All the veteran football fans who have been watching the sport for decades will remember a time when it was significantly tougher to follow along with the action on the field. Younger generations of fans, however, have grown up with the luxury of having the first down highlighted on their TV screen by a big magical yellow line.
— NewsFlashback (@NewsFlashback) December 27, 2015
I’m a member of the latter category, due to my age. I’ve always seen the line there, but it wasn’t until I got into broadcasting school that I really started to understand the complexity of creating it.
For those of you who have never been to a professional football game in person, you might expect to see that line out on the field… But in reality, the only thing you’ll have to work with is what the football fans watching on tv worked with before – the chains.
— Latam Tech Meetup (@latamtechmeetup) October 26, 2015
My dad has told me a few times the story of when he took my mother to her first live hockey game, and she asked him at one point when the commentators were going to start talking. I get the impression he made her feel a bit foolish for such a question, but to someone who’s never been to a live sporting event, it seems like a reasonable enough question. But nope – when you’re actually at the game, the luxuries like the first down line and commentary are not included.
But how did that yellow line on the TV broadcasts come to be in the first place? And how do they always make it look like it’s actually ON the field? I mean, it looks like the players are running right over it.
Well it’s actually pretty technologically advanced, and has its roots in the old “glowing puck” days of hockey broadcasting. While that was a flop, the same company that came up with it also created the first down line – to a decidedly more favourable response.
Check out this video on how it’s done:
Having worked first hand with green-screening and chromakey technology when I was in college, I can tell you first hand how difficult it can be to make it look nice and seamless… So I can’t help but be pretty impressed by just that part of it, let alone the technology that ensures it’s always at the right spot and right angle on the field. Kudos to the folks who came up with this system.
And also, kudos to Vox for creating this informative and entertaining video!
So when you’re stuffing your face while watching the big game tomorrow, remember all the work that’s going on behind the scenes to make the game as easy to watch as possible!