“Midlink” virtual insertion system

Television – Image signal processing circuitry specific to television – Special effects

Reexamination Certificate

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Details

C348S598000, C348S589000, C348S600000, C348S159000, C348S722000

Reexamination Certificate

active

06525780

ABSTRACT:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to virtual insertion systems for television video and, more particularly, to a “midlink” system which enables the virtual insertion system to be positioned downstream of the originating site in the chain of distribution of a television program.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The term virtual insertion system is used herein to describe systems which replace, or insert in place of, in a video sequence of a scene (i.e., as obtained by a video camera or recorder), a target region or area in the video image by a matched replacement pattern adapted to be inserted into the target region, such as representation of a model stored in memory. For example, the video sequence may be of a soccer match or a stock car race wherein commercial billboards are part of the scene. The virtual insertion process involves replacement of the “target,” i.e., a particular billboard advertising a first product, in the scene with a representation of a different billboard advertising a second product so that in using existing techniques, this way a different commercial product is advertised in the scene. This can be done in such a way that the substituted portion fits substantially seamlessly into the basic image so as not to be noticeable to a viewer as a replacement or substitute.
Briefly considering existing virtual insertion systems, a representation of the target, i.e., the selected part of the scene intended for replacement or addition, is memorized, i.e., stored in memory. The position, size and perspective of the target are computed. The stored pattern is then transformed geometrically according to the estimated size and perspective of the corresponding target in the current scene image. The pattern representation is also modified in accordance with the radiographic properties of the target. Finally, the transformed pattern is inserted into the current scene image to replace the target. It will be understood that the transformed pattern need not be a sample image but can instead be a two-dimensional or three-dimensional graphic element (which may or may not be animated) Systems of this general type are disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,264,933 (Rosser), U.S. Pat. No. 5,363,392 (Luquet et al), U.S. Pat. No. 5,436,672 (Medioni et al) and U.S. Pat. No. 5,543,856 (Rosser) as well as French Patent No. 94-05895 to which patents reference is made for a more complete description of the virtual insertion process and the subject matter of which patents is hereby incorporated by reference.
There are two basic types of virtual insertion systems, instrumented camera systems and image recognition systems. The process used to obtain an estimation of the position, size and perspective of a target depends on whether the camera is instrumented or not. In an instrumented system, sensors are used to measure the camera operating parameters such as pan, tilt, focus and zoom, and the location, size and perspective of the target are determined from the sensor outputs. If the cameras are not instrumented and thus information from sensors is not available, an image recognition system is used to detect and track the relevant area or areas of the current scene images in order to obtain the required parameters and the area or areas are replaced in real time.
Referring to
FIG. 1
, the typical chain of distribution of a television program is indicated in a schematic manner. A plurality of cameras
10
are focussed on a scene S and transmit what is referred to as a “clean clean” feed, i.e., a feed without graphics or special effects, to a mobile control room or van (“truck”)
12
which is generally located at the venue. Control room
12
, which is generally located at the venue, i.e., at the site of the event, selects the image that will be broadcast, using a multiplexer or switcher unit. The multiplexer unit also generates a coded signal, referred to as a “tally” signal or “tally,” to identify the specific camera being used to produce that particular image. For economic and aesthetic reasons, only certain broadcast cameras are instrumented with sensors and the tally closure of the cameras reflects which camera is active or on air at any given time. Signals can also be generated which reflect whether a given graphic layer or special effect is in use at any given time. In the terminology generally used, a “clean-clean feed” contains only the camera signals whereas a “clean feed” contains one graphic layer and/or special effect (e.g., a slow motion replay). Using standard video equipment, the control room can add graphic layers and/or special effects to produce the final image. A so-called “dirty feed,” i.e., a feed containing the camera image plus all of the graphic layers, special effects, etc, is then sent to the network studio
16
via a satellite indicated at
14
. The principal role of the network studio is to broadcast the images, via a satellite
17
, to daughter stations
18
and these stations, in turn, broadcast the images to the public, as indicated by individual television receivers
19
.
In some present commercial systems, cameras are used in a switched mode wherein image processing is carried out “before” the multiplexer or switcher. For example, with these prior art systems, the director in the mobile control room has two signals from camera A from which to choose, signal A and signal A′ wherein signal A′ is a signal from camera A which has been previously processed at the venue and which is thus delayed with respect to signal A.
There are a number of different approaches in providing virtual insertion that have been used, or are potentially useable with respect to the location at which virtual insertion takes place. A first approach, which will be referred to as an uplink monocamera system and which is illustrated in
FIG. 2
, concerns a system or configuration wherein the virtual insertion system is located on-site, i.e., wherein the video images (and the sensor data, if applicable,) are processed locally at the venue, i.e., are sent to the mobile control room or outside broadcaster van of the broadcaster located at the venue and processed there. This is the approach typically used in some commercial virtual insertion systems.
In
FIG. 2
, cameras
10
a
,
10
b
,
10
c
are connected to a multiplexer
31
and an image processing system
21
is located between the cameras and the multiplexer
31
. It will be understood that
FIG. 2
is intended to cover, the generic case, i.e., both instrumented and uninstrumented cameras, and that for instrumented cameras, both an image signal and a sensor output signal would be provided for each camera. Further, although only a single image processing system is shown, typically there would be an imaging processor for each camera. A virtual insertion device or unit
22
of the type described above replaces the relevant part, i.e., the target region, of the video image with the desired advertising pattern or the like. Again, in the commercial implementation, a separate virtual insertion unit
22
is individually associated with each camera, regardless of whether the camera is on air or not, in order to produce a different feed for use in the rest of the chain. The virtual insertion units
22
obviously must be on-site and must also be attached to each camera, where more than one camera is to be used. As mentioned above, the director in the control has the choice of two duplicate images, a “clean clean” image directly from the camera and a delayed image from the camera after processing by the image processing system
21
and the virtual insertion unit
22
, and the multiplexer
31
can be used to switch between the two. The multiplexer
31
is located in a mobile control room or van
30
along with standard video equipment indicated at
32
. The video equipment
32
is used to add graphic layers, special effects and non-camera generated effects such as camera replay to the output images from the multiplexer
31
. The images are sent to the network studio
40
and, from there, are relayed to daughter station(s)

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