Autodesk Simulation Nabs MVP Role At Super Bowl XLVIII

Just because the Polar Vortex has made an exit prior to this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII kick off, it doesn’t mean the New Jersey Meadowlands will be free and clear of winter winds. In fact, moderately cold weather and any kind of wind gusts could have serious implications for the outcome of the game as this is a rare cold-weather, outdoor Super Bowl match up to be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

To help football fans get a better understanding of what’s happening with the winds, FOX Sports has teamed up with Autodesk to adapt the 3D design tool maker’s new Flow Design cloud computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation technology to chart wind patterns and deliver insight into their impact on the big game.

FOX Weather TRAX, based on Autodesk's simulation technology, will show Super Bowl fans how the swirling winds can affect game play in MetLife Stadium. Image Courtesy of Autodesk

“Wind behavior has long been a mystery at many outdoor NFL stadiums,” says Jon den Hartog, Autodesk’s product line manager, Simulation. “What is reported is often completely different from what is really happening on the playing field — in fact, it isn’t uncommon for wind to be blowing at different directions at all corners of the field. And yet wind can also be a critical factor affecting field goals, punts, and the passing game. What we’re trying to do is help people understand how the conditions are really playing a role at key moments like long kicks, punts, passes, etc.”

The project with FOX Sports, dubbed FOX Weather TRAX, will clearly illustrate dynamic in-stadium airflow patterns by superimposing visual representations of wind direction directly over the game play. Typically, coaches, players, commentators and fans have pretty much taken part in a guessing game, relying on the field goal flags to determine how a gust of wind might influence a pass or field goal.

FOX Weather TRAX is similar to a project Autodesk undertook last year as part of Flow Design’s early testing before it was a formal product.  With an assist from a Penn State University student, Autodesk leveraged its simulation suite, including the ForceEffect Flow 2D app and Design Flow (previously known as Project Falcon), to help understand wind patterns at the Pittsburgh Steeler’s Heinz Field. FOX Weather TRAX goes a few steps further by delivering data in real-time and employing some unique visualization tools for merging the simulation data with the live feed, den Hartog explains.

FOX Weather TRAX leverages Flow Design, Autodesk's cloud-based CFD simulation offering. Image Courtesy of Autodesk

“Our CFD tools have been used in the past to study wind effects around large buildings, facilities, and even NFL stadiums, but mainly as part of the design process,” he explains. “For this application, the main challenge was being able to take the simulation results and putting them into a format that could be used for the live TV broadcast. You can get the same insight and understanding using Flow Design alone, but it doesn’t currently include everything you need to link up with a live TV feed.”

First, the partners created a digital model of the MetLife stadium using 3D modeling software like Inventor. Flow Design then interacts with the digital stadium model while wind speed and direction flows are altered to suit the game day conditions — a step that’s critical to illustrate how the air flow patterns inside the stadium are affected. The simulation graphics will then be played out over a live camera periodically to show Super Bowl viewers the wind path in relation to the field.

Here is a preview of what FOX Weather TRAX will look on your TV screen after kick off.

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