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Champions League: why HDR is the next step in sport broadcasting

BT Sport COO Jamie Hindhaugh discusses the introduction of HDR in Saturday's final

Liverpool face Spurs on Saturday in a Champions League final with a difference – and not just the presence of two English teams. BT Sport is launching its HD HDR (high dynamic range) proposition for the match, providing higher contrast, more vivid colours and brighter images to enhance the action – alongside a specially filmed HDR promo featuring the band Interpol.

“We led the way with 4K which is more pixels, better quality, and surround sound Dolby Atmos,” says BT Sport COO Jamie Hindhaugh. “HDR is the missing link really, especially for live sports, where it balances out the light and also gives you a true reflection of what you would see if you’re at the game.”

The final has caused a spike in demand for the BT Sport service, making the match in Madrid the perfect opportunity to launch the HDR offering, as Hindhaugh explains: “I felt it was really important to have a showpiece piece of content that will be going into our Champions League coverage on our HDR broadcast to demonstrate what it really does and what the difference is when you’re watching in HDR.”

The match will be shot using the same Sony cameras as used for 4K coverage, and converted into HDR using Sony’s S-Log technology. “The beauty of it is there’s two outputs from the camera so we’re using the same cameras as we do for our main coverage, but also being able to create an HDR derivative as well,” says Hindhaugh.

He adds that there’s little difference between the two feeds in terms of latency: “HD HDR is mainly aimed at the mobile-first market so it’ll be available on our small-screen app and our big-screen app. 4K across a mobile network doesn’t add enough value for the size of the screens and uses up a lot more data, whereas HD HDR in effect has similar latency and similar data usage as HD.”

As well as the live HDR stream on the BT Sport app and the standard HD 4K coverage on BT Sport’s main channel, the final will also be available to view in VR360 on mobile or tablet via the app. This allows fans to choose their own viewpoint from 10+ cameras, or watch a VR360 produced programme with separate commentary, graphics and VR elements.

BT Sport will also be showing up to 70 live events in HDR per season, Hindhaugh notes: “Depending what device you’re on, what speed you have and if it’s HDR compatible, for some of our key Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup games you’ll be able to select watching in HDR on the big-screen app, and you’ll be able to select watching 4K HDR as well.”

For Hindhaugh, the rollout of HDR represents the next step in BT Sport’s mission of taking viewers to the heart of sport. “Most people don’t realise that what they’re actually seeing is not what they’re seeing – if you go to the event, the colour of the pitch is completely different to what you see in a broadcast,” he says. “If you’re not at the event we want you to feel like you are at the event, and therefore seeing things in the same way as you see them at the event is for me quite important.”

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