Live From FIFA World Cup: FIFA TV Delivers Wealth of Content to Rightsholders, Fans
Massive effort provides live match coverage, pre/postmatch features, daily updates for each team in the tournament
As the 2018 FIFA World Cup enters the Quarterfinals Stage of the tournament, the FIFA TV production team continues to refine its workflows, not only from 2014 but also from the Group Stage. Like the athletes themselves, the team aims to build off the previous match and become stronger and more capable.
“The overwhelming positive feedback we are receiving from our media-rights licensees, as well as the impressive take-up of the new offerings, makes us believe we had made the right technical and editorial choices,” says Florin Mitu, head of host broadcast production, FIFA. “We now look forward to the last eight matches of the tournament with a passionate commitment to continue offering offsite viewers the best possible seat in the house.”
The IBC itself is located in the Crocus Expo International Exhibition Center northwest of Red Square, which is another primary location given the presence of rightsholder studios. The IBC is once again a massive place, with 54,000 sq. meters of raw indoor space, 8,613 sq. meters of multilateral areas, and 9,054 sq. meters for the unilateral production teams. The production center measures 3,329 sq. meters and houses seven studios; the largest, Televisa’s, measures 300 sq. meters. The seven studios are for Fox U.S., Fox Brazil, Telemundo, Televisa, Caracol TV, TYC Sports Argentina, and CCTV.
The production team in Moscow at the IBC is complemented by 40 ENG crews (comprising 120 people) covering each team and gathering footage from practices, interviews, location beauty shots, and more. And, of course, there are the Host Broadcast Services (HBS) technical and production teams at each of the 12 venues; a number of those are currently not active because matches are no longer being played there. Once again, the teams will operate out of Equipment Room Containers instead of traditional remote-production trucks. The advantages of the ERCs are clear: they provide more room for the production team and obviate numerous onsite trucks.
The core production plan for FIFA World Cup match coverage calls for 37 cameras to be used for each match, with the addition of two behind-goal pole cams for the Knockout rounds. New this year at the IBC is the first use of Video Assistant Referees, centrally located at the IBC in Moscow. The VAR team has access to all relevant host-broadcast cameras plus two dedicated offside cameras and supports the match officials during all 64 matches.
Also new at the IBC are two Infotainment galleries, removing the need to have dedicated in-venue videoboard operations at each stadium. The teams in the galleries have access to all feeds and dedicated iso feeds (including RF handhelds) and low-latency transmission to the giant screens in the venues ensure that fans in the stands get a robust and timely experience. One challenge? Communication and coordination between the people on the ground and the gallery.
The UHD/HDR efforts at the FIFA World Cup have two layers of production formats in use: a core layer comprises cameras operating in 1080p/50 SDR mode (REC.709) with HD graphics; an enhanced UHD layer operates at 2160p/50 HDR (BT2020) without graphics. The HDR production format is OETF Slog3/Live, and the UHD feed (available only at the International Broadcast Center) relies on quad 1080p/50 at 3 Gbps to create the 4K-resolution image.
The vision mixer works with eight cameras operating in dual mode, outputting UHD/HDR and 1080p/SDR; 11 cameras with dual output in 1080p/HDR and 1080p/SDR; 21 cameras in single-output 1080p/SDR; and all replays, which are 1080p/SDR.
The UHD/HDR output will take advantage of a dedicated camera at the Camera 1 position as well as seven additional UHD-camera positions. The remaining 11 single-speed 1080p/HDR cameras will all be upconverted to UHD’s 2160p resolution (with HDR).
Key to all the production efforts is a dual-layer workflow, allowing a single vision mixer and a single production team to create three deliverables: 1080i SDR, 1080p SDR, and UHD HDR. The vision mixer outputs two of the three signals directly to rightsholders: a 1080i/SDR version and a 1080p SDR version. The UHD version will simultaneously be created within that same vision mixer, relying on upscaling and color mapping to create a UHD 2160p HDR BT2020 signal. That UHD signal is sent to the IBC via fiber and then processed and made available to rightsholders as UHD with HDR in three flavors: S-Log3, HDR10, and HLG. A “dirty” feed of each of the three formats includes English graphics; a “dirty dirty” feed also includes clock and score.
One of the big challenges for any single production designed for both SDR and HDR output is figuring out the best way to shade the cameras. For example, shading in HDR can potentially cause issues with the SDR output because the shader may not be aware of how the expanded imaging capabilities for HDR might exceed the capabilities of the SDR output and cause issues like blowing out light areas or lack of detail in dark areas. As a result, the FIFA World Cup production team is shading in 1080p/SDR.
The FIFA World Cup coverage may seem straightforward, but the FIFA TV production team is providing a wealth of feeds around each match, including a dedicated production at each stadium on the days prior to matches. One gallery at the venue is used for the production of all the multifeeds. One goal this year is to provide faster access to team content, more warmup and fan coverage, and use of a cine-style camera at each match to lend more visual quality to packages.
The core feed is the Extended Stadium Feed (ESF, also available in UHD) and its clean version (CSF). Those two feeds are available from 70 minutes before kickoff until 10 minutes after the match. A third feed is the EBIF Show, which is the same as the ESF as of kickoff but, before the match, offers bespoke content to rightsholders.
And, with media-rights licensees hungry for highlights, a Permanent Highlights feed begins 10 minutes prior to kickoff, is continually updated with new highlights during the match, and ends 30 minutes after the end of the match.
Two interesting feeds are the Team A and B feeds and the PlayerCam A and B feeds: two channels are passed down one feed, with each channel dedicated to one of the two teams competing. Those channels include team arrivals, warmups, shots of fans for each team prior to the match, and, during the match, coverage of players and coaches on the bench. After the match, it offers flash interviews and mixed-zone interviews and press conferences. The PlayerCam feed has warmups, shots of players during the match, and postmatch interviews.
Other feeds include the Tactical and Additional Content Feed (coach arrival interviews, dressing rooms, and, during the match, the tactical-camera feed); Clips Compilation Channel: Action (continuous sequences of match-relevant action clips); and Clips Compilation Channel: Emotion (relying heavily on ultra-motion footage of fans, player reactions, and more). The Clip Compilation Channels are actually produced by two teams working at the stadia and are also delivered as files or as SDI playout for linear needs. The goal is to make the clips available as close to live as possible.
As if that is not enough, FIFA makes 10 isolated camera feeds available, including key cameras: Camera 1, the cameras on the 16m line, a high behind-goal “tactical” camera, the cable cam, and the UHD/HDR tactical camera.
Beyond the Game
With so many rightsholders interested in what is going on with every team, the FIFA TV team has tackled the issue of how to keep everyone happy without having dozens of crews following a single team: there is a dedicated FIFA TV crew for each of the 32 teams. Those crew members speak the native language and cover everything from daily training to press conferences and even exclusive interviews. Social-media coverage and even 360-degree videos are also part of a plan that offers roughly 300 hours of raw content to rightsholders daily. Their work began well ahead of the actual tournament: they covered team arrivals and filmed each team for chroma-key needs. The chroma-key filming was done for all 32 teams and match officials, with each person doing one move and players filmed doing individual celebrations.
In addition, eight production teams are creating approximately 50 hours’ worth of feature stories and coverage of fans and FIFA World Cup celebrations.
Selected FIFA TV crews have also relied on eight LiveU units to cover arrivals, breaking news, prematch training (if away from the stadium), press conferences, and Fan Fests. And, now that the tournament is heading into the quarterfinals, those eight units will be used to cover the final eight teams and deliver 1080p/50 signals to the IBC using the LiveU store-and-forward function at 15 Mbps.
The type of features produced by FIFA TV reflect the explosion in not only interest in the FIFA World Cup but also digital platforms that make it easier for rightsholders to deliver content that, historically, would not have made it to air on TV. For example, the production team creates a 2.5-minute-long feature on each team per match, a 90-second daily update on each team, and three 2.5-minute feature stories for each match. In addition, 130 match promos and 90-second stats-and-facts features are created for each match.
Making It All Available
One of FIFA’s key service offerings is the FIFA MAX Server, with its revolutionary FIFA Content Interface. The goal was to provide media-rights licensees easy onsite and offsite access to a server containing all the content created. Predefined categories make it easy for users to find what they need, and filters can even be tied to alerts and email notifications so that, if clips for a specific player or team are available, the user can find out immediately. In addition, a support team offers daily contact to rightsholders to let them know about the best content.
With the 2018 World Cup heading into its final week, attention will begin to shift to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Paris and even the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar. Refinements, enhancements, and new features are surely in the offing as FIFA’s production team looks to continue to enhance the storytelling and presentation of one of the world’s top sports.