Inside the game: HBS at the Women’s World Cup

Frankfurt: An impressive 35,859 people turned up on a Wednesday evening to watch Brazil trounce Equatorial Guinea 3-0 in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and the TV viewing figures are only moving in one direction, upwards, as well. HBS is the host broadcaster making sure that that progress isn’t interrupted.

Well, it’s trying to anyway, despite the best efforts of the German power system that plunged the whole of Dresden into darkness during the match the night before and gave everyone in the compound a nasty turn in those brief instants before the generators kick in. But in Frankfurt at the IBCC (the Germans add the word Control to make it the International Broadcast Control Centre) everything is calm, with HBS Senior Broadcast Video Manager, Tim Bagner’s, main problem being how to accommodate the success of the tournament.

“You are always estimating,” he says from the gantry on the two storey portacabin shared with ARD/ZDF that is HBS House. “How many trucks will arrive? How many broadcasters will be on site with their own production? In terms of planning it’s quite difficult, as there is finite space in the compound. In an ideal world you start with all the information, here we don’t. I have changed some compound plans 20 times.

“I have not spoken to the booking department yesterday but there are probably new rights holders now that want to come and be on site.”

The compound already has two large SI Vision trucks supporting a typically mammoth ESPN operation (the broadcaster has another two storey portacabin opposite HBS House), alongside two units supporting ARD/ZDF from HD Broadcast and Studio Berlin’s U6 unit and support vehicle, which is working for HBS and due to pack up and ship off to another match after the game. The plan for the final already looks much more crowded and it also seems there’s going to be a large and as yet unannounced OB from NHK that will now have to be fitted in somewhere for the final. Compound plan number 21 could well be on the way.

Capturing the action
Women’s football has been derided in the past for being an inferior subset of the main game, and while the pace of the men’s game is lacking and the are probably more unforced errors than you’d normally see a international level, the skill and commitment is just the same. In the 49th minute, Brazil’s Erika chests down a ball punched out by the Guinean keeper, chips it over a defender’s head, and then volleys it past the keeper.

It’s an absolute belter of a goal, especially for a defender, and is captured by most of the 17 cameras dotted around the Commerzbank Arena. Unlike the men’s World Cup there are no sponsor deals done on the supplier’s side, so the cameras used vary depending on what the OB companies have brought with them, which primarily seems to be Grass Valley LDKs.

With Steadicams running both touchlines, speciality cameras include a Skycam and two in-goal units supplied by Camera Corps. Two P2-based handhelds are used for interviews, while for the opening match and final, a helicam is also brought into the fray.

Bagner spent three years living in South Africa, moving over there with his family, to help make 2010 the broadcasting success it was. This tournament has needed less input, partly because the stadia involved are used to hosting high-profile Bundesliga matches (“We haven’t needed to talk about compounds, we haven’t needed to talk about gravel in the compounds, we haven’t needed to talk about pre-cabling…it’s all in place,” he comments) and partly because, with the best will in the world, broadcasters have paid it less attention and so the rules and stipulations have not had to be put in place to deal with managing 150 commentary positions, for example.

More goals like Erika’s, however, more midweek crowds of nigh on 40,000, and more impressive viewing figures, and all that might change for 2016…

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