Article Overview

NVIDIA and Sportvision Bring Gold Medal Special Effects to NBC’s 2010 Winter Olympics Broadcast

NBC's Online Coverage of the Vancouver Games

Have you been watching the 2010 Winter Olympic Games? Over 80 nations are competing in 15 different sporting events taking place in and around Vancouver, Canada, through Feb. 28th. The Olympics provide captivating drama that only sporting events on a massive, global scale can provide. From Alpine Skiing, Curling, and Figure Skating, to Ice Hockey, Ski Jumping, and Snowboarding, there’s an incredible amount of action going on, and NVIDIA and Sportvision are helping deliver that action via NBC to TV and Internet audiences in unique ways.


Sportvision, Inc., leveraging the massively parallel computing power of the Quadro graphics processing unit (GPU), is the company bringing you incredible, new effects to many of these events at the Winter Olympics.

Sportvision is the company behind “RACEf/x,” those real-time info ‘balloons’ that track the cars at NASCAR events, and “1st and Ten,” the superimposed first-down marker that you see displayed on the field during NFL games. Sportvision has partnered with NBC during the Winter Olympics to present viewers with a variety of GPU-powered broadcast effects that provide key insights into the action taking place.


One cool effect, called “SimulCam,” superimposes one athlete’s performance over another to graphically illustrate the differences between competitor’s strategies, approaches, and even flaws.

If you’ve been watching NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, you’ve watched Bode Miller flying down the mountain racing neck and neck against Ivica Kostelic in the Alpine Skiing Men’s Downhill, and/or Lindsey Vonn and Andrea Fischerbacher chasing each other down the super-G course; no, you weren’t imagining it— you DID see two skiers racing down the mountain to the finish line at the same time, mere inches from one another. Yes, these are solo competitions, with each competitor racing against the clock, but SimulCam gives viewers the ability to instantly compare one skier’s performance against another’s, helping better explain why one skier just beat out another by mere tenths or even thousandths of a second.



The second intriguing video effect, called “StroMotion,” repeatedly freezes athletes in motion during a given segment of their routine to demonstrate, within a single frame, the entire evolution of their movements. A still photo is one thing. But a StroMotion-enhanced video sequence effectively lets the viewer see into the mind of an athlete as they execute a routine.

StroMotion technology has enhanced coverage of the Moguls competition, along with several other events.


OK, now for some drill-down on how these technologies work. SimulCam and StroMotion were initially developed as sports training applications by a group of video pros in Switzerland known as DartFish.

StroMotion and SimulCam work by compounding video images into a frame-by-frame sequence. StroMotion is based on stroboscoping, a means to analyze rapid movement so that a moving object is perceived as a series of static images along the object’s trajectory. SimulCam is a video processing application combining video sequences with Spatial-Temporal alignment. Given two video sequences, a composite video sequence can be generated which includes visual elements from each of the given sequences, suitably synchronized and represented in a chosen focal plane. For example, given two video sequences with each showing a different contestant individually racing the same down-hill course, the composite sequence can include elements from each of the given sequences to show the contestants as if racing simultaneously. Both StroMotion and SimulCam technologies are part of the DartFish DartStudio system.

The SimulCam technology involves “background recognition,” a process that identifies the pixels that belong in the background and calculates how those pixels move throughout a series of successive images. Those calculations are made possible by leveraging the power of NVIDIA graphics processing units (GPUs).

Differences in the camera angles between every two images of two videos are determined, and then every image of the second video is geometrically modified so as to match the viewpoint of the corresponding image in the first video. SimulCam then blends the two images together.


DartFish software, specialized Sportvision hardware, which includes NVIDIA Quadro

StroMotion similarly utilizes the power of NVIDIA Quadro GPUs to compute the camera movement between every two successive video images. Once determined, it stitches the images together, and using a high level of redundancy, it’s actually able to remove the moving object from the image. Then, from the computed camera movement, StroMotion can determine how each video image relates geometrically to each other and to the panorama. The identification of pixels belonging to moving objects is based on the change-detection of each video image within the corresponding area in the panorama.

Ultimately, it’s a combination of DartFish software, specialized Sportvision hardware, which includes NVIDIA Quadro professional GPUs, input and guidance from a number of on-site Sportvision producers and, of course, NBC’s camera feeds, production, and on-air personalities that are bringing viewers a very cool Winter Olympics viewing experience.

Whether you’re watching the Winter Olympics on NBC TV or via the Internet at, you’re sure to continue seeing SimulCam and StroMotion in action.

So continue to enjoy watching all of the gold medal winning Winter Olympics performances through this weekend, enhanced and enriched by Sportsvision and DartFish, using the power of NVIDIA Quadro GPU technology, which continues to help make the impossible possible.