Deeper Dive—IBM helps the Masters turn tons of footage into relevant clips

The Masters takes place April 11-14 at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. (Wikimedia Commons)

The 2019 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia begins in less than a week, and IBM will once again be on the ground helping to handle massive amounts of video footage.

IBM has been working with Augusta National and the Masters for more than 20 years, and has helped with projects like early web experiences. Now, the company is assisting with tasks including production, automation and highlight video generation.

Taking all that footage and condensing it into appealing, bite-sized packages is not an easy task. David Kulczar, senior product manager at IBM, said his company produces highlights for lots of different sports, but golf is specifically challenging since it consists of so many individual shots.

“You really have to track multiple cameras in different locations and different setups, and then pull all of that together in a holistic way,” Kulczar said.

Previously, a massive production team was necessary to handle all the relevant data needed to produce compelling clips, he said. Even then, they missed specific players that might be of lower interest than the leaders or the stars.

This year, IBM is rolling out new features for tournament highlights, including a more detailed production dashboard. Kulczar said there’s an instantaneous demand from viewers for all the content that comes in from the Masters. So, anything that Augusta National can do to automate the highlight production process is of interest.

IBM now lets Augusta customize clips in various ways, allowing them to quickly build video packages for each of the players, and then tune that package based on criteria including eagles, birdies, player actions or crowd responses. Once those criteria are set, the process can be automated and then the highlight videos can be pushed out to the production broadcast, social media or Augusta’s web experience. IBM this year also is helping Augusta produce three-minute clips for each player as soon as their rounds are complete.

Artificial intelligence also has a role to play in IBM’s highlight creation process. The company will be using AI at the Masters to do things like detect crowd response and specific gestures made by players, and then using that information to build better highlights.

IBM is also handling the video distribution workflow for the Masters, including transcoding, and then ensuring formats are correct for sending video out to devices, including smartphones and TVs.

Kulczar called this collective Masters effort an ongoing progression of the way his company helps improve both traditional and digital video experiences around several sports, including golf, tennis and soccer.

“What we’re doing at Augusta is an evolution,” Kulczar said.