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

Speaking to SVG Europe during Euro 2024, BBC Sport engineering manager Andy Underhill discusses the multi-site remote production workflow for the corporation’s tournament coverage.

In Berlin, for Euro 2024, BBC Sport has 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 workflow is remote, linking Berlin with the IBC in Leipzig and BBC Sport’s HQ in Salford.

BBC Sport engineering manager Andy Underhill led the team responsible for pulling this together.

“The whole operation is built around three sites,” he told SVG Europe. “We have a Timeline Television OB unit in Salford that connects to Dock10’s facilities and remotes to Berlin. Then there is the IBC in Leipzig where we do all of our UEFA inter-connections, including the match feeds. That is sent to Salford. Then Berlin is connected directly to Salford independently of that.

“I think this tournament will set the standard for a lot of sports going forward. 1080p HDR simplifies a lot of the workflows.”

“We are effectively controlling the truck in Salford from here in Berlin. And that includes not just vision mixing but also analysis. The feedback we got from editorial is that the people working in analysis need to be next to the pundits so that they can collaborate. So, we are also remotely controlling EVS replay machines and Ross Video’s Piero that are in the truck in Salford, from here in Berlin. It’s all remote surface technology.”

Connectivity for this is provided by BT Media & Broadcast. Eurovision Services are providing the hop between Berlin and Leipzig.

“We’ve had a few outages on our fibre connection but that has proved that the backup systems work,” he says.

After a week’s testing, the build for Berlin took 10 days. “What we have achieved here with the number of people we have on site, and operations back to Salford, is impressive and it’s great for our green credentials too.”

The presentation studios make use of multiple LED screens and an LED floor, with extended reality inside the screens. This was the first time that BBC Sport had used the technology in this way.

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

“The LED tech is what we’re all still working out,” acknowledges Underhill. “The challenges were getting the refresh rate right; stopping the cameras from Moiré-ing; working out what looks best; and figuring out what is the best way to do things. But it’s also about getting it all timed.

“With it being remote, there are a lot of individual video streams that are being sent back to Salford. We cannot afford for them to not be synced together. So, getting the timing right was crucial and we now have a system in place that allows us to do that. As soon as you start shifting the timing planes, what looks seamless as an AR XR production, unravels very quickly because you see screens switching after we’ve cut to them. Cameras jumping. And the perspective of the AR world changes after you have made the cut. We’re talking milliseconds of timing that has to be in line with.”

The output for the tournament is 1080p HDR, a format that Underhill approves of.

“This is just my opinion,” he says “but I think this tournament will set the standard for a lot of sports going forward. 1080p HDR simplifies a lot of the workflows. It’s not the delivery of the match. It’s the archive and all of the elements around it. Not every camera is UHD. There is still a lot of up-conversion.

“The problem you also get with UHD is different versions of things looking different. And that complicates matters.”

Some key suppliers are working with BBC Sport during Euro 2024. A mobile compact OB unit with four cameras and some RF capabilities, as well as the OB unit back in Salford, are being operated by Timeline. Lighting is through B360. The LED screens are from ROE Visual, installed by Faber. Connectivity is provided by BT Media & Broadcast while the AR, XR and Pres graphics are the responsibility of AE Live. The multiplex and VT plus extra gallery comes via Dock10. Freelancers are sourced from Picture Shop.

“There’s been a lot of moving parts in this project,” concludes Underhill. “So the testing time was invaluable. We don’t get that time here on site. The build phase is so tight we cannot work out what works and what doesn’t. As a tech team, from graphics to facilities, and all the engineers, we all had the time to solve those problems. Then the build was already in good shape when we arrived as we were just implementing it. We’re not working out how to do things. It’s had its challenges but every supplier and every engineer has hit the nail on the head in terms of delivery.”

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

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