Swirling winter winds can affect a football game. For the first time, viewers can see exactly what the wind is doing in the stadium.
Technology originally developed for working with industrial plastics will find its way onto millions of TV screens on Super Bowl Sunday, as Fox Sports uses Autodesk wind simulation tools to show how winter winds will affect the big game.
The New Jersey Meadowlands in Rutherford, NJ is home of MetLife Stadium and this year’s Super Bowl. It has long been known for its unpredictable, swirling winter winds. Autodesk and Fox Sports are teaming up to give viewers the opportunity to actually see what impact the wind may have on the first Super Bowl ever held outdoors in a cold-weather locale. The technology, dubbed Fox Weather Trax for the game, clearly illustrates, for the first time ever on live television, dynamic in-stadium airflow patterns.
Fox Sports will superimpose visual representations of wind direction and speed directly over game play. Until now coaches, players, commentators, and fans all relied on flags flying in the stadium to guess how the wind might influence a pass or field goal. The collaboration between Fox Sports and Autodesk eliminates the guesswork.
“Wind is obviously an invisible factor that can directly affect the outcome of a game,” said Zac Fields, Vice President, Graphics & Technology, Fox Sports, who is working directly with the Autodesk team on the project. “Since the wind has a notorious reputation in the New Jersey Meadowlands, and given the magnitude of the game, we looked for and found a great tool to depict this phenomenon in excellent detail which should help the more than 100 million viewers actually ‘see the wind.’”
Autodesk acquired the software several years ago when it bought Moldflow, a specialist in simulating how plastics will perform during the manufacturing process, and has since adapted it for other users.
Before heading to The Meadowlands, Autodesk tested the technology using wind flow patterns at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. They noted a strong correlation between weather events and the decreasing percentage of successful field goals during the course of the season. Heinz Field is open to the south, but has a 96-foot Sony JumboTron blocking much of the opening, adding an unpredictable swirling effect to winds as they enter the stadium.
The process from idea to screen:
Step 1: A digital model of the stadium is constructed using 3D modeling software.
Step 2: Simulation software interacts with the digital stadium model. The user alters wind speed and direction to suit the game day conditions and sees how the air flow patterns inside the stadium are affected.
Step 3: The simulation graphics are then played out over a live camera to show the viewer the wind paths in relation to the field (follow link to YouTube video below).