Euro 2024: BBC Sport goes remote and virtual, and refines match analysis, for tournament coverage from Germany

BBC Sport is helming its Euro 2024 output from Pariser Platz in the German capital, Berlin.

There is a production team based there, making use of two extended reality (XR) presentation studios, a gallery, an analysis room, a technical control room and production offices. Everything is housed in a temporary studio complex built by BMS (Broadcast Media Solutions) that sits directly opposite the Brandenburg Gate.

“The inside studio works really well in the build-up with the graphics and the team formations – but at half-time, and full-time when it’s a bit more chatty and loose, the terrace works better.”

Working with colleagues back at BBC Sport’s HQ in Salford, where facilities are provided by Dock10 and Timeline Television, and at the IBC in Leipzig, the Berlin team is producing multi-site remote coverage of 27 live matches plus mini highlights packages, home nations camp reports and highlights programmes.

SVG Europe went across to Berlin during the tournament to catch up with BBC Sport executive producer Phil Bigwood (pictured above, right) and senior director Colm Harty (pictured above, left) to get the bigger picture on the corporation’s editorial and operational priorities for Euro 2024.

Sets and studios

“With the final being here, Berlin is the focal point for us,” acknowledges Bigwood chatting in the canteen in the BMS building, half an hour before going to air with a live show.

“Having worked with BMS in France in 2016 and Russia in 2018, we started talking about building a complex. The square by the Brandenburg Gate was always the most attractive option for us with a view to doing production remotely. Because of our existing relationship with BMS, we were able to mould it to what we wanted and needed.”

BBC Sport has two presentation areas that it can use during Euro 2024. One on a terrace on the roof of the BMS building, and one inside it.

Both make use of XR, augmented reality (AR) and LED screens to provide a museum-themed look and feel that compliments the local architecture, and engaging on-screen visuals to showcase match data and statistics for viewers.

Read more: Euro 2024: How (and why) BBC Sport opted for a mixed reality presentation studio for its tournament coverage 

“It was in a coffee shop over the road from here where we came up with the idea of the terrace. Once we decided we wanted to have a terrace studio, we had to take into account the weather and the simultaneous matches that we had to produce so there was a need for a second space. That had to be justified, of course, and fit within the budget.

“To make that work,” adds Harty, “we decided to go with a smaller studio downstairs. We felt that this would help justify the terrace.”

The terrace set is exposed to the elements – both sunshine and rain – with only a lighting rig above it. Luckily, when both studios were required at the same time, the weather was kind.

“When we had simultaneous matches, we were very lucky, because every day was glorious weather,” says Bigwood. The team did have a backup plan though, just in case they couldn’t use the terrace.

“We looked at various options. We could spend more time on the World Feed, given that there is a lot less build-up required. There is a presentation area on the other side of the Brandenburg Gate too. Or, we could just do some pre-records. That was our last resort.”

“We’ve built up a great relationship between pundits and analysis producers thanks to Match of the Day. And there is now a real trust. It’s a slicker operation.”

How and when the two spaces are used is not just dictated by the weather, adds Harty.

“The inside studio works really well in the build-up with the graphics and the team formations – but at half-time, and full-time when it’s a bit more chatty and loose, the terrace works better.”

The hybrid remote production workflow that has been established makes cutting the presentation more complicated than usual.

“There is a time delay associated with the virtual environment which is an issue for the vision mixer,” says Harty.

“This makes it harder to cut the chat. With the LED walls, you have to get the cameras into position and ensure the virtual environments are in place before you cut to them. If the presenters go to team news a bit early, for example, and you’re not quite set, it won’t look right so you have to be quite careful. You have to learn the language of the studio, which we’ve had to do on the fly. We’ve not worked with LED before. We did some significant testing and that really helped with this.”

Analysis and data

The two studios and their XR and AR virtual environments create a great playground for match analysis using data. And the way that pundits are describing the games, and how they are illustrating it, is evolving, says Harty.

“We’ve built up a great relationship between pundits and analysis producers thanks to Match of the Day. And there is now a real trust. It’s a slicker operation.

“Of course, we want to appeal to a BBC1 mainstream audience but we also want to provide detailed insight that football fans want. Our analysis guys live and breathe the stats. The language we use has changed slightly as a result. We try to reflect that in the graphics too with pass maps, heat maps etc. We are definitely trying to bring more data into our output.”

“Pundits change and they each have their own ideas,” adds Bigwood. “In the last couple of years, [former England international] Micah Richards [pictured below, far right] has come through and he brings something slightly different to the coverage. He has the experience of working with CBS in the US. Brentford manager Thomas Frank has been involved in this tournament too and he’s really into the detail. And then you get the more generalists who can provide stories about the game and the people we know. It’s about getting the right mix.”

One of the benefits of a major tournament is the additional time between matches which means more time and effort can be put into the punditry and analysis. On Match of the Day, content is produced and broadcast within hours of the full-time whistle. At Euro 2024, the team have days to prepare. And a much bigger audience too, as analysis producer Sam Van Gelder says.

“Because it’s a major tournament, and there are tens of millions of people watching, it does feel like the pundits go into a different mode. They are really engaging with the analysis team. They are sending us WhatsApp messages all the time, and coming in to watch their runs. They are working very closely with us. They’ve definitely upped their game.

Fellow analysis producer Ryan Evans adds: “On Match of the Day normally, the games are immediate so you don’t have the time to go into detail. But here, as an example, Frank Lampard is messaging me right now for England’s game on Saturday which is four days away! It’s really in-depth and tactical. The pundits can really get their teeth into it.”

The output has certainly been well received by industry and pundits alike. Not least the studio operation. But doing XR and AR and using LED technology, especially outside, and doing it all remotely, was certainly ambitious. It was deliberately so, concludes Bigwood.

“Russia 2018 was really successful for us. And after a couple of tournaments where we couldn’t, for various reasons, we definitely wanted to push the boundaries again. Especially through John Murphy [design director] and Colm in terms of the visual look and with AE Live. The technical setup is the most complicated we’ve ever done! I’ve done a lot of major tournaments. And this is way beyond anything I thought we would be able to do. It’s part of our remit to innovate though. And the positive reaction has been like nothing we’ve had before.”

BBC Sport’s coverage of Euro 2024 continues on BBC1, BBC2 and BBC iPlayer until (and including) the Final on 14 July.

Read more: Euro 2024: From Berlin to Salford, via Leipzig and back again – BBC Sport adopts remote production workflow

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