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J.League Feeds Fans Around the World With AI-Created Clips From WSC Sports


J.League Feeds Fans Around the World With AI-Created Clips From WSC Sports By Troy Dreier, Contributor, Streaming & Digital

Monday, October 21, 2019 - 12:41 pm

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The J.League, Japan's professional soccer league, pushed a lot more video clips to social media this year, all the better to satisfy its growing international fanbase. It didn't do this by hiring new editors, but by working with WSC Sports, an Israeli company that uses artificial intelligence to turn a game's best moments into sharable videos.

WSC trains its AI tools to search out key moments in matches and turn them into short clips. That means looking for dunks in basketball, goals in soccer, or tries in rugby. It's careful to trim clips so the commentary is never interrupted. The software searches out important moments, which could mean understanding that the referee has just awarded a red card, then working backward to identify the action that caused the red card. When moments are identified, they're segmented into individual clips. Once the software has run through an game and generated clips, the league can share clips individually or have WSC's software create highlight reels to tell a longer story.

This season, the J.League created highlight reels showing off the best moments from its international players. It then sent these highlights to the players' home countries, along with videos showing other key moments from the games. Doing so helped the league grow outside Japan. For example, fans in Thailand have been enjoying clips of Chanathip Songkrasin, a star Thai player for the Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in the J1 League. Thanks to WSC's work, home country fans are able to watch more clips than they could before.

The AI that we used has been developed internally by WSC. It looks at various factors in the broadcasts such as visual factors, movement, scene changes, and what's going on the screens, explains Guy Port, head of Asia Pacific for WSC Sports. It's better than what a human can do. Because when you look at manual editing and creation, we're all about speed and scale, and delivering a lot of videos with various stories to multiple destinations at the same time.

For J.League, the decision to work with WSC came down to trust. The league includes 3 divisions and handles over 1000 games each year. Generating clips manually from all those events proved too arduous a task. Knowing that WSC handles the same task for the NBA, which needs to create far more clips, was a good endorsement for J.League.

It used to take a long time to create a single highlight, but now we only have to wait a moment to create one, says Kazuki Matsubar, director at J League Media Promotion. In addition to regular highlights, we can now create highlights for a home club, highlights for an away club, or easily create a video featuring a player or goal scene.

While working with WSC, Matsubar says the league had a few requests. For example, it wanted highlights to always include a player's entry scene, so that was added to the AI specification. Through trial-and-error, he says, the league has gotten to the tool close to the quality of human editors. and it works in a fraction of the time.

The AI editing system is entirely cloud-based thanks to a partnership with Imagica Live. The system ingests videos, creates clips, and hosts them all in the cloud. Distribution to other platforms is automated and guided by a pre-established set of rules.

WSC works with a variety of sports leagues so it needs to customize its tools for different actions. It also needs to adapt to changes in play. For example, some football leagues now use VAR (video assistant referee), so WSC's AI has to be able to tell when a play is reviewed and disallowed. No one wants to promote a clip for a play that was disallowed a few seconds after it was completed. WSC can currently create AI clips for 15 different sports, and counts MLS, Bundesliga, the NBA, FIBA, Cricket Australia, the World Surfing League, and the PGA among its clients. It learns from every client, and that applies to the J.League.

For us it's an exciting one, Ports says. I think it's our first major football league in Asia that we're working with, and it's been exciting with a lot of the innovation that the J League's doing.
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