A Wishlist For the Polish of FRC Events

In the coming year of 2020, with clear inspirations drawn from futuristic scenes, science fiction, and dare I say it, vapourwave palettes, I think there’s a strong argument for tighter knit and prettier visual integration of the field and the elements surrounding it, esp. in a way that contributes to the game experience.

  1. RGB - We saw use of RGB on most field of recent year, but their use hasn’t been so dramatic that it’s had visual flair. 2018 was the most obvious example of this, with the scale and switch randomization only being possible through RGB lights. Certain offseasons took this a step further though, adding chasing rainbow, and different control modes to match the feel of the event atmosphere.

  2. Robot Reactivity - Building on the above, having some mechanism (like game-data, potentially over network in a sane way?) to allow teams to have their robot react to the overall state of the match as an easy, built-in mechanism would be incredibly powerful. Teams like 16 have wowed us for years with their integrated lights, and having an easy mechanism to allow teams to build in similar visual polish not only allows teams to look better to sponsors, but makes the field experience that much nicer.

  3. Automatic camera unwarping - Teams have used this type of feature to compensate for fisheye lenticular distortion on their driver cameras for years, it’s entirely plausible that fields using USB or digital cameras that can be opened with openCV could have them calibrated and unwarped, avoiding the nauseating fisheye effect as teams “streak” across the field.

  4. Automatic volume adjustment - FRC events have become way too loud (or always have been and my ears are more and more sensitive), and I feel that it’s entirely plausible to pack in an audio measuring device (or ask a team to build one, someone’s got to know how) so that we can avoid shattering eardrums everywhere. Having fun is part of the experience, going deaf isn’t.

  5. A better audience display - The existing audience display is clearly the result of many years of design iteration to arrive at a useful one, but even then we had some significant differences between the original, and the one used in-season. Maybe going for a more standardized in-match display that persists season over season (for example, the 2014 Inland Empire overlay has aged fairly well, volume warning though), with in-season focus spent on polishing the pre/post match screens, and improving the visual fidelity thereof.

(Additional consideration for viewing the “animation clips” on stream with low bit rate would be nice too, but obviously not a top concern.)

In short, flashier lights, less going deaf, and making the cameras look that much better. Post below any other things you wish FIRST would do to improve the visual or overall polish of events.


Playing Cotton Eye Joe and the like not at all. I mean, change the Playlist.


On the topic of field cameras, I know it is based upon individual region/district/event AV, but a reccomendation from FIRST to said events to keep camera angles consistent would help. It is hard to see what any robots are doing when every 10-15 seconds the camera angle changes. Camera angle changes are nice to see but imo there should be a certain level of conservatism that needs to be upheld with the cycling. My personal preference is one camera angle of the whole field as seen at FMA DCMP.


I’ve said it before, but Cheesy Arena is kind of what I want out of a FMS display, even though it can be too simple of a scoreboard at times. The before-match robot pictures are also nice, though it’s probably infeasible at regionals/districts to do the whole mandatory photo shoot process. Just getting the pictures from TBA seems like a decent solution, especially if submitting robot pictures to TBA is heavily encouraged throughout the season.

Please. Unless FIRST makes a game where all the game action happens in one place, switching camera angles only hurts the stream.


If not Cotton Eye Joe, what do you suggest that will get you personally up and dancing?


The RoboRIO for 2020 will have integrated support for WS2812 addressable RGB LEDs, which will make this pretty easy for teams.


Sitting here why Tim was writing about FRC events in Poland for a hot second smh

Wasnt that the shtick of the Blinkin? I know we had one, though we never did use it…

Having a quality non-static stream comes down to an actual crew taking it seriously and some planning. It requires not only making sure youre keeping upon relevant action, but also following the GA as they announce, and having relevant camera positioning to make sure everything important is in view. This also requires a good amount of knowledge of the game, which is why Champs streams are noticeably worse than those outside of it that do non-static. Personally, ignoring scouting ill take a well run non-static stream over a static one any day. Having any sort of movement, especially for casual viewers, makes it easy for them to focus on whats important helps retain viewers so they arent sitting looking at 3 blurs that you cant tell what theyre doing (looking at you, CMP streams.)

Chezy is way too simple imo. That being said, the official ones have a lot of room to improve.

is having rankings by team numbers during a match too much to ask for

I know PNW has at least 1 dB measurer (unsure of their proper name) in the cases, and we have recorded events going as high as 105 dB (2015 pnw dcmp) and last year multiple teams were handing out earplugs going into the stands at DCMP. I think its obvious that it needs to be turned down, its moreso trying to find a sweet spot of not blasting your ears and still have everyone being able to hear whats being said. Probably not the hardest thing in the world to figure out though…


That handles the robot-side, as does the stuff that Thad was discussing is being built into WPILib for 2020 it doesn’t handle field state being as easily accessible to teams, and not in an automatic (or nearly automatic) way. It’d be really nice if WPILib, for example, had a import MagicLED or something and it automatically drove the WSD2812b of arbitrary length to reflect field status, quickly and easily.

I just want finals matches when dimmed to be absolutely hype, is that too much to ask for? :stuck_out_tongue:

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Ah, i understand now. That would be nice, but would those LED’s be counted towards your weight? If only half the teams did it, is it really as cool?

no that sounds pretty neat ngl

I wish that they would put a 360 degree camera in the middle of the field. Obviously this depends on field design, but it would have worked perfectly last year with putting one on the cargo ship (I have mentioned this before and here is a great example).

Out of curiosity, has the WS2812 serial protocol been implemented in the FPGA image, or do you have to bitbang it from software?

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It’s implemented in the FPGA. All we have to do in software is set some parameters and copy the RGB data into an FPGA memory buffer, so it’s basically free on the CPU side.


Beautiful. This is exactly where a hybrid CPU-FPGA system shines.

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But what about the teams that aren’t a part of the most exciting play? I might be missing something here, but it seems to me like any robot that’s in the middle of placing gears, for example, while another robot is shooting, will be hidden. That’s my biggest problem with non-static cameras, if you just want to watch your robot play, regardless of what’s going on in other parts of the field, you just can’t.


This is a problem within the design of the game itself honestly. For 2017 specifically, short of sacrificing being able to read bumper numbers there was no way even a full field view would fix this problem, as the airships were huge and always in the way. There wasn’t going to be much way around it, short of having cameras on both sides (not the best idea). Many people have been pressing for better games for a while now, and ive heard of a few people that are going to drop if the game is similar to the last couple years, but I think thats going too far off topic.

If a game is designed poorly, even the best camerawork will not be enough to save it. Same for really boring gameplay, even if the game itself is good. Sometimes, there just isint anything that can be done and you have to work with what you’re given, especially with the last 4 years of games.

But only looking at the shooting robot isn’t helping

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Multiple static angles, solves this for most games.

See TRI 2017 camera angles, https://youtu.be/01xHa6qnxHI


Yeah I’m all for static cameras


I have made it a habit to carry disposable ear plugs at FRC events and wear them whenever I am near the fields. I find the high noise levels fatigueing.

While turning up the music can add to the excitement, turning it up too much is counterproductive. Often, the announcements end up sounding like the adults in the old Charlie Brown cartoons.


Absolutely, yes please please please! I leave most competitions with a headache, and I use ear plugs. You know it is too loud when a teenager says the bass is too high.