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Legends Behind the Lens: Stan Honey

09/07/2020

Legends Behind the Lens: Stan Honey The Neil Armstrong of sports television changed on-screen graphics forever By Brandon Costa, Director of Digital

Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 12:00 pm

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Story Highlights

The story of American sports television is engrained in the history of this nation, rising on the achievements of countless incredible men and women who never once appeared on our screens. During this pause in live sports, SVG is proud to present a celebration of this great industry. Legends Behind the Lens is a look at how we got here seen through the people who willed it to be. Each weekday, we will share with you the story of a person whose impact on the sports-television industry is indelible.

Legends Behind the Lens is presented in association with the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the SVG Sports Broadcasting Fund. In these trying times - with so many video-production professionals out of work - we hope that you will consider (if you are able) donating to the Sports Broadcasting Fund. Do so by visiting sportsbroadcastfund.org.

___________________________

By Jason Dachman

The 1st & Ten line on football telecasts. K-Zone and pitch-tracking on baseball. Car-tracking pointer graphics on NASCAR. LiveLine course markers on the America's Cup. And anything dubbed augmented reality on sports TV. Today, these elements are fixtures that fans have come to expect in live sports telecasts, but none of the technologies would exist had it not been for Stan Honey. The master innovator and co-founder of Sportvision has helped change the way fans watch sports, creating unique augmented-reality tools that illuminate hard-to-see moments and allow the production team to better tell the story playing out on the field.

Every time we've created a successful system, it has taken something that is hard to see, important to the game, and occurs often, and then we superimposed a graphic to make it easy to see, he explains. We want to make it easier to see and understand those invisible but important and frequent moments.

Of course, Honey's achievements go well beyond the realm of sports media. He is one of the most decorated navigators in sailing and, early in his career, pioneered the first-ever vehicle-navigation system.

Stan Honey's influence and legacy in the sports-broadcasting industry is absolutely immense, says Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer and Fox Sports founding President David Hill. What Stan has done - from the glowing puck to the 1st & 10 line to tracking NASCAR [stock cars] in a three-dimensional space - has totally changed the viewer experience. Stan's inventive, curious mind has left an indelible legacy on sports production - both in the U.S. and around the world.

From Navigator and Innovator to the Father of Vehicle Navigation

The son and godson of navigators, Honey was born in Pasadena, CA, in 1955, and grew up in San Marino sailing dinghies, as well as showing an early passion for engineering by constructing homemade ham radios. By the time he was a teenager, he was navigating large yachts in races ranging from Mexico to Hawaii.

He opted to attend Yale for his undergraduate degree - largely because it had the best sailing team in the country - and earned a BS in engineering and applied science. While helping Yale continue to dominate the sport, Honey also began to sail professionally and quickly developed a reputation as one of the most gifted navigators around.

After graduating, he began work as a research engineer at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), continuing to sail and navigate professionally as well as earning his MSEE at Stanford. During this period, renowned entrepreneur - and ATARI founder - Nolan Bushnell tapped him to navigate his maxi yacht in the 1983 Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, a race in which he was first to finish. With Bushnell's backing and encouragement, Honey founded Etak (a Polynesian navigational term), which would pioneer the first car-navigation system using map-matching technology (once GPS became available, all vehicle navigation systems continued to use the map-matching tech created by ETAK in conjunction with GPS).

I think Stan embodies the ultimate marriage between technical innovation and content awareness. And he is the perfect harmony between curiosity and wisdom, says Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer and frequent collaborator Geoffrey Mason. The reason he's so successful at whatever he does is, he makes sure he understands the needs of his colleagues. That has been true whether in his early days as [vehicle-navigation] innovator, as a navigator in sailing, or creating animations to illustrate the action in an America's Cup race.

Honey's News Corp. Era Begins

In 1989, Honey sold Etak to Rupert Murdoch for roughly $35 million and continued to run it under News Corp. ownership. He also found his way into the media business.

One of the advantages I had going to a liberal-arts school like Yale for an engineering education was that I also learned to speak and write pretty well, says Honey. So the executives [at News Corp.] realized that, even though I was an engineer, I could also explain technology in a way they could understand. At the time, there were a lot of confusing new technologies and terms in the media industry: encryption, digital, internet, conditional access. I ended up spending half my time helping the other chief executives tangling with these technical issues.

When News Corp. sold Etak to Sony in 1996, Honey stayed on as News Corp.'s EVP of technology, a role he says he struggled with since I enjoy building things and a corporate role like that was really frustrating because I wasn't building anything.

Nonetheless, he took on several major projects during his six years in the role, including managing
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