Live from Milan: Broadcasting the 2016 UEFA Champions League Final
Real Madrid triumphed over Atlético Madrid at the 2016 UEFA Champions League final after a thrilling penalty shoot-out. Cristiano Ronaldo’s winning penalty marked the conclusion of a successful match day production delivered by host broadcaster Mediaset Premium, supported by UEFA. Around the San Siro stadium 41 HD cameras and 14 additional 4K UHD cameras, provided by UEFA, were on hand to capture the match action. The final also saw the introduction of goal-line technology for the first time at a UEFA Champions League final, including the first on-air goal-line technology replay at a UEFA event, and virtual reality camera tests.
Over the hot and humid weekend in Milan, 1800 staff from Mediaset Premium and nearly 30 other visiting UEFA Champions League broadcast partners were tasked with broadcasting the match to over 200 territories, and an expected audience of 350 million viewers worldwide. The heart of TV operations at the final was the 12,000 square metre TV compound, a space just under the size of two football pitches.
Within the San Siro stadium itself, broadcast partners were provided with a wide variety of unilateral facilities to personalise their productions. These included 130 TV and radio commentary positions, 14 flash interview positions, 12 pitch presentation positions, eight pitch-view studios, seven tribune presentation positions and two indoor studios.
UEFA also conducted virtual reality tests at the final as they continue to explore different virtual reality production systems and workflows. The Milan tests continued from those completed across all four UEFA Champions League semi-finals, and at the Basel Europa League final, as UEFA continues to evaluate and explore the optimal virtual reality experience for broadcast partners and sponsors.
Markus Hövel, UEFA Senior TV Match Operations Manager, showed SVG Europe around the TV compound the morning before the day of the match and explained the behind-the-scenes preparations for the big game. “Mediaset Premium is the host broadcaster – as the local rightsholder they produce the multilateral coverage, supported by UEFA.”
“The host broadcaster is using 41 cameras at this year’s final,” said Hövel. “Over the past few years we’ve seen more and more cameras, and each host broadcaster wants to deliver as many cameras as they can to enhance their coverage. This year Mediaset Premium have added two motorcycles with cameras which will accompany the team buses.”
Mediaset used Euroscena for their multilateral outside broadcast van whilst UEFA used Telegenic for the 4K UHD production, with Sony HDC-4300 4K UHD cameras. “Last year we used 12 4K UHD cameras; this year we’ve added an additional high-behind goal and a reverse pitch-side camera,” said Hövel. “The production will be similar to the 4K UHD production for UEFA EURO 2016 so Milan, and the Europa League final in Basel, provide UEFA with an excellent opportunity to review and prepare our EURO 4K production.”
“In terms of staffing, UEFA TV Production have a dedicated final project leader, but as the match
approaches, more and more UEFA people become involved,” explained Hövel. “Following a site visit in March, UEFA began to build a picture of each broadcaster’s production plans. A host broadcast manager works directly with Mediaset Premium, whilst two unilateral broadcast managers work with visiting broadcast partners. UEFA TV production have a team of 16 here in Milan, plus volunteers, managing a total of 1800 broadcast staff.
“For the first time at a UEFA Champions League final, we have decided to pre-cable broadcast partner unilateral positions – including flash interview areas and pitch-side studios. The San Siro stadium is a large and very complex site; there are no direct access [cable] routes into the stadium, and we wanted to ensure a quick installation and provide broadcast partners with a clean media tribune space to work. As part of this installation UEFA have also provided broadcast partners with dedicated commentary cameras, or com-cams as they’re known, in the media tribune for in-vision presentations before the match, at half-time and after the match.
“UEFA always provide eight pitch-view studios at the final. Broadcast partners want to be outside, where the action is, and they want as many interviews as possible after the match — including super-flash interviews on the pitch and flash interviews in the flash area,” said Hövel.
“At this year’s final we have a full opening ceremony, with Alicia Keys performing three songs on piano in the centre of the pitch. Andrea Bocelli will also sing the UEFA Champions League anthem before the start of the match. UEFA provide the Mediaset Premium Match Director, Giorgio Galli, with a pre-match, post-match and half-time running order, and have had several meetings to review match coverage, but the game itself is in the very capable hands of the Match Director.
“People often compare the UEFA Champions League Final with the Super Bowl,” said Hövel. “But at the Super Bowl there are far fewer broadcasters producing their own feeds. Here, we have over 30 visiting broadcasters arriving two or three days before the match, simultaneously rigging their cables and all producing their own individual programme.”
From UEFA Next Generation Services to the Digital Hive
The 2015 Champions League final in Berlin saw the launch of UEFA’s Next Generation Services (NGS) concept, in conjunction with deltatre and the EBU. This NGS delivery involved the provision of component-based digital services and complete turnkey solutions for all platforms — cloud-based content storage and delivery, available via the new, state-of-the-art, NGS EBU Box.
As part of UEFA’s NGS offering, this season UEFA Champions League broadcast partners have been able to access to up to 12 multi-camera video feeds, enriched data and statistics, enhanced TV and digital graphics, up to three camera streams for digital media exploitation and audio watermarking on the multilateral feed for content activation.
In Milan, ahead of the 2016 Champions League Final, UEFA’s Digital Media Manager Olivier Gaches was also on-hand to bring SVG Europe up to speed on the NGS journey across the 2015-2016 UEFA Champions League season and what’s next for UEFA in terms of digital innovation.
“When we show broadcast partners new products, inevitably a year later these new products have become commodities. That’s the way it should be,” said Gaches. “When BT Sport entered the market last season they wanted to be a game-changer. They developed new apps, and from day one they wanted isolated camera streams from three different cameras on their app. As we approach UEFA EURO 2016, it’s now taken for granted that all broadcast partners offer similar products to their audiences, merging the boundaries between their TV coverage and their second screen coverage,” said Gaches.
Another key offering was multi-angle broadcast-quality clips from up to 12 cameras per match, including slow motion cameras, which UEFA has delivered to a number of subscribing UEFA Champions League broadcast partners this season. “We needed to adjust our editorial guidelines when telling the story of a match using up to 200 clips for digital use and 50 clips for broadcast use” as Gaches explained. “UEFA needed to look at the two platforms, from an editorial standpoint, in different ways. When the clips are ready to be delivered we can provide them to broadcast partners through the EBU Box at their home premises in 50 Mbps broadcast quality, or through the cloud for digital media exploitation.
“Ahead of EURO 2016 UEFA and the EBU have developed a new version of the EBU Box, representing another step in our digital process. Across the UEFA Champions League season it was a cutting-edge repository for the provision of content. Now the EBU Box is delivering even more, with orchestration the most important new addition,” said Gaches.
“The [EBU] Box is now part of broadcaster’s production environment. Rather than it being solely a media server with a massive hard drive, with our new workflow management UEFA and our broadcast partners can now add tags, name files, filter by keyword and file-size and encode live. By adding edit software and an EVS workstation to the chain, broadcast partners can select to receive all material around, say, Lionel Messi or Real Madrid. What was a dream for previous seasons is now definitely a reality.
“The virtual reality tests have also been extremely interesting. We have completed tests using different systems at the Champions League semi-finals, and at the Basel Europa League final, where we tested both live streaming and live recording to evaluate the headset experience. However, acquisition is only one aspect of the testing process. Application and distribution are also key and will also be tested at the Milan UEFA Champions League final, as well as at the forthcoming 2016 UEFA European Championships,” said Gaches.
“However, whilst virtual reality is extremely exciting, UEFA have made a significant investment and workflow development in our Next Generation Services products. For UEFA EURO 2016 we have a new, improved, delivery mechanism, but the next big project under evaluation will be our Digital Hive project. The road to UEFA EURO 2020 will start immediately after UEFA EURO 2016 concludes.
“The goal is to provide one platform where all production and content – including EURO, UEFA Champions League, Europa League and other competitions – can be harvested. When this Digital Hive platform is available, UEFA broadcast partners will be able to deliver a simultaneous video, graphics, audio watermarked, virtual reality or augmented reality experience to their fans,” he said.