All about the fans: SVNS host broadcaster Sunset+Vine talks cameras and bringing the festival atmosphere to viewers at home

Where the magic happens… crew from Sunset+Vine, the host broadcaster for SVNS, in the VT area for the Madrid Grand Final of the refreshed SVNS season

Sunset+Vine has worked with World Rugby since 2019 as its host broadcaster for sevens rugby. Last year it was tasked with bringing the new brand of sevens – SVNS – to TV screens. This meant reflecting the bright, fun, international festival of sport that the new SVNS was to become in the broadcast.

Sunset+Vine has worked closely with World Rugby to bring the overhauled SVNS competition and in-stadium atmosphere to the broadcast itself. Speaking to SVG Europe, Sunset+Vine’s managing director, David Tippett, says: “We are just part of a team of people. It’s World Rugby and AE Live; the three of us all contribute to this. One of the areas where AE Live has been really good has been the onscreen look and feel, and that’s come in with a lot of focus on split screen as well.

“One of the things Steve [Jamieson, World Rugby’s executive producer and director of live events] led is this sense of trying to bring real energy to the coverage, so the graphics are all really dynamic. They look amazing, but there’s a lot of information and there’s a lot of constantly changing information. I think AE Live brought all their expertise in cricket to SVNS, and there’s just a flow of information happening that’s targeting the audience that’s hungry for data and background information, all that sort of stuff.”

“We’ve also got a real focus on capturing the fan atmosphere inside the stadium. So we’ve got a dedicated camera that’s there just to cover the fans. It’s brilliant”

He continues: “We’re also doing lots of things at the same time within the coverage. We’ve come up with a variety of different split screen or picture in picture devices to do that. So for example, we’ll talk to coaches in-game, but we are showing them talking and the action at the same time. The games are so short, you don’t want to miss anything. I think it feels like a very fresh way of doing sport.

“We talk to players once they’ve been subbed and they’re sitting on the bench and they’re trying to get their breath back,” he goes on. “Suddenly they have a headset put on them and the commentators are chatting to them in-game and finding out how they’re feeling about coming off, all that sort of stuff. So it’s really interesting.

“Then there’s the television match official (TMO) decisions where you’re showing a couple of live shots and the replays at the same time. There’s a lot of things that we’ve built that allow us to do lots of things at the same time, which I think is really dynamic and really brings energy to it.”

Fans getting ready for SVNS in Perth in January this year

All about the fans

Another aspect of what Sunset+Vine has bought to the production is about bringing that in-stadium atmosphere that the fans themselves are creating, to the broadcast.

Tippett explains: “We’ve also got a real focus on capturing the fan atmosphere inside the stadium. So we’ve got a dedicated camera that’s there just to cover the fans.

“It’s brilliant,” he continues on the fan cam. “You go to places like Hong Kong or Perth was another place, where you’ve just got people who turn up in the crazy outfits and they’re having a great time, but also they’re passionate as well. It’s having a camera that isn’t worried about whether it’s going to miss something on the pitch. It means that you’ve got that ability to actually capture people and their reactions as a try is taking place, rather than after a try is taking place, so you sort of see a lot of things you wouldn’t see otherwise, but you also see the atmosphere and the colour of the occasion.”

“We want to show replays and we want to show great live shots and we want to talk to people and we just want to do a lot of things. So rather than just do it all sequentially, we just want to do it all at the same time”

Sunset+Vine has also provided is a roaming camera operator, who is able to get outside the stadium to see what fun fans are having on the various activities that are available to visitors.

“We’ve added a camera that roams around outside the stadium. This is another thing that’s different this year from a World Rugby standpoint; the activations that are happening outside.”

Gearing up for SVNS in Hong Kong in April

Tippett elaborates on why the activities outside of the stadium are important for the broadcast: “So some of the seven tournaments have always done this, but others less. World Rugby is trying to bring [each SVNS event] up to the same sort of standard of things to do if you go and spend a day at the SVNS. So it’s not just sitting in the stands watching rugby, it’s the swimming pool out on the concourse, or the DJ, or the food court or whatever it is. They’re trying to bring culture and entertainment in, so the audience is coming to attend more of a festival than a sports tournament.

“We wanted to capture all of that, so we’ve added cameras that can go and do that. That’s technically a little bit trickier for us, because we go to different places where the RF capabilities might be different. So we’ve come up with a number of different solutions for how to [make this roaming camera work]. Some is pure RF, where we’ve put RF coverage in a lot of areas away from the stadium [so it works at distance]. On others, it’s more of a hybrid kind of ENG, which we can quickly record and transfer into the EVS system.”

He adds on providers of the technologies for all these innovations that, “we use a variety of different technical partners depending on where we are in the world, so there isn’t a single technology or solution for any of these things. For us it’s all about trying to deliver consistent coverage no matter where we are or who our OB partners are”.

“Alongside all of that as well we do a lot of digital and social and other content for World Rugby as well. There’s a whole team that’s producing just everything from clips, to features with influencers, to stories with players, to fan interactions, and all that sort of stuff as well,” he adds.

All of those visual aspects that Sunset+Vine has created for World Rugby add to the atmosphere for viewers. Notes

Tippett: “It’s all very fast moving, but we’re just conscious there’s a lot of things that often happen at the same time. We want to show replays and we want to show great live shots and we want to talk to people and we just want to do a lot of things. So rather than just do it all sequentially, we just want to do it all at the same time. You just need to develop visual devices that allow you to do that, and that’s what brings the energy to the coverage.”

The people involved in the production then need to be up to the job, states Tippett: “It’s not just the setting up technically, but you’ve got to be really sharp and because things are happening so quickly – it’s seven minutes each way and then you’ve got a two minute half time, and then you’re off again, and then the next match happens and then the next match – it’s sort of relentless and it’s constant and you just need to keep up with it all. We’ve got a brilliant vision mixer [Kurt Muir] who works with Steve who can handle all of that,” he adds.

Inside the OB in Cape Town for the new-look SVNS

Bringing in consistency

Before Sunset+Vine began working with World Rugby on the sevens production, the model used was that the local organisers or hosts of each leg of the tournament would be responsible for finding the television production partners locally.

Tippett says: “It was all a little bit inconsistent; some places was really good, but some places weren’t. Ultimately I guess they just wanted to consolidate everything and bring it all under the World Rugby umbrella and have more control. So they did this tender and we won it.

“Our first event was in 2019 towards the end of the year. We did a handful of events and then the last one we did in 2020 was in Vancouver [ 7 to 8 March 2020]. The people who did Vancouver made it back just before lockdown. If it had been a few days later, there would be people who would’ve been stranded in Canada probably. So we only did a few events and then lockdown happened.”

Tippett says that the nature of sevens rugby means that its first strong season back after the pandemic was the 2022/23 season, due to two reasons. He comments: “They faced two challenges. One was that it’s very fan-based thing and it’s all about the fans attending the events and bringing that atmosphere to it. So that was always problematic when lockdowns were starting to be eased [but fans were not yet allowed back into stadiums en masse]. Second, the travel of the teams – bringing around 24 different teams from all four corners of the world for each event together – was complicated. Everybody’s lockdowns were all over the place. The New Zealanders couldn’t travel for a long, long time, or if they did, they weren’t allowed back into their country. So it all started to come back gradually [for the sevens].”

He adds: “It’s only really been the last couple of seasons where it’s sort of felt like it’s back to what the sevens should be. Then this last season was the relaunch of a new look and feel, and a new approach and a fresh way of structuring the tournaments and hosting the tournaments to bring in a new audience.”

April in Hong Kong with Sunset+Vine cameras one and two following the action for World Rugby

Looking fresh

As to how it has gone,

Tippett says, “we think it’s going really well”. He adds: “I think SVNS has been a big part of helping RugbyPass TV grow, which is one of the big strategic priorities for World Rugby. It’s now a World Rugby controlled platform that’s designed to grow rugby around the world and reach different audiences, and has given World Rugby much more control over the way the sport is distributed and presented to the audience.”

He says that at the Grand Final in Madrid, there were many more commentary teams on site than in previous years, with French commentary for RugbyPass TV on top of the world feed English commentary, Spanish commentary for ESPN Latin America on site, and French commentary for France Télévisions. “We had all different commentary setups on site for the SVNS in Madrid, which I think is big for SVNS,” continues Tippett. “So we’ve definitely seen a real kind of surge in interest from rights holders, which can only be a good thing I would say.”

The SVNS production team tours with the tournament, using a core team.  Sunset+Vine’s team that travels with the SVNS are:

  • Helena Sykes – executive producer
  • Alex Morrison – production manager
  • Lucy Clark – production coordinator
  • Mark Dennis – director of technical operations
  • Kurt Muir – vision mixer
  • Nikki Quail – DA
  • Richard Hodges – floor manager


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