Euro 2024: ITV Sport opts for a ‘reverse remote’ production workflow with sustainability at its core

From left to right: ITV Sport executive director and producer Paul McNamara, lead production manager Gabby Houghton and technical director Tony Cahalane

ITV Sport, one of two UK public service broadcasters with the rights to UEFA Euro 2024, is based in Berlin for its tournament coverage.

The commercial broadcaster is doing presentation from the German capital, adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate, in an Academy of Arts building where it has created two different presentation areas, a production gallery and a production office. It also has a small presence at the IBC in Leipzig.


Read more about ITV Sport’s Euro 2024 presentation studio set here: Euro 2024: The story behind ITV Sport’s presentation set in Berlin and how graphics and data will be used during the tournament


The production and editorial strategy for Euro 2024 has both cost and sustainability as its core, while still ensuring the best creative and storytelling for its output on ITV, ITVX, STV and STV Player.

During the first week of the tournament, SVG Europe caught up with ITV Sport executive director and producer Paul McNamara, technical director Tony Cahalane, and lead production manager Gabby Houghton to get the lowdown on how they are covering the tournament for British viewers back home.

“We’ve adopted a ‘reverse remote’ type production for Euro 2024,” explains Cahalane, chatting from ITV Sport’s Berlin hub.

“We have a remote gallery in Berlin, near the Brandenburg Gate, in the Pariser Platz, in the Academy of Arts building. We have a presentation position up on the 4th floor balcony and a studio down below. Our connectivity is all centred there too in a little MCR. We have a remote gallery in the Academy controlling and feeding back to Gravity Media in Westworks, in London.

“We’ve adopted this model to reduce the number of people travelling and go as green as we possibly can.”

“We had presenter Mark Pougatch doing opening links surrounded by Croatian fans. They were putting their hats on him, a scarf around his neck and giving him their beer! He didn’t flinch and still did the link perfectly. It captured the atmosphere quite well.”

The two presentation areas are fitted out with nine cameras between them. On-site is a vision mixer, director, PA, producer, autocue op and a small tech and lighting team.

“Working this way reduces the number of crew we need on-site by half,” adds Houghton. “We now have a 30/70 split between the two locations, Berlin and the UK.”

“In years gone by,” continues Cahalane. “We used to require 300 to 400 people for a major tournament. We’ve only got about 90 people in for this one. So the whole drive to minimise travel by using this reverse remote model has had a profound effect on the number of people travelling and reduces our carbon footprint considerably.”

Most of the ITV Sport team have made the journey from the UK but local riggers and a local make-up artist are being used and the AV setup was covered by a German firm.

“When we’ve gone to local suppliers for other people, there’s generally been little availability, because they’re all so involved in the UEFA setup so it’s pretty hard to use lots of local crew,” says Cahalane.

Technology and Comms

The remote production workflow sees the kit housed in a Tech HUB in London, but vision mixed from Berlin.

“Everything’s linked together by 10Gb diverse paths back to the UK hub from both Leipzig and the remote gallery/studio,” Cahalane says. “We are just controlling the equipment in the gallery. EVS replay, sound and graphics is all based back in the UK. But, as usual, from a production point of view, ITV likes to be close to the talent and close to where the story is which is why we are in Berlin. This is an incredibly green way of achieving that.”

Comms is instant, he says.

“We trunk the Comms. We are using an RTS matrix and RTS Voice Over Network (RVON) cards to trunk them and we back that up via Unity Connect so we’ve got a second system, in case one fails. We’ve also got a little bit of Comrex as well, which gives us an extra backup. It all works well.”

“Things have definitely progressed over the years of doing it this way,” adds McNamara. “And it’s become instant. We have a Google Meets camera set up in the gallery, so I can visually see graphics, sound and VT and if someone hasn’t got their headset on, I can let them know. But it’s immediate and very comfortable.”

ITV Sport’s production will be HD (1080 50p) with standard dynamic range, but the TX will be in 1080i.

“The production is the format for UEFA, and it tends to be what we use now for large tournaments,” says Cahalane. “It future proofs us as well. At the moment, we’re not really interested in UHD 4K. Although our ITVX streaming service now could potentially show it that way. We are looking at HDR for future tournaments, certainly, again as a possibility to be streamed on ITVX.”

In the Stadiums

In addition to the setup in Berlin, ITV Sport also has some presentation options at the venues with four injects available for the group stage and up to eight if required later in the tournament.

“This enables us to expand what we do,” outlines Cahalane. “Currently, we have a pitch-side camera, a dedicated flash camera and a further high-level camera with a big lens so that we can tell the story from an ITV perspective. But we have the capacity to be able to double the number of cameras, should England go further, and we want to put a little bit more of a bias on the talent on-site, for example.”

McNamara is keen to point out another in-stadium innovation which has already proved effective during Euro 2024.

“Thanks to UEFA, there is now a bookable slot where you can actually go out on the pitch pre-match with a camera,” he says. “We used that on the opening game, between Germany and Scotland, sending the signal back using LiveU. We had presenter Laura Woods and expert summariser Ally McCoist right in the centre of the pitch as the players came out behind them. In the stands, the Scottish supporters were going mad. It made for a really good bit of TV. It was very forward-thinking of UEFA to extend pitch-side services to allow broadcasters to go on the pitch.”

ITV Sport is also covering what is happening in a Fan Zone in Berlin.

“There’s a huge 55-metre crane there with a big lens on the top that gives us some good images, especially across the city when the Fan Zone is live,” says Cahalane. “And we have our own radio camera which we can deploy down in the Berlin plaza and also in the Fan Zone which has a little bit of sound capacity. This allows us to get amongst the crowd.”

Again, it’s already provided some good content, according to McNamara.

“We had presenter Mark Pougatch doing opening links surrounded by the Croatian fans. They were putting their hats on him, a scarf around his neck and giving him their beer! He didn’t flinch one bit and still did the link in absolutely perfect style. It captured the atmosphere quite well.”

Sustainability

Environmental sustainability has been at the heart of all the decisions made by ITV.

“We’ve got a selection of venue injects making use of new EMG trucks that have got solar power battery backup,” details Cahalane. “This means we can minimise the amount of power that we require overnight to sustain connectivity, and we’re only dependent then on UEFA delivering green power. But that’s quite green.

“And then, in the Berlin Gallery, we use a green power source, a large UPS’ with the generator on the roof which is only fired up in an emergency. Equally for the studio downstairs, Broadcast Media Solutions, the company that provided that to all the broadcasters, adopted that same solution effectively. So, it’s green local Berlin power. Massive UPSs. Almost immediate generator power up there. It’s a very green solution all around.”

The sustainability drive is not just about power consumption though.

“We selected the hotel based on its environmental policy, and it’s within walking distance from the studio as well,” reveals Houghton. “All the crew are walking to and from work which has actually been really nice and is a positive thing for people’s wellbeing too. We’ve provided ‘Per diem’ payments instead of catering to reduce food wastage. Most of our roving travel has been by train. And we’ve used an existing building for our gallery and production. So we’ve not had to build or bring in lots of temporary structures. It’s the most gorgeous production office I’ve ever worked in! Which is a bonus.”

One of the myths about making production greener is that it’s complicated to do. That hasn’t been the experience for Houghton.

“Most hotels and suppliers are focused on having good environmental policies now and the information is readily available,” she says. “In the past, you really had to chase people for it. But, it’s been good and relatively simple to implement.”

Home nation progression

There are two British teams at Euro 2024, England and Scotland, but the likelihood is that England are the more likely to progress deep into the tournament. If they do, will ITV’s coverage or presentation plans change?

“We’re happy with what we’ve got,” says McNamara. “We want to keep our base here in Berlin because that’s where we’re set up and where we’re comfortable broadcasting from. And then we just use the stadium feeds as an inject as much as we like.

“I think England would have to get to the final before we abandoned the rooftop and went to the stadium. Which I think we could do. We’d sit down and have a look at it and ask: what value would we get? But at the moment, there’s no need. We can get lots of atmosphere out of the stadium and milk those scenes. Our own cameras allow us to capture shots to illustrate what the talent is talking about.

If they do need to switch things up, they are ready to do so, adds Cahalane.

“What we have done is engineered those remotes to be ready to go. We’d have to supplement the kit, but that kit would come from the Berlin Gallery. So actually, again, that avoids us having to transport more kit out from the UK. But the connectivity side of things is already in place to allow us to expand.”

With the tournament just a few days old, things are going well for the ITV team, with everyone pitching in. Cahalane reserves special praise for technical consultant Paul Bateman, however, who’s been working for ITV for many years but is taking a step back soon. “He’s put in so much time for us, he deserves a lot of credit and recognition.”

ITV Sport’s coverage of UEFA Euro 2024 continues on ITV, ITVX, STV and STV Player until (and including) the Final on 14 July.

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