How the German football league is using new technology to distribute tailored and localised content packages to media partners


During the 2020/21 football season, the Deutsche Fussball Liga (DFL) is trialling new technology to track individual players while they’re on the field. The automated robotic camera system can be placed anywhere in the ground, but the current trial is set around the halfway line and compromises a Grass Valley LDX C86n 4K with a Fujinon HA18x5.5, and a robot-controlled camera mount on a tripod. The system is controlled by the Nikon/MRMC (Mark Roberts Motion Control) Polymotion Player software using tracking data supplied by ChyronHego. In development since 2016, the project has been led by MRMC and Sportscast who agreed to set up a trial at Borussia Dortmund.

“MRMC technologies are focused on motion and camera control, which lends itself to remote production by the nature of the technology”

– Marius Merten, VR/robotic imaging manager for Nikon MRMC

“There is no doubt that the pandemic has seen a natural increase in the use of remote production technology in the broadcast industry, but Polymotion Player is not just a remote production technology. It provides the client with shots a human would not be able to capture manually, and increases the creative possibilities”

– Marius Merten, VR/robotic imaging manager for Nikon MRMC

Marius Merten states “The robotic camera positions crucially provide angles where a human is physically not able to go safely such as from the roof of the stadium, and therefore provides additional value.”

Robotic Camera can be used as either a tactical standardised product or as a close up/individual player tracking system. Typically, between two and four cameras are deployed simultaneously.

“The system has the capability to install up to 12 camera positions that can be controlled by the software. The system physically moves the camera when tracking its subject and that allows an operator to position the cameras anywhere around the field of play,” explains Merten. Currently, the feeds are delivered back to the PCR via broadcast IP and satellite, but Merten says 5G will be possible in the future.

Currently, the system is being trialled in the Bundesliga, but could it be employed by other sports?

“It’s designed for field-based sports, football, American football, ice hockey, basketball, handball, volleyball, etc. Each sport has its own challenge such as increased speed or smaller pitch geometries. If you compare ice hockey with football, it is more challenging due to much higher speeds and accelerations. On the other hand, with ice hockey there are tracking systems which are sensor based and thus more reliable and faster than in football, but Polymotion Player can be configured to work with these different systems.”

Finally, are there plans to continue to develop the trial throughout the football season?

“The system is continuously being developed and enhanced, as is the case with all of our broadcast solutions,” states Merten. “We are working closely with Sportcast and DFL to meet any further requirements they will have.”

To learn more about the automated tracking of Polymotion Player click here