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Behind the scenes at the Rugby World Cup 2023

As the Rugby World Cup reaches its second round in France, TVBEurope speaks to Host Broadcast Services about its role in bringing the tournament to our screens

Following its kick-off last weekend, the Rugby World Cup 2023 is now into the second round of pool matches. This year’s tournament is employing a number of broadcast innovations, including uncompressed end-to-end IP streams contribution between venues and the IBC, new cine-style cameras, and more access to the teams than ever before.

TVBEurope spoke to Host Broadcast Services to find out more.

How big is the HBS team working on the tournament? 

We have 1,168 staff working on this event. Each venue has its own production kit and its own production and technical team. The MCR and QCR are located at the IBC in Paris.

Are you using remote production?

World Rugby and HBS have taken advantage of the latest technological evolutions to streamline some of their production operations. While match directors are still operating with their teams from the stadium, post production is handled from a hub in London (instead of the IBC, as previously done) with most editing personnel being locally hired. 

From an RHB perspective, World Rugby and HBS guarantee that both the production server and the SMI, where broadcasters can download the host broadcast content for linear and digital features, are accessible off-site, meaning that the need for broadcasters to send their editorial staff on site is limited.  

What impact will that have on the production’s carbon footprint? 

The three initiatives mentioned above contribute to limit travel and are key to significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the event.

Other initiatives taken on this event contributing a more sustainable approach to hosting and broadcasting the competition include the use of biofuel to feed the generators used on broadcast compounds at the match venues, and a media offset scheme put in place by World Rugby.

During Rugby World Cup France 2023, 100 per cent biofuel is being used as the primary fuel for the generators supplying broadcast power and LED boards at all the stadiums, providing a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuels. 

It will help reduce the carbon emissions of Rugby World Cup France 2023’s host broadcast operations, thus helping World Rugby reach its target of cutting carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2023 and drive down net emissions by 2040, as part of the ‘Race to Zero’ campaign

The use of broadcast power generators is limited to Match Day -1 and Match Day; outside of this critical period, venue domestic power is used to limit the overall generator running hours. Broadcast power at the IBC is supplied from venue domestic power, protected by a large static UPS system, that eliminates the use of continuously running generators.

Additionally, Rugby World Cup France 2023 has developed a carbon absorption programme, which aims at offsetting the residual footprint of the event after making every effort to reduce its carbon emissions (mobility, power, procurement, …) Media carbon footprint is estimated at 3,054 tons of CO2 equivalent, with a vast majority coming from air travel. World Rugby has contributed to France 2023’s programme restoring mangroves to absorb all accredited media’s emission of travelling to France.

How many cameras are you employing at each game?

The live action at Rugby World Cup France 2023 is covered according to standardised camera plans mixing tried and tested cameras, as well as new innovative angles to provide audiences at home with a complete view of the action on the pitch. 

Four different camera plans are used throughout the competition: 

  • Bronze: 25 cameras (Pool Matches) 
  • Silver: 33 cameras (Quarter-Finals) 
  • Gold: 38 cameras (Semi-Finals & Bronze Final) 
  • Platinum: 39 cameras (Final) 
Are you using cable camera or drones etc?

Yes, we have drone, cable camera footage (for every match) and helicopter coverage for the opening match and the final.

What kind of lenses are you using?

We are using the standard broadcast lenses ranging from 22x to 86x and some other options, including 35mm and 50mm lenses for the cine-styme camera.

How are you capturing sound?

The audio coverage of live sports is often underrated, while it is actually a key component in the overall viewer experience. This is even more the case for a sport like rugby, where the sound of the sport and the game magnifies the experience and the performance on the pitch. 

  • The Multi-channel International Sound (MCIS) is a broadcast-quality 5.1 television sound mix to accompany the high-definition coverage of each match. It is a mix of at least 16 pitch microphones and five atmosphere microphones, including stereo and multi-channel microphone arrays. The MCIS sound mix provides coverage of the game and crowd reactions, closely reflecting the picture coverage, but with the added enhancement and involvement that multichannel audio brings to the match coverage. The MCIS mix combines all sounds throughout the stadium, both on and off the pitch, from all camera positions: pitch cameras, Steadicams, tunnels, and includes the Referee Microphone and TMO Microphone during a TMO review. 
  • The Radio International Sound (RIS) is a broadcast-quality stereo radio sound mix to accompany each match. The RIS mix provides coverage of the crowd reactions, anthems, referee decisions and stadium sound suitable for live radio transmission rather than reflecting the camera shots. It is mono-compatible. Broadcasters only need to add their own radio commentaries and presentation from their studios to produce high-quality tailor-made programming for their audiences, allowing them to follow their home nation without having to travel to the host country. 
  • The Television International Sound (TVIS) The TVIS is a broadcast-quality stereo television sound mix to accompany each match. The TVIS is derived as a Lo/Ro downmix of the MCIS and is mono-compatible. The mixed sound accurately reflects the on-screen picture content and gives the viewer the best in current TV Rugby stereo audio coverage.
How are images and sound being sent back to the MCR? Will you be using fibre, IP, 5G?

Our main contribution network is made of a redundant fibre network between each venue and the IBC. It’s the main (and dedicated) infrastructure we use to transport IP streams between both locations. Additionally, satellite is used as a back-up option for the main Basic Stadium Feed (BSF) as a fail-safe set-up if fibre contribution would encounter issues.

What kind of graphics are you using?

We are using standard 2D graphics. There are no augmented reality graphics for the multilateral production, as we have numerous animated flourishes within the graphics package using the event look and feel. There is a lot of movement provided by the usage of the Mobius graphic specially designed for this event.

What about talkback?

Regular Intercoms system at both venues and IBC for coordination- it’s a tried and tested system that we are used to implementing. 

Can you tell us about any innovation being employed for the tournament?

In addition to having the cable camera system for every match there are some technical innovations. For example, we are using (for the first time) uncompressed end-to-end IP streams contribution between venues and the IBC.

Editorially, new cameras include cine-style cameras, drones, and helicopter footage, offering the viewer a comprehensive and embedded coverage style with the aim of getting them closer than ever to their favourite players, without missing a beat of the action. Cine-style cameras are an editorial enhancement that provide a cinematic aspect to the match coverage, allowing the production team to capture more immersive footage of the players and fans, highlighting their raw emotions.

For the first time at a men’s Rugby World Cup, a ‘Digital First’ concept is being implemented, which sees HB content creators given unparalleled access at the match venues to capture raw footage. With access to the dressing rooms, bus arrivals, tunnel, as well as the option to position themselves by the warm-up areas and behind the try zone, the content creators will capture clips giving a unique perspective to viewers; it is usable as near live by broadcasters for their online audience.