Sky Italia’s Vincenzo Flores on managing World Cup workflows, challenging logistics

Roberto Landini writes: In the latest phase of its coverage delivered from an Italian perspective, Sky Italia head of production and operations with responsibility for the 2014 World Cup, Vincenzo Flores, discusses the broadcaster’s on-site crew plans and the technical arsenal involved in delivering coverage of the current tournament.

Flores explains: “The IBC headquarters which gathers together the tech department for FIFA 2014 is housed at the pavilions of the Exhibition Grounds in downtown Rio, on an area of ​​about 160sqm. Here Sky set up two separate control rooms.

“The first, larger one, is devoted to major events, while the smaller room is for news. In addition, there are two editing suites, an editorial room, and an emergency booth in case of emergency, as well as a small corner news for quick interviews. Then on the famous Copacabana beach, across town, there is a very nice studio which has a sea view.

“From here all the signals from the cameras, audio and video returns are sent via 1GB fiber optic connection to the IBC production centre, where the shots are controlled and delivered to operators 20 miles away.

“The shooting system in Brazil is integrated by seven crews equipped with LiveU backpacks so that they are able to make reports not only from the venues, but also from across the cities hosting the World Cup. In addition, an SNG troupe is placed in Mangaratiba to film the Italian players around the training ground near Casa Azzurri.

“A small control room is used to integrate the international signal produced by the host broadcaster HBS and FIFA, with Sky cameras used to personalise an additional point of view for subscribers.

“In every stadium Sky is utilising a variety of cameras, including two at rear goal on the right and left, and also in the gallery stands and the locker room for interviews. We are also employing an Ultra Emotion iMovix extreme slow motion camera (distributed in Italy by Aret Video & Audio Engineering), operated by Cinevideo and already used in Serie A matches to deliver a variety of spectacular images.

“Moreover, in addition to the world feeds we can count on seven unilateral video cameras, always handled by the host broadcaster, to which we can cut at will, as well as three video cameras on the field for interviews.

“At the heart of the system is the ability to ingest approximately 330 hours plus 200 near-live and have access to the FIFA MAX server. The production contribution can therefore count on an incredible number of sources, including FIFA MAX, Avid editing systems and EVS as a central server, as already used in London for the Olympics and Vancouver, meaning it is a well-tested system.

“For the World Cup we opted for super HD broadcast with a wider bandwidth and JPEG2000 coding for very high quality images. For image transport we are relying on a fiber connection by Globecast that carries four signals to Italy with a great bandwidth (around 140 MB) and very high quality for both latency and quality; this will even increase in the second phase of the World Cup (second round, quarter and semi-finals) since there are no more overlapping matches. In practice, at this stage the bandwidth will be almost doubled since the two signals are no longer needed for the events along with three return signals.

“It should be noted in closing that Brazil has a serious problem with regard to equipment shipping and that initial customs clearance is a nightmare for broadcasters [who have experienced considerable delays in getting vital equipment through].”

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