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Tackling World Cup demands

Dan Miodownik, HBS director, 2010 Production Department is tasked with meeting the expectations of broadcast rights holders and the demands of FIFA TV, balanced with what it is practical in terms of technology. Here he explains editorial planning for the host broadcast of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Dan Miodownik, HBS director, 2010 Production Department is tasked with meeting the expectations of broadcast rights holders and the demands of FIFA TV, balanced with what it is practical in terms of technology. Here he explains editorial planning for the host broadcast of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

HBS remains committed to the philosophy of seeing the ball live in play and it is one that we share with the seven World Cup directors. We also want every story within the game to be told, so when using replays, it is to enhance — not interrupt — the viewing experience. We remain cautious in our basic approach to match coverage with consistency between the directors and production teams our target.

The main editorial differences between the 2006 and 2010 World Cups are a move from 26 to 32 matchday cameras and a significant increase in the volume of ENG material.

Taking Match Day first, our priority remains the live 90-minute action but we are no longer in a whistle-to-whistle environment. Pre-match coverage has been extended from 30 minutes to two hours and features aerial coverage, team arrivals and player warm-ups. We might follow the team bus from hotel to stadium by helicopter and pick up beauty shots en route. South Africa is interesting visually in terms of topography, so we’re working with the aerial provider to deliver shots that ‘sell’ Africa.

The directors have at their disposal more cameras than ever before including, per match, a crane camera behind each goal, two RF steadicams, six triple speed slomotions, two in-goal cameras, two box cams (giving a fixed view of the six yard box), hot-head tactical cams, two ultra motion cameras, plus a cable system for most venues.

However there can be a ‘toys for the boys’ sense in which angles are used for the sake of it — and that we are keen to avoid. We remain true to the key fundamental principle of live coverage when the ball is in play. The additional angles offer the opportunity for directors to show the best replays, not more replays. The clips compilation however gives broadcasters access to the best of the content in the fastest time ensuring that footage doesn’t end up unseen and unused.

Graphics with an African twist
From a design perspective the look has an African feel. It was decided that as this was the first World Cup to be staged on the continent it should look and feel African rather than ‘multilateral neutral’.

Ever since FIFA confirmed that there would be player and ball tracking for every match we have been working closely with FIFA’s graphics provider D3 on how to best use this data. The database is huge, the trick being to identify what content is useful to TV, mobile and broadband. It will be available to the directors in the match coverage, though again it will be used sparingly. For pre-match, half time and post match we will select data that tells the viewer something about the upcoming game, or of the match they’ve just seen — whether this is analysis or comparison of players or teams, movement and areas of key importance.

We will also have two football experts – former players/coaches – who will select key passage of play and using Piero technology will provide virtual graphics analysis to provide a better understanding of key moments. This content is made available on the World Feed EBIF Show, FIFA MAX Server and in the mobile content package.

Just as the match is no longer strictly 90 minutes so the tournament is no longer limited to 64 matches. In some cases it’s a 24/7 event which requires constant content. The RSA’s geographical size, sometimes limited connectivity and transportation issues meant travel around the country would be difficult and distributing pictures complex and expensive.

Extensive ENG
We developed the concept of embedding a three person ENG crew with each of the 32 teams as a direct answer to those logistical and financial challenges. This allows broadcasters to focus their resources on their specific requirements, in the knowledge that the footage from elsewhere is being gathered. We will shoot footage daily from the teams and send back to the FIFA MAX media server for broadcasters to use. Eight further crews will gather feature material from around the country.

We calculate around 18 hours of ENG content will be fed daily, logged and transcribed. Add another 80 hours of match footage on a three-match day and that’s nearly 100 hours per day for the broadcasters to use. Broadcasters will also be able to access ENG content off-site. Those taking the World Feed also benefit as features and segments for the pre-match, half-time and post-match sleeve comes from this content.

The ENG service is highly anticipated by the broadcasters but it’s technically complex and logistically challenging, especially to ensure we achieve a consistent product. Some 20-25 minutes of rushes is gathered on P2 per day, edited on EVS Xedio Dispatcher, logged locally and transferred to the IBC by SmartJog file transfer with the log.

In order to increase the availability of ENG cuts to rights holders, HBS is instituting a web server and browser solution modelled on one already operated by HBS for the Ligue 1 soccer production in France. That content is checked and published to the rights holders and an HBS production team will also use it to create feature content for mobile.

It’s a huge undertaking. We talked with news agencies and sports production suppliers to understand the best way of structuring teams and workflow. Each team member (assistant, producer and camera-op – 96 professionals in total) is trained to operate the technology. The producer will speak the language of the team, (we’re not assuming English is the lingua franca), and will be versed in the editorial angle we want to take across all 32 teams.

Mobile coverage expanded
For mobile streams our starting point was not treating it like a poor cousin to TV. The single biggest impact is on the Camera 1 position which can make players resemble ants when viewed on smaller screens. We are able to benefit from the successful work done by HBS on Ligue1 matches by automatically substituting all Camera 1 shots for a dedicated camera.

For a FIFA World Cup – counter-intuitively — we found that placing this at a higher level looking down onto the pitch was more suitable than placing it lower down the gantry. By eliminating extraneous picture information – i.e crowd – from the shot, the image compression downstream is better and quicker from this angle.

HBS have tried to create a value-add mobile product with in-game coverage including goal alerts, red cards and highlights, the production of three 3½ minute bulletins daily, as well as two daily reports on 12 selected teams.
We recognise that one of the broadcasters’ biggest fears is that with so much content they may have no idea what is good material and what is less useful. To that end we will work to identify content of extreme high value — maybe 4-5 clips per ENG team logged in the field from the training camps.

All interviews will be translated and transcribed into English. The target is to have the translated document ready for download by the broadcasters within one hour of it arriving at the IBC. It is sent via SmartJog to the translators, who send the time-coded document back. While this is technically and editorially challenging it adds real value to broadcasters – not only can they access the original content, but they can understand it and put it to even better use. Nor is this editorialising – simply flagging up stories or clips that may be of particular interest.

At each FIFA World Cup there are new demands from broadcasters, new expectations from audiences and new technologies to help us achieve those goals. A successful production lies in balancing out all those elements and instituting a thorough and precise planning process that leaves nothing to chance.

HBS Production, directed by Dan Miodownik, is responsible for the design and implementation of HBS’ production plan for the TV, Radio and Mobile Network Operator’s coverage of the 64 matches of the FIFA World Cup. This includes both live match and non-match coverage, additional programming at the IBC and material gathered by the various FIFA TV ENG Crews on site in the host country. The HBS Production Department also oversees all Other FIFA Events (OFEs) every year, on behalf of FIFA. Before joining HBS, Dan worked for Input Media, ITV Sport and TEAM Marketing.