Judo Goes Global With Video

How video technology has enabled judo to extend its popularity, improve officiating – and develop more economic opportunities.

 

Judo is a sporting and lifestyle choice for an estimated 20 million people around the world, but outside of Olympic Games coverage it has historically lacked global reach as a spectator sport. This has begun to change in recent times, as ever-improving video technology has enabled the International Judo Federation (IJF) to provide broadcast-quality live-streamed web coverage of judo tournaments from around the world.

“Until we had the live broadcast, the only way to see judo was to physically turn up at an event,” explains Sheldon Franco-Rooks, the official tournament commentator for the IJF’s coverage. “Now you can watch contests that take place in Japan, Cuba, China, Korea or wherever we happen to be. We’re providing people with the opportunity to watch live judo as it happens, at the very highest quality.”

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This improved access is crucial to the sport’s global profile and commercial development. For Larisa Kiss, the director of the presidential office of the IJF, there are clear benefits: “It helps the athletes because they have wider exposure, and has helped us to sign up more sponsors, since our coverage can reach many regions and markets in the world that would otherwise be difficult for our sponsors to break into.”

Professional Quality

Producing professional quality live streams of international tournaments nearly every weekend is a challenge on many levels.

Matthias Fischer, the head of IT department for IJF says: “We travel a lot so when we were looking for production equipment, we wanted it to be small and compact, but at the same time it had to be professional grade equipment that could provide high quality streamed images for our viewers. Plus, of course, it had to be reliable and affordable.”

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To meet these challenges, the IJF deploys a comprehensive and professional flyaway production system based around NewTek’s TriCaster 8000 multi-camera live production and 3Play instant replay systems.

Up to four judo mats are covered at any one time, with two cameras focused on each mat. A stationary camera provides a wide shot of the entire hall, while a further two cameras capture the presenters, sometimes with a green-screen virtual studio, for programme introductions and continuity. Virtual sets are a feature included in TriCaster.

Crucial Role

The on-screen graphics, created by using LiveText, play a crucial role in increasing viewer understanding and enjoyment of the matches they are watching. Using LiveText, the overlays include a choice of live scoreboards, background information, player biographies, statistics and more. A live ticker displaying updates from other matches further bolsters the coverage.

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“Graphics are important for the viewers at home because it keeps them up to date with things that we are probably not describing,” says Franco-Rooks. “We can’t verbally relay all the information all of the time, so the scores, the state of the contest, as well as the state of other contests that are going on at that time, are added on-screen. The graphics don’t get in the way of the action. It’s a good package and it keeps people informed.”

The IJF’s coverage has not only helped reach new fans, and given fans better access to the sport, it has also fundamentally aided judo itself.

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Using 3Play, tournament referees and judges are now able to consult on match decisions to ensure accuracy, much like Television Match Officials in rugby or the third umpire in televised cricket.

“In judo we didn’t have anything like video replay until now,” explains Fischer. “With 3Play, we don’t need to interrupt the match but we can give the referee commission the opportunity to see the match again, preparing clips from multiple angles so that they can thoroughly observe and make a proper decision. Based on what they see, they can revise a score or tell the referee to change any decision.”

Growing the Sport

With a wider reach, increased exposure and the introduction of referee replays, judo has grown immeasurably, all thanks to video technology. As a result, the future looks bright for televised judo.

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“As long as we continue to keep this professional level, I think that the user base is going to grow,” says Franco-Rooks. “It’s entertaining, it’s informative and it’s easily accessible. You don’t have to sign up to anything, you don’t have to pay money, you just click on the site and you can watch top quality judo.”

Kiss is equally enthusiastic and is keen to spread the word about how video can aid other sports. “My advice for other federations would be to embrace video as much as possible for the development of their sport and also to reach out to as many people as possible,” she says. “I think it’s a great tool for all of the International Sports Federations.”

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