Live from Cricket World Cup: Sunset+Vine execs discuss storytelling and adding production ‘gloss’
As the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 reaches the semi-finals stage, Sunset+Vine head of cricket Huw Bevan and chairman Jeff Foulser discuss their company’s role in capturing the action, and telling the story of each match, for ICC TV.
We’re getting to the business end of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 now, both on the field and in the TV compound.
New Zealand have already made the final where they will play either the hosts England or the holders and five-times cricket world champions Australia. The two teams meet in the second semi-final on Thursday 11 July.
The latter, taking place at Warwickshire’s Edgbaston ground, is match 47 of 48, all of which have been covered in detail for television by a carefully assembled team of production services, technology and facilities providers that includes the London-based sports production company Sunset+Vine. Together they operate as the host broadcaster, working for and with ICC TV, producing the World Feed.
There have been plenty of stories to tell in the tournament so far, from the host’s potential early exit at their own party (which didn’t materialise) to India’s unexpected defeat in the semi-finals (which did). There has been a bit of rain (unsurprisingly), some remarkable catches, a record-breaking number of sixes hit and some debate about both the tournament rules and the dimensions of the boundaries.
“We have put in place a plan so that there is a consistency in style and approach in storytelling to compliment the facility deployment of all matches, irrespective of where it is or who is playing.”
The World Feed, which is being taken by all rights licensees (even those doing some of their own unilateral coverage such as Sky Sports and Star India), has captured each and every one in detail.
The output is very much an ICC TV production but Sunset+Vine plays a huge role in the coverage, and not just by providing operational and logistical guidance and experience.
“What we bring to the table is not just the operational expertise but we like to think we have a creative mindset,” says Sunset+Vine’s chairman Jeff Foulser, talking to SVG Europe during the tournament’s group stage. “We are the storytellers.”
It is in the area of match analysis that Sunset+Vine really gets into the narrative of each game. And a lot of emphasis has been put on this for the Cricket World Cup.
“We wanted to tell stories across 100 overs,” adds head of cricket Huw Bevan.
“I feel that perhaps [other broadcasters] have focussed, in a general sense, on their pre, mid and post-game shows with less emphasis during the game. What we have done is create a dedicated analysis team, including Simon Hughes [the former Middlesex cricketer who is known on screen as ‘the analyst’].
“They have deep level expertise of the game and work with the commentators to select different parts of the match to focus on. We have used this to open up the game [to viewers].”
Rather than using a fleet of OB trucks, the on-field action is being captured, enhanced and analysed using mobile flypack systems provided and integrated by NEP Broadcast Solutions.
There are six in total, shared across the venues, although there is an OB truck for covering Taunton, in the far South West of England, and Durham in the far North East.
Four production crews are employed alongside five engineering teams.
The facilities and technology partners for the Cricket World Cup are Hawk-Eye Innovations, BatCam, Motion Impossible, NEP Connect, CricViz, AE Graphics and ChyronHego, as well as NEP Broadcast Solutions.
Between them are also providing and operating a host of production enhancement technologies, from SpiderCam AR and Player Tracking to Buggy Cam (pictured, above).
All the service contracts are with the ICC rather than Sunset+Vine.
“A broadcaster would commission you and just leave you to it. This is different. We are working hand-in-glove with the ICC. This is an ICC TV production. We are mindful that they are the clients and we do what they want.”
One of the key considerations for Sunset+Vine has been consistency, says Bevan.
A shooting and style guide has been devised and a schedule has been put in place for how and when the team use music, graphics and data throughout the coverage.
On a similar theme, Sunset+Vine has brought in some additional editing capability for colour and ‘hero’ player packages.
This has made the production look quite “glossy” says Bevan and given “a standard to our styling which I think has been eye-catching.”
“We have put a lot of effort into this [consistency] so that people know that when they turn on the TV that it is an ICC TV production. Some of it is cosmetic. But a lot of [the work has gone] into the workflows so you can look at the way that the pictures are intercut and know that it is different from another cricket production.”
The same 34-camera set-up has been used for each venue, despite the grounds varying quite significantly in size, shape and stature.
“99% of the grounds are consistent,” he continues. “There are certain games where we might add an additional camera, like India versus Pakistan and [at Lord’s for England vs Australia] and in the final. But otherwise, there is no real difference in the facility.
“The only change will be who is physically doing it. We can’t have the same crew doing all the matches. We have put in place a plan so that there is a consistency in style and approach in storytelling to compliment the facility deployment of all matches, irrespective of where it is or who is playing.”
“The partnership with ICC TV is working well enough that we have been commissioned for another four years. So, we must all be doing something right.”
In addition to the operational crews for match coverage, Sunset+Vine also has five teams of creative content crews doing colour pieces, background stories and interviews.
This content fits into live programmes on the World Feed but also acts as a content service to the rights holders who can download it and use it for their own purposes.
Online content is also part of the Sunset+Vine package with pre and post-match shows produced and then shown on YouTube and Facebook.
The company is also doing a TV highlights show each day. This is produced in Hammersmith at Sunset+Vine’s offices.
At the same time, the company is working with UK public service broadcaster Channel 4 on a separate highlights programme.
This is a “top and tail” job for England matches plus the semi-finals and final, giving the show the “Channel 4 stamp”, explains Foulser. BT Sport’s facility in Stratford is being used for that work.
That is a straight commission. Which contrasts quite starkly with Sunset+Vine’s host broadcast contract with the ICC.
“It is different to working for a broadcaster,” says Foulser.
“A broadcaster would commission you and just leave you to it. This is different. We are working hand-in-glove with the ICC. This is an ICC TV production. We are mindful that they are the clients and we do what they want.
“The partnership is working well enough that we have been commissioned for another four years. So, we must all be doing something right,” he says with a wry smile.
He’s not wrong. In May 2019, it was announced that Sunset+Vine had been awarded a new four-year host production deal by the ICC.
The deal covers all live event production services for ICC TV until 2023, excluding the India events in 2021 and 2023. In addition, Sunset+Vine will also produce daily highlights packages for all events. The contract was awarded following a competitive tender process.
For now, it’s back to the semi-finals and then the final of the 2019 World Cup. And more of that storytelling.
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 is an ICC TV production. The final takes place on Sunday 14 June at Lord’s.