Sky implements virtual studio in Milan ahead of Champions League coverage

TV production configurations in studios can vary greatly in complexity, and available budgets are obviously crucial in determining the overall level and look of the programme being recorded or broadcast. These set-ups might range from a few static cameras to a large number with remotely controlled movements or even complete studio robotics.

In general, though, there are always plenty of camera movements that result in lively presentations and background animations synchronised with the ‘real’ presenter delivery in the foreground. Today it is crucial to work on a totally interactive stage, in which all the elements of the set are ‘mobile’ and ‘modified’ in coordination with what the presenter or journalist is saying.

The most flexible solution is the so-called ‘virtual studio’, which allows broadcasters to modernise the TV production workflow. Here the underlying set is replaced entirely with 2D or 3D environments recreated synthetically with obvious economies of scale. It is often a decisive factor in news and sports programming as it allows producers to closely adhere to the order of events – something that is frequently subject to change at the last minute.

Sky Italy is among the leading broadcasters continuing extensive research into emotionally engaging forms of expression in order to make sport programmes even more spectacular and attractive to their subscribers. In line with this ongoing mission, Sky Sports Channels, with the support of Studio Broadcast Operations and Engineering, has developed a solution for active and dynamic sets that replace the classical static format.

Studio and Broadcast Operations Engineering are two divisions of the Broadcast Division. Studio Operations manages the business of the studies, while Broadcast Engineering designs and implements the systems.

Sky Sports’ HD channels devote generous coverage to UEFA Champions League group stage matches and, on the occasion of the first day of the latest season, the new virtual studio for pre-and post-match coverage was inaugurated. The programme was presented by Fabio Caressa in conjunction with Gianluca Vialli and Paolo Rossi.

By using an innovative technology called Video Mapping, live images can be projected on large surfaces and in an irregularly shaped fashion. Images may be computer graphics, video material, live footage and more.

Specifically, for the new Champions League set in Sky’s Milan studios, up to 8 high power HD video projectors are used, subservient to a series of graphics engines that reproduce a synchronised and perfectly aligned series of graphics as well as live signal inserts on an area of ​​about 175 square meters.

System management is provided by a software graphics engine that can adjust the geometry of the projected images in real-time even on non-linear surfaces. In this case the projection surface has two wide curves to form a screen of 180 degrees so as to fill all the background. Once imported into graphics engines, the control software allows management of images through a timeline that allows easy recall of sequences as and when required. The core specification in the new Milan virtual studio also includes a total of six Grass Valley LDK8000 cameras.

Collectively, this new infrastructure allows Sky to configure and reconfigure its graphical and live feed elements in a flexible and rewarding fashion.

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