UEFA EURO 2016 France
From 10 June to 10 July more than 2,000 host broadcast (HB) production staff were working across France at 10 separate venues, as well as at the International Broadcast Center (IBC) in Paris to produce the international TV signals and the Next Generation Services (NGS), which included digital components to enhance traditional solutions. The event is the culmination of years of planning with a focus on technical innovation that best meet the needs of rights holders and fans around the world.
The tournament was carried by 150 broadcasters across 238 territories, with 40 of those 150 broadcasters on-site at the Paris IBC. And it was a big deal across France with the HB staff managing a 70,000 kilometer fiber network, 1,200 kilometers of cable, and delivering more than 2,000 hours of content. Visiting broadcasters were able to customize their productions with over 40,000 unilateral booking lines coordinated by the UEFA broadcaster services team.
The production placed a priority on live coverage, including pre-, post-, and in-tournament coverage that delivered a complete programming package. All matches were produced in 1080i/50, using 38 live match cameras at each match, and an additional 10 cameras covering other events surrounding the match, including team arrivals and fan coverage.
Directors are Key
Selected from their pool of cross-competition talent, the UEFA HB was using five extremely experienced match directors with their dedicated teams – Jean-Jaques Amsellem, Knut Fleischmann, François Lanaud, Jamie Oakford and Laurent Lachand – to oversee their live productions: Paris and Saint Denis; Lyon and Saint Etienne; Lille and Lens; Bordeaux and Toulouse; Marseille and Nice. Each of the venues featured a dedicated OBVan company with trucks for the multilateral coverage. These companies were NEP (Belgium), Euromedia (France), Telegenic (UK), AMP Visual (France) and NEP (Sweden). All replays were housed outside the OB trucks by a centralized solution provided by EVS. Also a FANtertainment OBVan was on-hand to create content for the giant screens in the stadiums. This unit was also planned to function as a backup to the main production OBVan.
Match coverage was complemented by a wide variety of additional content that gave rights holders plenty of opportunities to build in-depth feature pieces and more. Already prior to the tournament UEFA has shot footage from each of the 10 cities that were hosting matches, UEFA was producing magazine shows during the tournament, offering pre-produced promos and even player and team profiles. In total there were 43 ENG crews covering the action and more across France.
UEFA kept the tournament alive for all its 31 days and while some of the broadcast partners inevitably focused on their team, UEFA delivered the tournament to everyone. UEFA brought football to life on the screen and there was more demand for content across digital platforms and channels. And that area will grow and grow in the years to come as social media platforms and broadcasters push people to their content.
Match Production at the Venues
A minimum of 38 live match cameras covered each game in High Definition and in Dolby 5.1 surround sound. From the quarter-final matches onwards, 46-cameras were the standard. These 8 additional cameras included one additional mini-camera behind each goal, a remote robotic camera in the players’ tunnel, a remote robotic camera in the press conference room and another helicopter camera. The multilateral world feed, or Live Stadium Feed (LSF), was available in English, with ten lead and color commentators which were used across the entire tournament.
The LSF was the main match feed. It contained all the build up to the match, the match action and post-match highlights.
In addition to the LSF, rights’ holding broadcasters (known as UEFA Broadcast Partners or UBPs) had access to 11 additional feeds to enrich their coverage. These were Camera 1, Clips 1, Clips 2, Team A, Team B, Player A, Player B, Tactical, Stadium Beauty, Stadium Aerial. Five ISO cameras were also available: 16m left, 16m right, high behind goal left, high reverse stand and VIP venue. Other, non-bookable ISOs, were used and made available via the two dedicated Clips Channels, ensuring UEFA BPs had access to all the match action. Both ISOs and feeds were available at the stadium venue and at the IBC.
Clips channel 1 and 2 provided a selection of unseen camera angles, along with real-time and slower, longer versions of in-match replays. Team A and Team B feed cameras were located in the reverse stand and focused on each team’s bench. They provided coach and bench reaction shots throughout the match. The Tactical feed was an uninterrupted feed from the main match camera (Camera 1) used for match analysis. Pre-match this feed carried the helicopter signal.
UEFA HB also delivered a variety of specific bookable positions, including pitch presentation positions, announce platforms, pitch-view studios and TV compound stand-up positions. Dedicated UEFA HB venue operation teams were based at each stadium to oversee and manage the unilateral service delivery, as well as the multilateral production.
Three aerial systems were used at each stadium – an innovation that has been present since EURO 2008 – namely, one Spidercam, one helicopter (during the group stage, with a second added during the knock-out rounds) and an external beauty camera mounted high outside each stadium.
Gearhouse Broadcast was selected to deliver the Technical Operations Centers (TOCs) and Cable Interconnection Rooms (CIR) at each of the ten EURO 2016 venues. Gearhouse also provided the special cameras and the EVS slow-motion operations facility at each venue. Each TOC was responsible for distribution of the live stadium - or ‘world’ – feed (LSF) from each venue to the IBC for worldwide distribution. The venue TOC also passed the feed to the nearby CIR where it was distributed direct to UEFA BPs with an on-venue unilateral presence. The CIR was a cable interface hub, which acted as the central demarcation point at each venue. The stadium special cameras facility was responsible for receiving feeds from the helicopter cameras, the Antelope in-goal cameras, the handheld RF cameras, the Spidercam and the stadium ‘beauty’ shot.
To collect all these video signals together with audio signals from the microphones in the stadium, UEFA had selected a Lawo IP-centric solution based on stageboxes within the stadium. At all the 10 stadiums the signals were collected via the stageboxes around the field of play with V__link4 video-over-IP interfaces (12 pro venue) and A__mic8 (13 pro venue) which converted analogue audio into IP. These outputs (controlled by Lawo VSM servers) were delivered to the special cameras control room. From there the signals were handed over to the EVS slow-motion facility and finally to the production trucks at the stadium.
The EVS slow-motion facility saw 16 XT3 live production servers, 12 servers recording up to 48 camera feeds, including SSM and Hypermotion, 2 servers for clip compilations and storytelling, including best match actions using MultiReview and emotional reactions of players and fans using IPDirector. The remaining two servers were used to produce match highlights with LSM Connect and to produce the in-stadium fan entertainment program for the big screens.
Also housed in the slow-motion facility was the equipment for the C-Cast multimedia distribution platform (one C-Cast agent connecting content to the C-Cast cloud for the delivery to mobile apps and one C-Cast agent for the delivery of High-res media to IBC) and the Ingest Funnel to plugin and ingest ENG content for the transfer to the IBC.
Venue to IBC
The UEFA/EBU VandA project was the IP-based signal contribution from each venue to the IBC and was based on fiber connections with a capacity of 2TB/s provided by Orange and with hardware on both ends provided by Lawo. Lawo delivered 264x V__remote4 (19-20 per venue, 73 at IBC), 2x redundant Lawo VSM servers at the IBC, 2x Lawo VSM LBP51 panels at MCR, 12x Lawo VSM softpanels, 2x Arista 7504 (each with four blades) and 26x Cisco SG300 (two at each venue, six at the IBC). Via the IP-based VSM control system, the operator selected the desired stadium and the signals were routed automatically, switching within seconds from one stadium to the next. In workflow terms this was a big step forward, saving a lot of time and reducing risk as it was always the same process – no need to change fibers at venues on match days and no worries about issues around damping and line connectivity.
The ENG Teams
There were also 43 ENG teams spread across the different venues and training camps in France, delivering team, cultural, sponsor and behind-the-scenes programming. As well as the bookable feeds and ISOs, UEFA TV Production provided broadcasters with a wealth of additional programming material to supplement their productions. This material included raw and ‘turnkey’ content produced by the 24 dedicated crews following each team at the tournament. UEFA also delivered footage of the teams arriving at the stadium the day before the match, pre-match press conferences and post-match interviews, as well as the build-up and reaction in the host cities and dedicated fan-zones.
The ENG crews were connected via the Ingest Funnel at the venues to transfer their materials to the IBC. The same was true for the broadcast partner’s materials. EVS had installed two Ingest Funnels at each venue and also had delivered 24 Ingest Funnel Lite to each ENG crew following the teams.
Production at the International Broadcast Center (IBC)
The International Broadcast Centre (IBC) was located at Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles, inside Halls 6 and 8. Construction work on the 30,000 square meter facility began at the end of March, with UEFA BPs moving in from 16 May onwards. Alongside studios, galleries and commentary booths, there were office space and edit suites. The galleries included equipment from Sony and Barco, whilst the edit suites were equipped with Adobe systems.
Beyond that, there were restaurant facilities, laundry, postal services and a tourism desk. Around 800 UBPs and UHB staff operated the IBC during the course of the finals.
Host Broadcast Services (HBS) was providing the planning and engineering for the IBC project – both in terms of the general construction and the broadcast engineering project. This included the provision and the commissioning of a turnkey Master Control Room (MCR) and a Central Equipment Room (CER). HBS managed all IBC technical operations during the event, and provided and deployed Commentary Units (CUs) at all venues and supported all attending UBPs.
At the IBC all the multilateral feeds from the stadiums were received. Here the signals were quality controlled before they were distributed across the world to the 150 UEFA broadcast partners. A total of 816 broadcast feeds were delivered to the MCR from the venues during the tournament. This amounted to over 2,000 hours of content.
The MCR was the audio and video control center where the switching of all multilateral and unilateral feeds and signals took place. UEFA brought back 16 separate feeds from each venue to the MCR for distribution to broadcasters. These 16 feeds covered all angles of each game and allowed broadcast partners to completely customize their coverage.
Next to the MCR were the two most important rooms in the IBC, the Central Equipment Room (CER) and the Telecom Interface Room (TIR). The 70,000 km of diverse fiber lines from the stadiums to the IBC, delivered by Orange terminated in the CER on the Lawo hardware.
LIVEX – Central ingest and media Platform
The CER hosted LIVEX, the central ingest and media platform: 11 live feeds were recorded per match in HD and LowRes Proxy (up to 48 feeds were simultaneously recorded on match day 3). In addition all press conferences and interviews, the contribution from the ENG crews, the multi-angles from C-Cast as well as advanced edits of highlights, player profiles and special features were recorded onto LIVEX. The LIVEX infrastructure consisted of nine EVS XT3/XS servers and an XStore SAN shared storage with a capacity of 4,000 hours. It also included an IPDirector production asset management suite with 13 IPDirector stations to log content and the IPLink to the Adobe Premiere Pro edit desks.
The LIVEX IBC service was available to broadcast partners who had technical space at the IBC and connected them directly to the UEFA EURO 2016 media server. Content could be browsed both at the IBC and remotely, while broadcast quality files could be delivered to partners’ technical space at the IBC or to their home premises as an optional extra.
LIVEX Remote – Full Edition was a new service for UEFA EURO 2016, providing subscribing partners with the opportunity to access all material produced during the tournament from their home premises. Content could be browsed, selected and clipped remotely and was delivered to their premises through the pre-installed EBU box.
LIVEX Remote – Additional Programming enabled partners not located at the IBC to preview and receive additional programming content – again delivered to their premises via the EBU box. The LIVEX Internet and Mobile module enabled partners to search, preview and directly download match-related video clips in various formats for internet and mobile applications.
Next Generation Services (NGS)
Beyond the ‘traditional’ television services, UEFA also provided broadcasters with a range of cutting-edge digital media services to ensure EURO 2016 viewers could access content from the tournament on more platforms and devices than ever before.
These services were offered to broadcasters from UEFA via deltatre as digital components, Software Development Kits (SDKs) and stand-alone ‘turnkey’ solutions. They included a live match streaming player and separate video streams, match-highlight clips, data feeds and VOD solutions for tablets and smartphones.
UEFA HB had tasked Deltatre to deliver player tracking systems at every venue.
For broadcasters who presented their studio show as if they were in pitch-view UEFA EURO 2016 offered a live studio backdrop service. The stitching of an ultra-high resolution four-camera array in each of the 10 stadiums allowed to produce a 7,000 pixel wide x 1080 pixel high immersive experience. Takers were ARD & ZDF at their studio at the IBC and TV4 Sweden who was using the streaming service to get the signal delivered to their premises in Sweden.
The success of the tournament was mirrored on UEFA’s digital platforms, where previous traffic records were shattered. Over 300 million visits and 1.5 billion page impressions were generated by the official EURO2016.com website and mobile apps between the eve of the tournament on 9 June and the day after the final on 11 July – almost four times the levels reached during UEFA EURO 2012.
A mobile-first approach was adopted for the first time ever at a EURO, with the website design responsive to screen size for optimal content consumption. The desktop and mobile versions attracted an audience of over 140 million visits, driven by the success of the revamped MatchCentre.
For the first time in EURO history, eight matches – the opening, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final – were offered as full 4K UHD productions. Fourteen 4K UHD cameras at each venue captured the match action in UHD. UEFA had commissioned Telegenic, AMP Visual, ACS (4K helicopter), and TV Skyline (4K internal ‘beauty’ shot) to deliver the 4K signals.
Telegenic (T21 and T25) and AMP Visual TV (Millenium Signature 12) provided the 4K OB trucks at the eight matches on behalf of UEFA HB, with Telegenic delivering six matches — three at St Denis, one at Lille & two at Marseille – and AMP Visual two matches in Bordeaux and Lyon respectively.
The 4K signal was distributed to the IBC through a redundant fiber network. The signal was also distributed via satellite directly from the venues to Europe, with the fiber network as a backup to the satellite distribution. The European satellite carried the ‘dirty’ feed and the clean feed was brought back to the IBC via the 70,000km fiber network delivered by Orange, on behalf of UEFA/EBU.
The live 4K feed was delivered as a quad HD-SDI 1080p 50 (3G) signal and there were ten takers worldwide (China, India, Brazil, Japan) for the UHD production plus TF1 and M6 in France. The clean feed brought back to the IBC also provided broadcast partners located there with the opportunity to embed own-language graphics onto the feed in 4K UHD. These graphics were keyed synchronously with the multilateral graphics at the venue. With the 4K signal Dolby Immersive Audio was implemented, delivering in addition to the crispy picture an incredible sound experience as well.
These 4K tests at the EURO 2016 provided a valuable opportunity for UEFA to review new production technology and workflows ahead of the incredible project that will be EURO 2020.
UEFA EURO 2020
UEFA EURO 2020 will be a unique event in Europe and football history. Played across 13 countries, in 13 stadiums the heart of the TV match coverage will be to capture the spirit of this ‘EURO for Europe.’ That event, no doubt, will be the result of the hundreds of football matches that UEFA TV production either provides host broadcast support, or delivers as host broadcaster every year. This cross-competition experience provides ample opportunities to figure out new workflows, embrace new technologies, and meet the needs of football fans and rights holders all around the world.
UEFA already tested various virtual reality (VR) systems in a live and as-live environment across the EURO tournament, providing an opportunity to evaluate the VR equipment, footage, technical workflows and key editorial positioning around the match that will best add production value and eventually meet broadcast partner and sponsor requirements.
“The virtual reality, 1080p, HDR, HFR, and 4K UHD remote production tests we’ve conducted across EURO 2016 have all been with EURO 2020 in mind” said Bernhard Ross, Head of UEFA TV Production. “Building on the success of UEFA EURO 2016, the philosophy of ‘the best seat in the house’ will be extended and enlarged to reflect the scope of EURO 2020, from east to west and stadium to sofa. The key to this immersive and Europe-wide delivery will be a Europe-wide transmission network and, in the IBC — whether virtual or physical — a central hub for the distribution of feeds and content.”
“The virtual IBC is not here yet. IP is not here yet. However, by 2020 a lot will be different. I think there will be both: a physical structure, which is an IBC, and a series of virtual services. The more we think into the future everything will be about virtualization and decentralization,” Ross continued.
“From Champions League to EURO 2020, we want to have the same philosophy. Broadcasters will always want to send their talent to the venue. They’ll always want to be pitch-side. But maybe they’ll also want to have one studio that can do multiple games. Take the BBC for example: the BBC’s output on other platforms doesn’t change during the EURO. They don’t stop using their existing edit suites. They actually need more capacity. So they come here to the IBC because we build edit suites for them. We build temporary capacity, they use it, and that helps. Should we be able to deliver a virtual IBC, they would still need that extra capacity,” Ross concluded.