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Here's how the animation works for Saturday's animated Blackhawks broadcast

The VP of NHL Productions spoke with NBC Sports Chicago ahead of Saturday's animated Blackhawks broadcast

NBC Universal, Inc.

On Saturday, the Blackhawks and NBC Sports Chicago will offer a unique, alternate broadcast that'll show an animated version of the game and players. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. (CT) on NBCSCH+.

How does the technology work to convert the live feed into an animated game within seconds?

"This technology that's being used by the league, it's fair to say that it's cutting edge," Matt Celli, the VP & Coordinating Director of NHL Productions, told NBC Sports Chicago. "There isn't a lot out there that can pull live data from players in constant motion, X,Y and Z planes, and then recreate that in an animated world. It happens in seconds and it's a great tool and a great opportunity for us to try out different types of storytelling."

Here's a sneak peek into what the animation looks like for the Blackhawks game on Saturday.

The live broadcast of the game will be simultaneously transformed into an animated version, which will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Chicago Plus channel. (The traditional broadcast will be live on the main channel of NBC Sports Chicago.)

How are they able to convert the real game into an animated version so quickly?

"There's a whole army of technology and people behind the process to get live players on the ice and into the animated world," Celli said. "There are two types of real technology: the players are chipped --- that provides almost traditional X,Y and Z coordinaties on the ice. And there's an optical layer of tracking provided by a hawkeye, which there are 12 cameras situated in the arena, up in the catwalk that are pointing down at the ice that are tracking all the players. Both of those types of data are combined into zeros and ones, and then through, I hate to say it --- through magic --- it ends up being recreated into an animated world."

How does the Hawkeye system work?

"The Hawkeye system is a great tool for us as the league. It has 12 cameras in the ceiling capturing all the movements of the players and not just where they are on the ice. It's limb tracking, it's stick tracking. That added layer of showing how players move around on the ice creates a really unique and different way to visualize. It's not just where they are, it's how they're moving. What kind of angles are they taking? Are their hands in the air when they celebrate after a goal? All of that we can visualize within this game."

Celli will be working with a plethora of people behind the scenes to engineer this broadcast. He explained, also, Beyond Sports has the "secret sauce" behind converting the game into an animated version.

Another wrinkle to the animated broadcast is the uniqueness of the main broadcast. Not just the fact that it's animated, but Celli explained they're able to place cameras anywhere in the stadium.

That's truly the novelty of this broadcast.

"The goal wasn't just to show the game the way that a consumer at home would see it in a traditional manner," Celli said. "The goal for this is to put the people at home in a position where you would never see a camera. On the puck, in the ice, following a player, the player's perspective; those are things that can't currently be done in a traditional broadcast environment.

"There really is no limit to the amount of camera angles that we can give to the viewer at home so that they can experience this event in a method that they've never experienced before."

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