SVGE Football Production Summit: Inside Euro 2012

The eight stadiums for the UEFA EURO 2012 - four in Poland and four in Ukraine

UEFA is delivering the host broadcast, additional pre and post tournament material, unilaterals and what it is starting to call Fantertainment (big screen events, essentially). It’s doing that from 31 matches in eight stadiums, some of which are yet to host their first game, using four production and eight technical crews, all in all amounting to 1,355 people on the host broadcast side of things writes Andy Stout for SVGE.

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With less than 100 days to go till the start of Euro 2012, SVG Europe’s Football Production Summit kicked off with UEFA’s Head of TV Production, Bernie Ross, detailing the plans for televising the tournament to an invited audience of more than 100 sports broadcast professionals. And he said: “You can only bring a tournament to Poland and the Ukraine if you can master the elements yourself.”

It’s a large operation, made all the more difficult by
a) some of the distances involved (Ukraine alone is the largest country in Europe) and
b) the transport infrastructure that links the cities - or, to be more precise, the lack of transport infrastructure that links the cities.

“The road network and the rail network are not the standard that you would have in a country like Germany,” said Ross. “Instead of multiple ways of getting between places, there’s often only one, and night driving is advised against. So, we’re tailoring it to make sure that no equipment moves, only people on charters. Moving equipment was just considered to be too much of a risk.”

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This means that a lot of the technology rests on the telco infrastucture, but luckily decades of investment in military-grade internet links means that Ukraine in particular has a rather impressive set of pipes.

At each venue UEFA is putting a place a technical plan that’s based on trucks and implementing an extended camera plan from 2008 of 32 cameras (Ross pointing out that more than that is largely superfluous). The challenges for the last tournament were controlling what was the use of new technology then – spidercam and hi-speed in particular – while for this one the team is looking to evolve player tracking into more of a 3D graphic experience; adding a standard VIP camera that can serve national needs of national broadcasters; adding more hi-speed cameras; inserting more Steadicams for hero shots and crowd shots; and putting handheld RF into the crowd.

There are also going to be 18 ENG crews on the road, all helping to contribute to the 2000 or so hours of material UEFA will produce from the tournament.

“We’re looking to give a lot more images and atmosphere from every crowd,” said Ross, and indeed one of the feeds they’ll be providing broadcasters is purely a fan/reaction channel, which some are taking live.

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As to 3D: “At first I proposed to do all matches 3D, or no matches 3D,” said Ross. “It’s a difficult thing to manage on what is predominantly a free to air competition.”

The result is that the final in Kiev will be captured using 7x 3D cameras – which Ross admits will be a bit of a headache as there will be no 3D build-up to that production. One innovation worth keeping an eye on for that game will be the 3D spidercam, which is actually going to be installed and used in ‘Cyclops-mode’ from the start of the tournament.

There will probably be some 4k and 6k testing done too, though that depends on the availability of some upcoming camera units from UEFA sponsors and, as yet, Ross says the projectors and connectivity aren’t there for the fan parks, which is where the organisation’s main interest in the technology lies.

Ross also says that ‘a lot’ of broadcasters have taken up the second screen option UEFA is producing. “We saw that technology for the first time at the SVGE Summit before IBC, but because it’s soft technology, you can turn it around very quickly,” he said.

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