In honour of the Super Bowl® this coming weekend, the incredibly impressive broadcasting innovations in televised sports deserve some discussion. Those yellow lines on the field, which are visible and accurate despite snow and many moving bodies, require significant behind-the-scenes efforts and technology. SMT® (formerly Sportsvision®) has won Emmy Awards for its program that renders these lines, 1st & Ten®.

The story of how this program works and the patents behind it have been explained here and here. It works rather like the green screens that are used for weather reports or special effects in movies, but it is much more complicated because the fields are not flat nor are they one solid colour. Furthermore, the yellow lines need to be on top of the field and any snow, water or mud, but yet underneath the players and the football.

In contrast to the high-tech solution for drawing these digital lines, low-tech chains are still used for measuring first downs. If you’ve ever wondered why, this is your answer.