The Road to Russia: FIFA details live VR and social media firsts
By: Adrian Pennington
Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - 5:12 pm

While the main innovation FIFA TV is providing for Russia is a 64-match UHD with HDR feed, there is an equally extensive VR production for the tournament. For the first time at a World Cup, VR will be available for all matches as a live stream in 180-degrees as well as a 360-degree VoD offer to rights holders.

The core of the 180-degree live stream will be taken from three UHD cameras at each of the 12 venues. Each is fitted with super wide-angle lenses with the main camera taking in the whole pitch. These offer three live stream angles of between 160-180 degrees and are positioned in the main tribune (stand) and behind the goals. Meanwhile, the live stream allows viewers to experience what FIFA calls “an unparalleled view of the stadium”. 

There will also be rigs capturing a recorded 360-degree experience with positions chosen, according to FIFA, “in order to provide an intimate and unique experience”. One will be in the tunnel surrounded by the players; another in the tribune for a viewing experience surrounded by fans.

VR will also be part of the responsibility for the ENG work of some of the 32 FIFA TV Team Crews (shadowing the teams) and the eight FIFA TV Story Crews (travelling between three venues each to provide the host feed). They are tasked with capturing what FIFA calls “magic moments” such as when players or fans interact with the camera.

The 360-VoD clips will be made available over Samsung Gear VR, PlayStation VR, Google Cardboard and Daydream and Oculus Rift. Clips will also be published to Facebook 360 and YouTube VR. On both these platforms – as with the ‘Magic Window’ for mobile – fans can explore immersive content without a Head Mounted Device (HMD).

“Given the constraints browsing content while wearing an HMD, a new kind of app is required for a satisfying virtual reality experience,” states FIFA.

Accordingly, it has commissioned a white label app (branded FIFA World Cup VR App) for the event, made customisable for broadcaster requests.

“This offers easier navigation of content than via traditional hand-held app experiences (on a mobile or a tablet),” explains FIFA. “The VR app places the user in the middle of a three-dimensional space where content can be browsed within an inviting virtual VIP lounge.”

Virtual suite and social media

The virtual suite’s main feed is created from the central pitch camera. A virtual giant screen is added in at the top centre with two selectable (interactive) viewing angles to either side.

The app contains stats integration, DVR functionality, and audio integrated from the broadcast feed. 

It is believed that Deltatre is the agency responsible for the VR app although this has not been confirmed by the company. Key suppliers have been asked by FIFA not to promote their involvement ahead of the event; whilst not unusual, this requirement seems more stringent than in previous years.

Another first for the 2018 World Cup is production of customisable apps and web platforms assisting rights holders to reach viewers on social media.

FIFA also has a dedicated ‘social media’ production team – another first – tailoring content for Facebook Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram in order to “to boost engagement and spark online interaction”.

The shareable content is designed to stand out on a busy news feeds and features short form video with “simple, enlarged text and thumbnails” that give the user an imperative to press play.

Bespoke infographics will be produced and made shareable for each match. Still images with metadata will also be created in a 1:1 aspect ratio to best suit hand-held devices.

Since most broadcasters already run their own digital platforms, FIFA is making SDKs available, composed of widgets, which deliver key data and editorial components. The aim is to make life easier for broadcasters to integrate the social media content into their existing digital platforms.

The white label web solution includes the matchcast alongside multi-angle content, VOD clips of events between matches, stats and social media integration.

Meanwhile, FIFA TV has also confirmed the match directors for the tournament, namely Jean-Jacques Amsellem, Knut Fleischmann, Wolfgang Straub, John Watts, Laurent Lachand, Jamie Oakford, Francois Lanaud and Grant Philips.