Inside look at BBC Sport’s World Cup plans

By Tony Bate
BBC Resources chief technical manager
Courtesy of TVBEurope magazine

BBC Resources is supporting BBC Sport’s coverage of the FIFA World Cup 2006, the biggest event in international football. It is the first football tournament to be broadcast in the UK in high definition. With 64 matches, played over 31 days in 12 stadia across Germany, it poses a real challenge both technically and logistically.

UK coverage of the World Cup is split between the BBC and ITV. In the first phase, BBC Sport is providing full coverage of 23 matches, plus highlights packages of all other games (64 in total). On several days there are four matches to cover. It is a pan-BBC Resources operation, with BBC Studios, BBC Outside Broadcasts and BBC Post Production all supporting BBC Sport.

Host broadcaster HBS is providing one HD feed per match (16:9, 1080i/50). However, there are several other HD feeds available at the venues for those with OB production units. BBC Sport is supplementing the host feed with its own HD coverage. This includes studio presentation, interviews and camp reports.

The hub of the BBC operation is in the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in Munich. However, BBC Resources has also set up camp 450 miles away in the heart of Berlin and converted the fourth floor of the Akademie der Kunst on the Pariser Platz into a custom-built presentation studio. Equipped with six HD cameras, it gives the presenters including Gary Lineker, a backdrop with spectacular views across the city. Berlin is also where the final will be played on 9 July.

Serving the British Interest
For matches with a ‘British interest’, BBC Outside Broadcasts, a division of BBC Resources, is providing HD production units for BBC Sport. Three additional camera positions have been set up to give extra coverage of British players. In the first phase, BBC Outside Broadcasts is facilitating five outside broadcasts and around 12 in the whole tournament. There is also be a permanent operation based at the England Team Hotel and four roving camera crews 3 SD and 1 HD, providing BBC Sport with extra coverage not provided by the host broadcaster.

In order to support BBC Sport’s World Cup coverage, BBC Outside Broadcasts has extended its HD fleet, upgrading its large production vehicle Unit 10, to cover the action in HD. It’s also using three of its links vehicles, including its newly upgraded HD truck Link 18, to uplink pictures via satellite, back to either Munich or Berlin. Its flagship HD uplink vehicle, Link 21 is installed in the Munich IBC dish farm and provides a reserve program feed to London.

Transferring media between the Munich and Berlin sites and back to London for playout is very complex, particularly because of the HD signals. The HD signals carry a lot of encoding and decoding, so a high bit-rate is needed, which in turn requires a high bandwidth to support transmission.

The HD aspect generates other problems too. There is very high demand for HD equipment, as other big sporting events, such as Wimbledon, are also being captured in HD this summer. Some HD equipment is tough to procure.
Set design also creates a challenge, as lots of cables need to be covered and glass features need to be kept pristine.

The host broadcaster is providing connection to a large media server system in Munich, on which are loaded many individual sources and feeds not seen in their match mix, such as extra player and bench feeds. This gives BBC Sport access to match coverage, supplementary feeds and unseen match material.

Three ‘On the Road’ BBC Post Production crews are using the Panasonic P2 tapeless system and Avid Newscutter Xpress laptops to edit on the road. Building on the successful trials at the Winter Olympics 2006 in Turin, BBC Post Production chose to adopt the P2 system for BBC Sport.

Coverage is captured at the matches and team training by several AJ-SPX900 P2 camcorders working at a DVCPRO 50 data rate. To complement the P2 camcorder a P2 store (AJPCS60) system is being used for field storage. The footage will then be ingested at 4 x faster than realtime and edited in an Avid Mobile NLE edit system. P2 ingest is via the AJ PCD10 P2Card reader directly in to the edit system.
Footage and edits will be played out live from the AJ-SPX900 P2 camcorders via SDI into the BBC feed.

For more on the European broadcaster experience visit

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