The much trumpeted 4K test broadcast of Spain's El Clásico football match last week involved some smoke and mirrors on the part of production company and rights holder MediaPro.
The event was used to herald MediaPro's plan for widespread Ultra HD broadcasts of La Liga (Liga de Fútbol Profesional/LFP) from next season and was claimed by MediaPro to “be the first time in football anywhere in the world, footage will be broadcast across the globe using 4K technology.”
However, the reality was a little more prosaic. The broadcast from the Bernabéu of the high-profile showdown between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona was entirely in HD, with 4K feeds from two F55 cameras downconverted on playout. MediaPro did plan on providing its clients, which include Sky Sports UK, ESPN, CCTV5 (China) and Wowow (Japan), with recorded highlights from the match in 4K.
Match production on 23 March featured two Sony PMW-F55 cameras mounted mid-field on a gantry. One was fitted with a Fujinon Cabrio PL-19-90mm zoom lens for wide-angle views, the other with a Fujinon 85-300mm T2.9 compact zoom for close ups. The feeds were ingested into EVS servers and managed by EVS Epsio for replay, zooming and slow motion. Footage could be monitored on a pair of Sony PVM-X300 displays in a second OB truck. Sony leased MediaPro the equipment, but indicated that MediaPro is in the running for 4K kit purchase.
“MediaPro has received interest in 4K from several customers including its customers in Japan and Asia,” reported Sony's Jose Antonio Bolos. “MediaPro would like to have regular events in La Liga in 4K - either for all matches or special matches.”
Although the recent test production was said by Sony and MediaPro to be a prelude to the start of full 4K broadcasts of matches for the 2014-15 season, making the LFP, stated MediaPro, “the first football league in the world to be covered in UHD” it is not yet clear if this will indeed be the case.
Certainly footage from 4K cameras could be captured and used as per the El Clasico match, but that's some distance from producing a full multi-camera 4K production and 4K live broadcast, or even down-converting a multicam 4K OB for HD broadcast.
The former is possible of course, having been trialled by Sony for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in a workflow to be repeated for the World Cup Final this summer, though the event is not currently planned to be broadcast in Ultra HD.
The battle between MediaPro and rival network owner Prisa in Spain continues to rage. MediaPro owns Spanish rights to the 2014 World Cup and will show every game from Brazil on its Gol TV station as well as offering all 64 matches on a Gol Mundial channel for pay-TV carriage with Telefónica's Movistar TV and pay-TV operator Canal+ among bidders.
Canal+ España is owned by Prisa, which shares rights to La Liga matches with MediaPro. Canal+ airs one live game a week, which comes free as part of its basic package, plus a number of other matches on Canal+ Liga for which an additional subscription is required. Canal+ shares Real vs Barcelona Clásicos with Gol TV.
Commercial channel Cuatro, which is joint-owned by Prisa and Mediaset, airs one live La Liga match per week.
By Adrian Pennington