Fox Sports Unveils "Virtual Crowds" for Major League Baseball Broadcasts

Beginning Saturday, the network will generate digital fans for MLB broadcasts.
Courtesy of FOX Sports

Starting Saturday, Fox Sports will play ball with thousands of virtual fans during its Major League Baseball broadcasts.

With in-person attendance not permitted for MLB's 60-game 2020 season, which starts today, Fox Sports hopes to better produce the feel of a live game by populating the stands of Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium and all major-league venues with digital crowds.

The digital fans will cheer, boo, and wear their team's colors. Fox previewed its new system on Thursday, reporting that the crowds are generated using Pixotrope virtual studio software and working with Silver Spoon Animation and SMT.

This approach to sports broadcasting seems to be taking a page from Hollywood's playbook. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, recommended guidelines recently developed by AMPTP, the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters encourage the use of digital crowds for Hollywood production as a way to populate scenes while allowing actors to maintain a safe social distance during filming.