Because of the novel coronavirus, the stands are not filled with people, but cardboard cutouts of fans (or dogs!) or Pocket Monster plush toys. Next up, virtual baseball fans, courtesy of the Unreal Engine.
As noted on Variety, Fox Sports is filling the stands at Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium, Nationals Park and Petco Park with virtual fans created with the same tech used to power video games like Fortnite and Street Fighter V.
“We had a vision for making our Major League Baseball broadcasts look as natural as they were before covid,” says Fox Sports exec Brad Zager. Not only can the fans be customised to support for whatever team, but the crowd size can also dwindle in later innings. “If it’s an 8-to-1 game, the crowd can be thinned out [late in the game],” Zager added.
Fox Sports felt like that without a crowd, the games would feel like practice, so it enlisted production company Silver Spoon, which does motion capture and character creation, to create the virtual fans.
“Our goal is to make sure that the view looks normal,” says Zager. Normal, this ain’t, but neither is 2020.