Several years ago the National Hockey League (NHL) leveraged its video infrastructure to centralize instant replays, and many other major sports leagues have since followed suit. More recently, a new replay rule went into effect allowing coaches and general managers to challenge an off-sides call if a subsequent goal was scored. This new rule posed a unique technical challenge for the NHL.
The organization had to find a way to produce video replays for judging this particular hockey play, but was challenged to find a camera that would enable capture from the blue line on the ice that could be easily deployed game after game. Serendipitously, as this need arose, AJA’s small footprint RovoCam had just been announced. The compact cameras’ HDBaseT interface uses standard Cat 5e/6 cables that are easily replaceable, and there’s no separate power cable—signals for power, video and audio are all carried over HDbaseT.
Blue line cameras needed to be set in place by the start of the NHL’s 2016 playoffs. During the All Star game in Nashville, the NHL tested several different camera options to see which would work best. The setup required positioning cameras against the glass in an area where fans sit during the game; they also needed to be pointed, focused and adjusted remotely. Additionally, hockey arenas are generally multi-use venues so the cameras had to be easy to set-up and take down between games.
Several cameras were tested, many were very expensive and less than optimal in terms of operational feasibility. Tests with RovoCam proved to be successful. Working with reseller T2, NHL ordered 64 RovoCams to have four set up in each of 16 playoff arenas. Today there are four RovoCams set up for each game. Two are positioned to shoot through the glass on the penalty box side of the ice in custom housings to protect them from spilled drinks or food. On the players’ side of the bench, there are two cameras set up on mounts that clip over the top of the glass wall that separates the players from the fans.
When a goal is scored, RovoCam footage is reviewed by coaches who can then choose to challenge whether the play was offsides, and at the conclusion of the challenge definitive angles for that given replay are output and handed off to the in-venue broadcasters and often make it to air. The RovoCam “blue line cameras” have helped to resolve a number of challenges so far this season.
For more information about the NHL’s decision to introduce blue-line cameras, visit the NHL.com
RovoCam is AJA’s first compact block camera for industrial, corporate, security, ProAV and broadcast applications. RovoCam’s HDBaseT interface supports control of 4K/UltraHD video, power, stereo audio and RS-232 over a single Cat 5e/6 cable.