UEFA’s Bernard Ross sets the scene for EURO 2016
UEFA EURO 2016 begins on Friday night and it will be a true test for the more than 2,000 host broadcast (HB) production staff working across France at 10 separate venues, as well as at the IBC in the south-west of Paris. For Bernie Ross, Head of UEFA TV Production, and the HB team, the event is the culmination of years of planning with a focus on technical innovation that will best meet the needs of rights holders and fans around the world.
“It’s a four-year journey and has different stages but it really builds over the last two years and it’s in the last few months that the 2,000 people involved with the production really get involved, as we want to maximise the production and deliver the best possible coverage,” says Ross
UEFA EURO 2016 is a huge event globally with the tournament carried by 150 broadcasters across 238 territories, with 40 of those 150 broadcasters on-site at the Paris IBC. And it will be a big deal across France with the HB staff managing a 70,000 kilometer fibre network, 1,200 kilometers of cable, and delivering more than 2,000 hours of content. Visiting broadcasters will also be able to customise their productions with over 40,00 unilateral booking lines coordinated by UEFA HB’s broadcaster services team.
The production places a priority on live coverage, including pre-, post-, and in-tournament coverage that delivers a complete programming package. All matches will be produced in 1080i/50, using 36 live match cameras at each game, and an additional 10 cameras covering other events surrounding the match, including team arrivals and fan coverage.
The 2,000 HB production personnel are divided up across the various pillars of content creation and operations, including live broadcasting, additional programming, digital broadcasting, HB venue and technical operations and production and resources.
The IBC is located at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles and includes a master control room, commentary switching centre, broadcast technologies showroom and UEFA HB production areas and offices.
“So far things have been going very, very well, but the real business is coming up,” adds Ross. “But we’re in a good place.”
One challenge in recent weeks has been the weather in Paris as flooding of the Seine reached levels not seen in more than 100 years. That impacted a number of rights holders who had to delay setting up studios along the river but the weather has cleared and there has been ultimately little impact on overall operations.
‘Directors are key’
Similar to the World Cup (and COPA Americas) there will be five production teams at the core of match coverage led by five of Europe’s leading directors.
“The directors are key and critical,” says Ross, and each director will lead a team that will work at two venues: Paris and Saint Denis; Lyon and Saint Etienne; Lille and Lens; Bordeaux and Toulouse; and Marseille and Nice. Each venue will feature a dedicated OB unit for multilateral coverage that will include a production area, additional feeds area, and audio facility. There will also be a FANtertainment OB unit on-hand to create content for the giant screens. This unit will also function as a backup to the main production team.
The big advance this year is 4K as UEFA is producing eight matches in 4K for the first time at a EURO: the opening and final matches as well as the quarter-finals and semi-finals. These matches will be produced with 14 cameras using a dedicated 4K OB vehicle.
“At the moment UHD and 4K seems to be about screen size and though we are not in the HDR debate it’s clear that it will become very important,” says Ross. “So we’re doing eight matches in 4K and we have been extremely pleased with the results of producing three Champions League Finals in 4K. We’re also happy with the fact that we will have a complete production plan for 4K, including 4K Spidercam and a 4K helicopter above Paris, Marseille and Lyon providing amazing aerial shots.”
UEFA will also test various virtual reality (VR) systems in a live and as-live environment across the EURO tournament, providing an opportunity to evaluate the VR equipment, footage, technical workflows and key editorial positioning around the match that will best add production value and eventually meet broadcast partner and sponsor requirements.
Match coverage will be complemented by a wide variety of additional content that will give rights holders plenty of opportunities to build in-depth feature pieces and more. UEFA has shot footage from each of the 10 cities that are hosting matches, is producing magazine shows during the tournament, offering pre-produced promos and even player and team profiles. In total there are 43 ENG crews covering the action and more across France.
“We want to keep the tournament alive for all its 31 days and while some of our broadcast partners will inevitably focus on their team, we want to deliver the tournament to everyone,” says Ross. “We want to bring football to life on the screen and there is more demand for content across digital platforms and channels. And that area will grow and grow as social media platforms and broadcasters push people to their content.”
Digital distribution will also be a big part of the UEFA EURO 2016 offering as UEFA looks to leverage its broadcast infrastructure as much as possible. The EUROs have been available via live streaming since 2004, via mobile since 2007 and via multi-angle C-Cast since 2012 and the 2016 version will take things to a new level.
Key to all UEFA’s digital distribution is the Livex content platform which was introduced in 2008 and now provides a remote delivery service and web access to the commentator information system for rights holders.
“It’s now an integrated hub with the aim [being] to have content available not just at the IBC but through a server in the cloud that is accessible everywhere our broadcast partners need it,” says Ross.
It also provides a live solution for match streaming and additional digital services, like multi-angle match event video clips, data feeds, graphics, and more. A live match streaming player is available as a turnkey solution for rights holders who might not otherwise be able to distribute content.
With respect to transmission services, Orange is serving as UEFA’s telecom partner and is providing a fully redundant bi-directional 100 Gbps fibre optic network that connects the 10 venues and the IBC.
While the UEFA team will be completely focused on the 2016 event there are already thoughts concerning UEFA EURO 2020 which will be played in 13 stadiums across all of Europe.
“EURO 2020 will be a challenge but it’s going to be exciting,” says Ross. “Its IBC could be very different, as we need to consider the use of virtual solutions and the impact of cloud and IP technologies.”
That event, no doubt, will be the result of the hundreds of football matches that UEFA TV production either provides host broadcast support, or delivers as host broadcaster every year. This cross-competition experience provides ample opportunities to figure out new workflows, embrace new technologies, and meet the needs of a football fans and rights holders all around the world. But the first step towards 2020 begins, in earnest, on Friday when UEFA EURO 2016 kicks-off.