In football, not everyone sees the same pubs at the edge of the pitch

The pubs you see around soccer fields are probably different from those seen by spectators in stadiums. Many broadcasters modify the stream to insert advertising more suited to the audience. All this without causing any delay on the live. A small feat.

The advertising on the field of football matches is not the same for everyone. Depending on whether you are watching Euro 2020 in Germany or France, the banners that frame the pitch are not going to sell you the same thing. A massive tweet relayed this July 5, 2021 shows 4 video streams of the same match with different advertisements in the background each time.

No questionable editing comes into play here, the same match broadcast live may display different advertisements depending on the broadcaster. This is called virtual advertising. But how exactly does it work?

“Market the same space several times”

This very short video which exploded on Twitter actually shows a Premier League match and was uploaded to YouTube by in 2017. Specialized in the construction of LED panels, also provides its tool for virtual advertisement named “Digiboard Digital Perimeter” which allows ” virtually modify the content of stadium edge advertising “In order to” market the same media space several times. The solution is therefore not new and similar tools have already been used at the Parc des Princes for several years.

The same match, several advertisements // Source:

In the case that interests us, the frame at the top left is in fact the one that broadcasts the “raw” stream captured by the stadium cameras. This is noticeable thanks to the sweeping visible on the advertising screen which is characteristic of the desynchronization between the shutter frequency of the camera and the refresh rate of the screen. This defect is not visible on the other feeds since the advertising banner is added a posteriori, above the real content.

Live changes

There are several ways to make such changes on the fly, but the easiest way is with beasts of math. As this Reddit thread explains, the cameras filming the stadium constantly send their degree of inclination and their positions in the stadium to a control room. The latter will take care of pasting the various advertisements superimposed on the raw stream before sending the image to you. The angle of the cameras, their locations and that of the advertising panels being known thanks to readings in each stadium, it is then only a question of doing super fast calculations, as a computer does very well. All this is done in less than a second, so as not to break the immersion of the live.

To ensure that the virtual advertisement does not appear above players passing in front of the advertising board, it is possible to explain to the computer that anything that is not at the exact distance between the camera and the ad sign should appear on top of the video overlay.

It is also possible to allow certain predetermined colors to be displayed above the virtual advertising as the NFL does for American football games. Anglophiles will be able to refer to this video from Vox Media which explains the entire history of this technology, from its beginnings in hockey to its use to create entirely virtual billboards, which have no concrete physical existence.

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