See the Groundbreaking Replay Technology That's Coming to Professional Tennis

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 14 2014 12:20 PM

See the Groundbreaking Replay Technology That's Coming to Professional Tennis

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Roger Federer

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Professional tennis—a sport not exactly defined by its loving embrace of technological advancement—is about to see a big-time upgrade in its television broadcasts. Starting this weekend at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., TennisTV's coverage will feature an innovative type of replay system known as FreeD.

The groundbreaking technology—which has been used to cover the Olympics, NFL, and the NBA's All Star Weekend festivities—provides viewers with a 360-degree view of the action by placing 22 state-of-the-art 5K cameras around the field of play. This allows producers to pause a live action shot and rotate the viewers' POV on any plane, thereby giving the commentators a chance to provide analysis on, say, a Rafael Nadal backhand, while the audience enjoys an unprecedented view of Nadal's hypothetical return.

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“This is a world-first for tennis," said Steve Plasto, CEO of ATP Media, the ATP World Tour's media rights distributor, about the implementation of the new replay technology for tour events. "We expect it to be a game changer in the way the sport is covered for broadcast.” 

As the video above shows, the technology definitely brings a lot to the table. It provides a glimpse into the intricacies of the game never before seen on TV and helps to highlight the freakish athleticism of the Federers and Djokovics of the world. At the very least, FreeD should go a long way toward closing the gap that currently exists between tennis broadcasts and the big-budget productions typical of other major professional sports. Plus, it's pretty cool to see Federer's million-dollar serve broken down by the millisecond.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate Video blogger.

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