On the ball: how UEFA is preparing for EURO 2016 Football Championship
For the third time in the history of the game, France, the French Football Federation and French football as a whole are preparing to host the finals of the UEFA European Football Championship – known to most as UEFA EURO 2016. And perhaps returning to France is appropriate, as the whole idea of the Championships was the brainchild of Frenchman, Henri Delaunay. He became the first general secretary of UEFA and the trophy that the tournament winners receive is named in his honour.
The original line-up for the EURO 2016 qualifying rounds saw a record number of 54 teams take part. Those qualifiers produced the 24 teams that will take part in the finals. This increase from 16 finalists in previous tournaments means that many countries are now appearing at this stage of the Championships for the first time.
Friday 10 June sees the EURO 2016 finals tournament kick off in the Stade de France, Paris with hosts France playing Romania. Over the following month, 51 matches will be played at various venues throughout France, with the final taking place on 10 July in the capital.
With such a major event in the sporting world, broadcasters are devoting a great deal of time and effort to provide extensive coverage for fans. Based on figures from the last EURO in 2012, UEFA anticipates the total audience for this year’s tournament will be around 1.9 billion, and estimates that just short of 300 million fans will watch the final.
UEFA, in its capacity as Host Broadcaster (HB), will use five Outside Broadcast (OB) suppliers for its coverage. These companies are Outside Broadcast (Belgium), Euromedia (France), Telegenic (UK), AMP Visual (France) and Mediatec (Sweden). All replays will be housed outside the OB trucks via a centralised solution provided by EVS.
Supervising the coverage for UEFA will be five multilateral producers, four Quality Control (QC) producers, with several others handling the 4K coverage. Selected from their pool of cross-competition talent, the UEFA HB is using five extremely experienced match directors – Jean-Jaques Amsellem, Knut Fleischmann, François Lanaud, Jamie Oakford and Laurent Lachand – to oversee their live production.
Building on the successes of UEFA EURO 2008 and UEFA EURO 2012, a minimum of 38 live match cameras will cover each game in France in High Definition (HD) and encoded with Dolby 5.1 surround sound. The multilateral world feed, or Live Stadium Feed (LSF), will be available in English, with ten lead and colour commentators being used across the entire tournament.
The LSF feed starts one hour before kick-off and continues until 20 minutes after the final whistle. UBPs can join any point before players emerge from the tunnel, no later than five minutes before the start of the match. Own language on-screen graphics are also a bookable rate-carded service provided by Deltatre on behalf of the UEFA HB and are available at the IBC or venue.
When it comes to 4K, UEFA is again at the forefront of broadcast technology, having first tested the technology at the 2014 Lisbon Champions League final. The UEFA EURO HB will cover the opening match, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. The EURO 2016 4K coverage will be a separate 12 camera production, with the aim for future tournaments for the format to become a replacement technology. Telegenic will provide the 4K OB trucks.
Complementing the coverage
In addition to the LSF, rights’ holding broadcasters (known as UEFA Broadcast Partners or UBPs) will have access to 11 additional feeds to enrich their coverage. These will be Camera 1, Clips 1, Clips 2, Team A, Team B, Player A, Player B, Tactical, Stadium Beauty, Stadium Aerial and 4K. Five camera ISOs will also be available: 16m left, 16m right, high behind goal left, high reverse stand and VIP venue. Other, non-bookable ISOs, will be used and made available via the two dedicated Clips Channels, ensuring UBPs have access to all the match action. Both ISOs and feeds will be available at the stadium venue or IBC.
As well as the bookable feeds and ISOs, UEFA TV Production will provide broadcasters with a wealth of additional programming material to supplement their productions. This material includes raw and ‘turnkey’ content produced by the 24 dedicated crews following each team at the tournament. UEFA will also provide footage of the teams arriving at the stadium the day before the game, pre-match press conferences and post-match interviews, as well as the build-up and reaction in the host cities and dedicated fan-zones.
All broadcast quality video content will be delivered via the EURO 2016 Livex broadcast media server, UEFA’s content publication and distribution platform, across the purpose-built cross-France fibre network. From Livex, which is based on EVS technologies, broadcasters will have access to video and audio clips, data, graphics and statistics, as well as all additional programming content.
In 2012 the UEFA HB delivered over 11,000 booking lines for broadcasters to personalise their productions. Once again UEFA will also deliver a variety of specific bookable positions, including pitch presentation positions, announce platforms, pitch-view studios and TV compound stand-up positions. Dedicated HB venue operations teams will be based at each stadium to oversee and manage the unilateral service delivery, as well as the multilateral production.
Three aerial systems will be used at each stadium – an innovation that has been present since EURO 2008 – namely, one Spidercam, one helicopter (during the group stage, with a second added during the knock-out rounds) and an external beauty camera mounted high outside each stadium.
Player tracking systems have been deployed in UEFA competitions since the 2005/06 season, and for EURO 2016 deltatre systems will be installed at every venue.
Centre of operations
The International Broadcast Centre (IBC) is located at Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles, inside Halls 6 and 8. Construction work on the 30,000 square metre facility will begin at the end of March, with UBPs moving in from 16 May onwards. Alongside studios, galleries and commentary booths, there will be office space and edit suites. Beyond that, there will be restaurant facilities, laundry, postal services and a tourism desk. The IBC will be fully operational on 6 June 2016 and it is anticipated that around 800 UBPs and UEFA staff will operate from the IBC during the course of the finals.
The galleries will include equipment from Sony and Barco, whilst the edit suites will be equipped with Adobe systems.
HBS (Host Broadcast Services) is providing the planning and engineering for the IBC project – both in terms of the general construction and the broadcast engineering project. This includes the provision and the commissioning of a turnkey Master Control Room (MCR) and a Central Equipment Room (CER). HBS will then manage all IBC technical operations during the event, and provide and deploy Commentary Units (CUs) at all venues and support all attending UBPs.
Next to the IBC will be a satellite farm within the technical compound. This will house the uplink facilities, but not OB trucks.
Beyond the ‘traditional’ television services, UEFA is also providing broadcasters with a range of cutting-edge digital media services to ensure EURO 2016 viewers can access content from the tournament on more platforms and devices than ever before.
These services are offered to broadcasters from UEFA, via deltatre, as digital components, Software Development Kits (SDKs) and stand-alone ‘turnkey’ solutions. They include a live match streaming player and separate video streams, match-highlight clips, data feeds and VOD solutions for tablets and smartphones.
The EURO 2016 finals will be a huge undertaking, but with such a comprehensive production plan, UEFA’s broadcast partners and their millions of fans worldwide can be assured of ‘the best seat in the house’ as the thrill of the tournament action unfolds.