During a live televised sports match, how do they get the replay footage edited in so quickly?



I’m curious as to how a ref will blow their whistle and get instant replay footage within seconds. Can someone explain this process to me?

In: Technology

There’s a whole room (or trailer) full of directors, producers, and editors watching dozens or hundreds of feeds simultaneously. They’re pretty much constantly cutting highlight shots, different angles of play, etc to be ready when the lead director wants a replay.

It’s a huge amount of very fast-paced work.

There are a few different systems but one of the most widely used ones are made by [EVS](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/EVS_Broadcast_Equipment)


It’s basically just a multi channel video recorder on steroids with instant access to recorded video w/audio

Hope this helps ya.

I worked for live TV news for a few years in the production room and it was fucking nuts. The answer to your question? There is no one answer haha… just a ton of people playing rough shot with a director putting it all together and piecing together a “show” on the fly.

I design control rooms and their replays systems, and its not quite as bad as one might think. On large shows (if run properly) each replay op will have 4-6 camera inputs to watch, with one or two outputs. Ops that have been working for a long time get used to the rhythm of the sport theyre working. Cameras angles are arranged roughly the same way at every venue (partially cuz I do that too, and obviously we have guidelines), so you know the looks you have available. Like others have mentioned, theres a certain adrenaline rush to having a show go well, and when a production crew is working well together the whole thing feels like a well practiced dance.

Been saying for a long time that challenge
/replays need to be handled by TV crews who have the correct angle and call within 15 seconds 99% of the time

Unrelated: captioning for live broadcasts is also being typed live by someone. Gotta go fast!

Basically, you have a device that is recording footage the entire time. It has a single job, which is to remember the last few seconds of an input, and when prompted it plays it back in either in real time or slow motion. The more inputs and footage it can handle, the more expensive it is. My dad uses them when he shoots football, and they’re useful when I have to break a shot and run up the field to get in position for the next play.

You can actually do this yourself in OBS on your computer for streams, with a little effort.

I’ve only worked on small set-ups/crews but there’s usually a replay operator in sports broadcast control rooms. They’ll have a rolling recording of a handful of camera angles on a specialized piece of equipment. When the director of the production asks for a replay to show on air, usually of a big event like a goal, they’ll ask the replay op to cue up the goal. The replay op will “jog” back to the point in the recording where the goal happened (usually just a few seconds to a minute ago), while the replay machine is still recording the camera angle in real time. The director will “take” the video signal from the replay machine, while telling the replay op to “roll” their footage and put it on air for the viewer at home.

It’s a lot less editing, in the traditional sense, and a lot more of switching video signals on the fly. Kind of like putting a puzzle together as 5 different people are throwing pieces at you.

Sometimes you’ll see a heavily edited video as the broadcast is going to commercial break, kind of a highlight reel of the last period, inning, etc. I don’t have much experience with that but as far as I can tell, that is done with video editing software (Adobe Premiere, etc.) and played directly out of the computer or done with a much more advanced level of replay equipment.

A lot of the camera feed is inserted into a system that is recording multiple angles and that is fast to create “events” with ins and outs.

What happens is that someone is watching and every time they see something cool they will create the event, there is usually shortcuts for -3, -5, -10 and -20 seconds, this way a event is created where the start point is on the correspondent time you pressed.

After that it’s just a matter of knowing if your shot is good when the director calls for the replay, on bigger games and bigger budgets you will have multiple replay operators with multiple cameras, since there is people covering the ball, the off-side line, players near the ball for random stuff, there is the open shot, close shot, slow motion…

It’s really cool to see it happening, it’s a lot of people working together to make it happen and, like a lot of people said here, there is this adrenalin rush that you get on a good show that you can’t describe. I’m working with live events for the past 3 years, did eletronic sports for 2 years and I’m on corporate events for the past year, because the market exploded with covid. I love what I do now, but, there is way more adrenalin on any kind of sport coverage.

Expensive machines. With turning knobs. Makes the work do much easier. Perhaps you’ve seen the replays done live when they rewind it.

how do they do the lines that shows the trajectory of the ball? is there some sort of tracking software or are the editors drawing these by hand like the American football announcers circling plays? the lines shown when golfers hit or putt is extremely accurate so 🤷


they use a piece of hardware that holds all of the “streams” in a sort of memory to be instantly brought back up and spliced in to the broadcast. many places use one by a company called EVS, but there are others as well.

when there are longer times, they may edit items in using traditional editing software and then importing that, but in cases where it’s nearly instantaneous playback it’s usually a hardware solution.

in these control rooms multiple people can see all of the angles happening at once and usually it’s someone’s job to request to the operator specifically what they want to be played back live.

honestly, they could just stream every event in a 1 minute delay and it would save them a lot of effort

Money, money, and money.

Seriously though, production comes down to investing in more people with more advanced machines working more angles to get all those sweet replays.

Professional sports are all about revenue from spectators. Even in-person spectators sitting in the stands still watch replays or moments they missed on the big stadium screens. The more they invest in making it exciting, the more spectators they will have and the more cash they will make. It’s a self feeding cycle, really.

I report on motorbike racing and was shown the inside of the TV truck. They have a large team of people with lots of screens, constantly labelling footage and making it available to the producers instantly.

[Here’s what it looks like.](https://imgur.com/gallery/L8DUY3P)

The producers will be able to tell all the TV commentators when they will play the replay, so the commentator gets to say “let’s take another look at that” in their own language just before the replay is played on every feed.

Watch this video by Wendover for a nice explanation, it’s mostly focused on F!, but the same type of idea works for all broadcasted sporting events. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwmJ9O9_mLM

Short answer is that, there are whole teams, who’s whole job is to do this, they don’t really care about the competition as a whole but merely on telling a story. The overall director of the broadcast might not use the clips, but they are always being made should they decide to use it.

This is sort of an ELI5 of how a single replay feed works:

Imagine you are walking down a path at a magic zoo. At this zoo, at the end of the path a new animal exhibit will always pop up and the path gets longer, you will never run out of animals to see. You and your friends start walking with a zoo keeper, and as you walk, the keeper puts a flag in the ground in front of every animal exhibit. No matter how far you and your friends walk, you will be able to instantly go back to any animal exhibit by using the flag she put in the ground. Even if your friends keep waking and new animals keep appearing at the end of the path, you can go back to the flags and see an animal you already walked by. When you’re done looking at the animal you saw, you can use the flag to catch up to your friends and the zookeeper.

It’s not perfect, but in this example, your friends are what is happening live at the football game, you are the person watching on TV, and the zookeeper is the EVS(Instant Replay) operator. The video feed is constantly recording what is happening. The EVS operator can go “back in time” along the path to an event they made (the flags) and show you the viewer at home a replay. While you are watching the replay, new flags are being made for new replays because the machine is always recording. There is also a producer sitting next to each operator in the truck that keeps notes of what replays are located at which point along the path so that when the director calls for it, it can be found quickly. Like I said, not a perfect example, but nobody else here was really trying to explain it to a 5 years old.

It is a system called EVS. Oddly enough it is a program created for architecture and drafting but that’s another story.

The EVS machine takes feeds from 4 cameras and has 2 output channels (it can take in more or put out more depending the configuration but 4in 2out is prob most common configuration). There can be as many EVS machines as you want and they all work together on a server called Xserve.

When you see something that looks good or is a good play you “clip” it but spinning a wheel that moves the playhead forward and back. You mark an in and out point and save the clip. You can then push the clip to the server if it’s a really good one.

Now, any machine on the serve has access to all the other machines clips and can make a playlist. So, you simply grab all the clips you want (throw in a aux clip with audio at the top of you want it to music) pick the speed you want and transitions you want and when the director calls for it you hit play (or push your speed bar up to the top… Kinda looks like a speed shifter from a boat)

This whole process is done by working with the producer or AP and filling whatever is called for in the runsheet. So, it’s easy to plan what you want ahead of time and have it ready to go.. but a skilled replay op can have one made in seconds… Like a rollout to commercial.

Also there is jobs in the truck called r/o (replay only). They do JUST instant replay. So they clip things and have replays ready but don’t make playlists. This helps give the other EVS ops time to make the fancy packs while letting the r/o have whatever just happened at the ready for the director

The EVS outputs get named GOLD, SILVER, BLUE, RED and so on. This makes it easy for a director to call out directions on what output is going to air next.

Example of EVs chatter:

(After a home run)

Director “going to red for the replay. Who has a good look at the bat flip”

r/o1 “I got it on green”

Director “ok, green next”

r/o2 “great picture reaction on blue”

Director “thank you, blue next then back to gameplay”

EVS “can you push (send) those clips to my machine of the flip and pitcher react” … He then proceeds to put them into his bumper to break and plays it as announcers throw to next commercial break.

Hope that lays it out clearly for ya

Former Instant Replay Equipment Installer Here – I set up equipment, tested it, and trained refs on it for the NFL and US college football.

At least as of 15 years ago, the network truck (ABC network, for instance) is set up with experts that have control over the ability to switch and replay any camera feeds to the network feed.

The instance replay booth was startlingly simple: in our configuration, there were three operators, two of them refs, each in front of one of three touch screens.

The operator on the far left, usually a non-ref and tech person, would wait for the network to send footage from multiple angles out onto the network, and mark the beginning and end of the plays. These plays would show up as icons on the center screen for the first ref. If more angles were needed, the operator called down to the network truck (i.e. ABC, NBC, CBS etc.) and ask for more angles. Believe it or not, this is why viewers would sometimes see so many slow motion shots from various angles replayed on TV. Not for the viewers, but for the instant replay refs!

The first ref, in the center, would then touch icons to show plays from various angles on the right-hand screen, in front of the second ref, and the refs would discuss and relay information to the field.

An interesting mix of high-tech with low-tech to solve a problem.