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NBA advances on mission to sports technology leadership

The NBA is on a mission to become the technology leader in sports, and its announcement of a major contract with Silicon Graphics to supply a 50-trillion-byte storage solution is a big step in that direction.

The deal, which includes an SGI InfiniteStorage NAS 2000 solution and a StorageTek SL8500 tape library, secures the technology NBA Entertainment needs to catalog and store action from every NBA game as it occurs.

That’s critical for NBA Entertainment because it nightly must feed video packages to various distributors, including, cable partners, cell phone services, and custom online Web viewing worldwide, in addition to producing NBA TV.

Cataloging games on the fly is an important component of the process. Two league employees sitting at the scorer’s table at each NBA game track each player’s position on the court, what kind of shots are taken and rate the shots on a 1-to-5 scale. The information is tied to SMPTE time code and married in the SGI system.

Seventeen Pinnacle Systems editors will be tied into the SGI NAS, and with the metadata generated by the employees at the scorer’s table, editors with be able to access specific highlights for packaging.

The SGI system also gives the league a medium on which to store its vast library of archive footage. The NBA library has every game in its entirety for at least the past 12 seasons and highlights stretching back to the league’s founding. Eventually, all of that material will be cataloged and available instantly on the NAS.

Digitizing and storing this footage presents other opportunities to the league as well. It will open the way for fans to experience a jump shot from the player’s point of view using 3-D trajectory technology. It also can be used with sophisticated 3-D visualization software to create real-time, virtual reality views of court action from every angle imaginable.

However, before such complex applications surface, simpler visualizations will give the league new tools to better understand the game, view the court in proposed arenas and see how in-arena advertising might be viewed.

The first step of the project will be the installation of the SGI system at NBA Entertainment headquarters later this year.

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