Live from the World Cup: Briggs, Podlesskiy ready team for U.S. vs. Belgium match
It’s 2014 FIFA World Cup match day here in Salvador as the US and Belgium take to the pitch later this afternoon to see who will advance to the quarterfinals. Prior to the match we were able to chat with venue Yvonne Briggs, Broadcast Venue Manager as well as Sergei Podlesskiy, Venue Technical Manager at Arena Fonte Nova.
With four matches under the team’s belt and two remaining (the final match will be a quarter-final match on July 5) both Briggs and Podlesskiy report that everything has been going better than expected in Salvador, something Briggs at least partially attributes to the fact that the stadium was used for last summer’s Confederations Cup. As a result, many potential potholes with respect to overlaying a broadcast operation on top of a venue operation were identified more than a year in advance.
“We have been very fortunate and pleased with the way things have progressed since getting here in early April when it was nothing but an empty car park,” says Briggs. “Also the stadium has been user-friendly in terms of getting around and the people have wonderful and welcoming. But once our guys were on site and installing equipment we knew that everything would work out well and the broadcasts would be of high quality.”
The underlying production philosophy is one of maximizing resources as the stadiums have been clustered into one of four clusters with three stadiums in each cluster. In this case the three stadiums are in Salvador, Brasilia, and Belo Horizonte with Studio Berlin providing core technical manpower to help drive the production facilities that are located with cabins outside the stadium. There are also two core production teams that jump between the venues and the majority of cameras also make the journey from one site to the next.
“I’ve been very happy to be working with people I have known in the past and who are very professional,” explains Briggs who is working on her fourth World Cup. “And then there is our venue-based production crew that covers press conferences and training.”
That team, which is on site for the entire tournament, has four cameras that do not travel with the production team to the next match.
“That team is here so there is no risk in case the main production team cannot make it for matchday-1 and then on match day they take care of the infotainment production [inside the stadium].”
Today the size of the production team will swell to about 200 and over the course of the three matches that have been held so far they have continued to improve the quality of the look and feel of the broadcasts. But this was also a team that had to be in top form from the beginning.
“The first match is always the most difficult because it is the first time,” adds Briggs. “And our first two matches were Spain vs. Netherlands and then Germany vs. Portugal so it was nice to get those two matches under belts.”
Briggs says that one of the constant challenges is to keep the staff motivated, especially after a big match that went well.
“People can relax and that is when mistakes happen,” she explains. “So I make it a point to let people recharge and then make sure we don’t let our guard down.”
This is Podlesskiy’s first World Cup experience but he knows big-time events and pressure from work he has done on other global sporting events.
“My main impression has been the huge amount of work done during the planning and design phase and for me it shows how well organized HBS is, making sure the main production and technical system has all been planned,” he says.
Podlesskyi adds that because HBS builds the same technical configuration for each venue it has been easy to share and communicate about potential problems.
“HBS gives us all the information we need to start working and then internal communications between the core teams allows us to be more proactive,” he explains.
The only real changes since the beginning of the tournament has been with respect to interaction with the MRLs but the core international feed production and philosophy has stayed the same, according to Podlesskiy.
“I always say that people are the most valuable commodity and good people will succeed no matter what the challenge is,” adds Briggs. “So there was never any doubt here once the technical and even the local teams were here on the ground working together.”