NBC’s Bullet Time Replay Rigs: How They Work and What You Can Expect


A couple of days ago, we shared the news that NBC’s Sunday Night Football was going to show you pro football like you’ve never seen it before: in bullet time. Details were a bit thin, but it looked like a 24-camera bullet time rig would be installed in each end zone, providing Matrix-like replays that would do their best to blow your mind.

As it turns out, the technology is called ‘freeD’ and was developed by Replay Technologies. And Patrick Myles of Teledyne DALSA (the company providing the 4K cameras for the system) got in touch with us to share some of the juicy details, which we now get to pass along to you.

First, for a few corrections. This system has actually already been deployed several times in the worlds of golf, gymnastics and baseball. Called “YESVIEW,” it was most recently available on the YES Network for Yankees home games. Check out this demo to see the freeD system in action in New York:

Also, the rigs will consist of 12 (not 24) 4K Teledyne DALSA Falcon2 CMOS cameras each, and will be placed around each teams red zone (not end zone). This means that from the 20-yard line in, NBC will be able to freeze any shot, move around it, and even zoom in quite a bit while maintaining an extremely clear picture.

“Replay’s freeD system utilizes powerful cameras and sophisticated algorithms to create three-dimensional photo-realistic real-time scenes,” explains Teledyne. “This information is stored as a freeD database that can produce (render) any desired viewing angle from the detailed information.” And that “rendering” is fast, taking only 30 seconds on average.

Here’s a quick overview that explains “how the magic happens,” so to speak:

As you might imagine, NBC is excited to get these rigs going: “Being able to seamlessly move from side to side and around an entire play without switching shots will entertain and inform the fans in Cowboys stadium and the National TV audience on NBC,” said Sunday Night Football producer Fred Gaudelli. “Fans will think they’re playing a video game or watching a Sci-Fi movie, but they’ll actually be viewing real NFL football as never presented before.”

So far, only the Dallas Cowboys stadium has the system installed, but Teledyne and Replay Technologies are confident that freeD will be adopted nationwide before long — especially once fans get ahold of the system on September 8th. For more information about how the system itself works, check out the short video above or visit Replay Technologies website here.

  • Dean W. Thompson

    Wow. This will make replays damn awesome.

  • Nihilist

    madden replays for real….

  • Blog-Güero

    Betcha money these guys didn’t pay a license for “Clubbed to death” by Rob D (the music). Just sayin. Don’t think it qualifies as fair use.

  • Craig Swinson

    WOW! I thought it was just a ton of cameraslike in those Matrix rigs, I didn’t know it was actually rendering video buy guestimation.

  • Spencer Hopkins

    The technology is way better than it was but I remember choppy bullet-time replays for the Superbowl in Tampa 12 years ago (2001). Always fun to watch.

  • thagg2

    Pretty amazing that they can do that in near-real time. Analyzing images to that resolution to get 3D info isn’t easy; although having fixed camera positions helps. Very cool work!

  • jimjamaroo

    I imagine the next step could be to 3D print scale dioramas from historic moments from sport or news events, using point cloud data and image maps as they evolve to even higher resolutions.

  • skhpcola

    Would anybody pay to listen to that noise? It makes a decent background track, but it’s not “music.”

  • ramv36

    The RIAA would beg to differ, and usually they do it through lawsuits in the millions of dollars…

  • skhpcola

    Of course they would, and the mafia would break your legs for $20 in interest on a $5 loan. The RIAA is an anti-competitive gang of thugs that should be prosecuted under the RICO statutes.

  • AJ

    It was likely chosen because ‘bullet time’ is from ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Clubbed to Death’ was also from ‘The Matrix’… And getting the rights to the song for a corporate promotional tech/demo video likely wouldn’t cost that much. Plus this is pretty cool technology, and this video will likely go viral, so it’s great exposure for Rob.

    Just sayin’.

  • Dave

    You mean ‘slow motion’, right? ‘Bullet time’ is like the bullet train, ie fast.

  • Blifoo

    This isn’t bullet time. Matrix-style bullet time just involves an array of tightly-packed, synchronized cameras. This has fewer cameras, and performs image processing to make a 3D scene out of the images, which can then be moved around smoothly (instead of jerkily hopping between one camera and the next).