Play it again: NFL fans get 360-degree instant replay


The instant replay isn’t new. In fact, it can be argued that it’s the very reason why watching Football is America’s favorite Sunday night living room pastime. The implementation of 12 cameras in each end zone brings something new to your big screen TV this NFL season – a 360-degree instant replay. 

Starting with the September 8th Dallas Cowboys home game, fans watching the action on NBC’s Sunday Night Football will see an all-around view of controversial plays in each end zone. As reported by the AP in the Washington Post, the system is produced by Replay Technologies Inc. It will not be used for official review, though fans at the stadium will also be able to watch the replays on AT&T Stadium’s scoreboard.

The Hawk-Eye system used in pro tennis uses information provided by cameras positioned around the court’s perimeter to track the ball. The final image is a 3D rendering of its position, used to review line calls.

Instant replay was invented to give television viewers reason to tune in. It gave people viewing the event at home a second, closer look at plays, a dimension that they couldn’t get live at the game. Since then, they’ve been adopted by major American sports leagues not just for entertainment, but also for official review. In the NFL, the first instant replay for official review came in 1986. Opponents protested the time it took away from the action, and cited a loss of spontaneity in the game.

Love it or hate it, instant replay has made its way into most major sports. Tennis fans are familiar with Hawk-Eye, first used for official review in 2006. Initially, it was introduced by television networks to provide TV audiences a second look at official line rulings. According to Hawk-Eye, a number of high speed cameras positioned around the stadium track the movement of the tennis ball in play, triangulating data from individual 2D cameras into a 3D representation of the ball’s movement. Since its debut as a fan instant replay tool, Hawk-Eye is now used by players to ‘challenge’ official line rulings.

The system installed at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium has drawn comparisons to the technology recently unveiled by NHK, a robotic rig capable of bullet-time image capture. One camera directs the movement of eight other sub cameras, all powered individually by motors to pan, tilt and zoom in unison. To see it in action, see DigInfo TV’s video below.

Video: Multi-viewpoint Robot Camera System



Could be a good idea, but I hope they don’t beat us over the head with tech during the games. Some of us watch to actually see the game. Further delays and more “tech breaks” during the games aren’t welcome. Can’t we just watch the damned game?

Paul Guba

OMG if they turn football into a Matrix rerun I will stop watching it. It is practically impossible for me now with all the graphics. Lets turn the coverage into a live Madden game.


Better idea..12 cameras IN THE BALL!

Felix E Klee

This is awesome! I would like to use that technology for creating animated “object movies”, also called “inverse panoramas”.

They say in the video: “Pictures taken with the robot cameras inevitably have discrepancies in direction control. So simply switching between them doesn’t give smooth pictures. To solve the problem, we’ve brought in a computer, which redoes the direction control virtually.”

As far as I understand it: They interpolate pictures taken from viewing angles where there were no cameras. For example, cameras may look at the scene in 5° increments: 45°, 50°, 55°, etc. To get a smooth animation, however, pictures taken at 46°, 47°, 48°, 49°, 51°, etc. may be necessary. Any information about the software / algorithms used?


I want to see this in every professional soccer stadium in the world. When a player fakes a fall the replay is broadcast immediately and if it was faked he is red carded and fined on the spot!!!!!!!!!

Philip Goh

They should also introduce teams of bruisers who ensure that his injury is no longer fake.


Not photography related exactly, but NFL fans like me rejoice!


There is, no more important photography issue than football.

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