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ESPN To Debut "Virtual 3" Technology On ABC

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In an effort to bring clarity to the game, ESPN introduces technology that will illuminate the 3-point line for viewers at home.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN is taking its tech game to the next level, testing out their new "ESPN Virtual 3" during the matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Throughout the ABC telecast, the 3-point line will appear illuminated when a player attempts a 3-point shot. Upon a make, the line will remain illuminated for a brief time.

ESPN Senior Vice President Jed Drake spoke with Front Row’s Ben Cafadro about the development:

In technical terms, how does "ESPN Virtual 3" illuminate on the screen?
In short, we are creating a virtual line over the existing 3-point line. And that’s actually quite complicated. We have to perfectly match the existing line, and then mask it. On the television screen, the three-point line is only a few pixels wide, and it’s obviously curved. Then, there are significant challenges brought to bear from the players’ uniform colors and the color of the line possible being identical. Remember: The virtual line needs to give the appearance that it is actually on the court surface with players running over it. While it looks very simple, it’s incredibly challenging. We spent a great deal of time on mapping, occlusion and keying.

If this technological jump sticks, it could potentially change the way we watch NBA basketball. ESPN will continue this experiment during ABC telecasts of Saturday prime-time NBA games for the remainder of the 2015-16 season.

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