Live from the World Cup: Inside Look at the 4K Production

Yesterday afternoon’s World Cup quarterfinal match between Germany and France gave FIFA TV a second opportunity to produce and deliver a 4K production, with the help of TV Globo, to viewing areas around Brazil. The production this year shows the continued maturity of 4K workflows from last year’s 4K production of the Confederations Cup in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Roger Pearce, 4K coordinating producer for HBS, outside the Globosat 4K truck.

Roger Pearce, 4K coordinating producer for HBS, outside the Globosat 4K truck.

At that time UK-OB provider Telegenic sent its 4K-capable production unit across the Atlantic for the production. This year the Telegenic OB unit is back home working on other projects but the Telegenic team is still here, working in a main production control room located in a cabin while EVS and other operations take place in a Globosat 4K production unit that will remain in Brazil. HBS is overseeing the entire production operations and Sony is also providing additional equipment and support.

Last year’s production was as much of a proof of concept as anything else but this year’s production is much more complete as 12 Sony F55 cameras and a Sony F65 (recording at 120 frames per second for slow-mo replay and its software is the only “prototype” in the production), and 7 EVS replay servers as well as Sony replay server for the slo-mo form to core of the production. There are also eight HD sources from the HD production that are being upconverted and made available for the 4K productions.

On the EVS front, for example, they are now capable of recording two inputs and playing out one vs. last year when they were one input and one output. That means that all cameras are now available for replay.

But the biggest advance is actually within the Sony production switcher as it is much easier to set it up and operate during the show.

Sony's Rob Thorne with Sony's 4K replay server.

Sony’s Rob Thorne with Sony’s 4K replay server.

Rob Thorne, Sony Professional Solutions Europe, live production business development support engineer, says, “We’ve gone from a slow-and-steady, step-by-step approach to a much faster hit a button and most things are set up,” he says. “And the production compared to last year is more complete as we have the dual-speed recording for the first time, the EVS and graphics are more sophisticated, and everything is a little bit more polished.”

Jonathan Pearce, 4K coordinating producer for HBS, says that the production is going very well and that the limitation on lenses, and the ability to easily shoot close-ups, continues to be the single largest weakness.

“That has to be solved otherwise it will be very difficult to produce sports in 4K,” he adds.

Thorne says solving that problem requires some co-operation on the corporation front as the lens makers need access to the sensors and the sensor makers need access to the lenses.

“It really is a partnership,” he adds. “My gut feeling is the cinema lenses will become more flexible [for broadcast needs].”

The use of the HD sources does give the production team the flexibility to work around issues like close ups but Pearce believes that, long term, an all 4K production needs to be the way to go.

Adds Thorne: “The only reason to use HD is for things you cannot do in 4K, like 4K RF which is an area that needs a lot of work and is currently not feasible. So upconverting aerial cameras or steadicams makes our production more complete.”

One of the Sony F55 4K cameras.

One of the Sony F55 4K cameras.

As for the output of the production, Eurovision is delivering the 4K signal to Globosat’s broadcast headquarters in nearby Barra. There the network adds its own graphics and commentary before using HEVC compression to send it out to 200 viewing areas around the country. In addition, Sony is recording the matches at the FIFA World Cup IBC and producing 11 two-minute trailers that are then re-encoded and delivered to Sony FMP-F1 4K media players around the world.

The technology behind 4K productions continues to advance and there is little doubt that come September, when IBC in Amsterdam rolls around, more solutions will be available. But for now it’s efforts like those currently being undertaken in Brazil that move the 4K format closer to becoming a broadcast reality.

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