather than be forced to watch the entire three hours.

The Highlight Hunter app is available for both Macintosh computers and PCs and can handle video from all digital cameras. It is compatible with most other video editing applications so that a user can add additional features to the program as well. The company also has a free version of the app so that potential customers can give it a test drive.

Friday Grab Bag: Digitized Swimsuit Issue-Where do I sign up?

Ford to show at Mobile World Congress

At the Mobile World Congress there will no doubt be an array of interesting products and technologies introduced, and there will be at list one show first- Ford plans to launch a car at the show. The B-MAX to be exact.

Ford has one of the keynote speeches at the show and it has been revealed that it will take the wraps off of the car that has what it calls Easy Access Door System, but it claims that as yet unrevealed technology in the car is what it will be touting at the show.

ESPN to increase soccer coverage?
After ESPN lost in its bid to broadcast the upcoming 2018 and 2022 World Cups it seemed that all of the progress the network had made in its coverage of soccer would all go down the drain. However the Big Lead reports that in an interview with the World Wide Leader major changes are in the works to improve its coverage.

It reported that after this summer’s European Championships there will be a major effort to massively overhaul ESPN’s presence online. It currently has two separate sites that cover the sport so simply consolidating them would be a positive step forwards.

BlackBerry takes a hit as Government agency moves to rivals
Research in Motion, reeling from a bad year just got more unpleasant news as the U.S. Government’s General Service Administration, its primary procurement agency, has started issuing smartphones that run both the Android and Apple iOS operating systems.

Until recently RIM’s BlackBerry had been the only option available from the GSA. However it is not all dire news as the BlackBerry is still the most widely used device among the RSA’s 17,000 employees and currently the rivals’ only account for approximately 5% in a trial program that is just now starting. However once the camel’s nose is in the tent watch out for the rest of the beast.

Apple seeking blood from a stone?
Apple has asked a bankruptcy court for permission to sue Kodak for infringement. That is just the tip of the iceberg according to Cnet, which reports that Apple is also seeking to file a patent infringement claim with the International Trade Commission and plans to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Manhattan.

Apple is already a two time loser in regards to taking Kodak in front of the ITC, which has ruled that Kodak did not infringe on Apple’s patents. Kodak has returned fire and last month filed a suit against Apple saying it violated some of Kodak’s patents.

Apple wins round in Germany vs Motorola
Apple has won a major round in its ongoing patent disputes with Motorola Mobility when the Munich I Regional Court ruled in favor in regards to patent # EP1964022. Not familiar with that one, are you? Well it has to do with unlocking a device using a gesture on an unlock image.

Apple will now have the opportunity to defend the side and lock patent as Motorola has already appealed the decision. The court looked at three different implementations of the technology and Apple won on two, losing on the third, which is used by Xoom tablets.

Apple is also asserting the same patent against Samsung sop expect to hear more about this issue going forward.

Looking for a more digital Sports Illustrated? It is here.
One of the coming of age items for high school students was squirreling away the annual Sports Illustrated Swim Suit issue before the parental units could confiscate it. Well now you can view it, and all of the magazines content, in a growing array of digital formats.

The latest is available for iPads, with horizontal and vertical views available as well as for the iPhone for the Apple fans and then it’s also available for Android smartphone and tablet users. All for the low, low price of $6.99.

However there is also a range of video options as well including much that is exclusive to the tablet market. Then a user could simply also head over to SI.com for additional video, as well as YouTube and Facebook.

Google fixes Wallet Security Hole
Your digital pocket can no longer be picked, according to Google, which has issued a fix for the security flaw that was reported in its Google Wallet. While there are still threats to the security, the simply method that required almost no hacking skill has been resolved.

Along with putting in a fix for the security gap Google has made some additional enhancements to the Wallet, head over to Pocketnow for a run down.

Camping stove boils water and charges smartphones
Looking forward to the backpacking season but worried that your smartphone’s battery will not handle three days in the great outdoors? Well BioLite has just the tool for you, a stove that burns wood for cooking and can also generate electricity.

The CampStove does both by using the thermal energy created when a fire is kindled in it to run a thermoelectric module that is built into the side of the stove. The module runs a fan that blows air onto the fire to improve combustion but also has excess energy available.

That energy can be used to charge small electronics devices such as a mobile phone, a GPS or lights. Of course if you backpack with back to nature types the stove might not help you stave off attack from your friends for using your phone.