Every four years, football teams from 32 nations compete for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup. This major sporting tournament has always attracted comprehensive television coverage, and this year promises to be even better with some matches shot in 3-D, a special feed for mobile devices and the standard HD feeds.
Behind the scenes, the big innovation is the enhanced workflow made possible by a large media server at the International Broadcast Center (IBC), which makes all the feeds and clips available immediately so broadcasters can create their own programming.
The 32 teams competing for the World Cup Finals play from kickoff on Friday, 11 June, to the final on Sunday, 11 July. These teams have reached the finals through a series of qualifying rounds, which 204 nations played in over the last three years, and were selected in a final draw that took place in South Africa last December.
The first round is in groups of four, eliminating teams down to a second round of 16 teams. Eight teams then compete in the quarterfinals, followed by semifinals. The final round decides the winner as well as third and fourth places, and the entire final comprises 64 matches. The games are played in 10 stadiums in nine cities spread across the host nation of South Africa.
Football has always been a huge draw for TV viewers, and the statistics for the 2006 event confirm the huge global following. The estimated audience for the 2006 final was 715 million, and the total cumulative television audience for the tournament was 26.29 billion, making it the world's most popular television event. The rights are expected to generate revenue of at least$1.6 billion for FIFA.
Host Broadcast Services
The organizing body, FIFA, appointed Host Broadcast Services (HBS) to be the host broadcaster for the World Cup tournament. HBS was previously the host broadcaster of the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup tournaments, and has also been appointed as host broadcaster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. HBS is owned by sports marketing company Infront Sports and Media, based in Switzerland.
As host broadcaster, HBS is responsible for production of each match, for facilities at the venues for other broadcasters and for the IBC in Johannesburg, the nerve center of the operation.
The coverage has to cater to a wide range of media rights licensees (MRLs), which is FIFA's term for media organizations that have licenses to air the matches. MRLs include broadcasters, new media platforms and mobile network operators (MNOs).
MLRs have a choice of using feeds at the venue for a bespoke production, feeds at the IBC or just taking the finished show feed (ESF or EBIF). Many national broadcasters have their own production facilities at the venues. They can take the clean feed from the production switcher to add their own graphics plus ISO feeds of the cameras, so they can feature their home team.
The big advantage of having a host broadcaster is that high-quality coverage is maintained throughout the tournament. Although many national broadcasters want to fully cover the event, any investment must take into account the risk that their national team falls out at the first round and returns home early.
All production is 1080i25, but recognizing that the largest number of viewers will be watching analog 4:3, the production is designed to protect a 4:3 aspect ratio.
This year there will be innovations. After visiting IBC in 2009, HBS decided that it was feasible to cover the World Cup in 3-D. It has not been possible to cover all 64 matches as there is worldwide shortage of 3-D equipment and experienced stereographers, but 25 of the matches will be shot in 3-D. Two broadcasters, ESPN is the USA and Sogecable in Spain, have become MRLs for the 3-D coverage, with TF1 in France making a late announcement of the intention to license coverage. As of press time, ESPN was aiming to debut its 3-D network with the South Africa versus Mexico match 11 June.
Mobile coverage is also getting an upgrade with a dedicated camera and a separate feed featuring tighter shots more suited to the small screen. Mobile coverage is important, as most fans will not be near a TV receiver during working hours but can keep in touch with all the news via their phones.
At the venue
At each of the 10 stadium (see Figure 1), HBS has built a full OB facility using flyaways. Grass Valley is providing facilities through partners such as production companies Alfacam, CTV, Mediapro, Studio Berlin and VCF France. Alfacam alone is providing 170 cameras and 155 technicians to help cover the event for HBS and for MRLs. The technical operations centers (TOC) at the venues are again supplied by Grass Valley through partner Gearhouse Broadcast.
Expensive equipment, such as cameras and lenses, is shared and moved between the venues as needed. The camera plan has been extended beyond the 2006 event, where 26 cameras were used. (See Figure 2 on page S8.) The primary cameras are Grass Valley LDK 6000/8000 WorldCams. A total of six Grass Valley LDK 8300 Super SloMo 3X cameras and two ultra-motion cameras provide for playback of players and goals.
The main camera platform in the stadium has the cameras for wide, medium close-up and close-up shots, plus the A and B player cameras. An additional camera will be dedicated to the mobile TV coverage.
Behind each goal line is a wide-angle box camera (goalcam), a crane, a super-slow-motion and an ultra-motion camera. In line with the goals are box cameras and super-slow-motion cameras. With eight high-speed cameras available, there should be every opportunity to analyze the play in detail.
For general pitch coverage, there are two steadicams, a close-up camera and a minicrane, which is used before the match for interviews.
Continue to next page
Other cameras cover tactics, a beauty shot of the stadium and views of the benches. Selected matches have aerial coverage before the match and a Spidercam cable camera for use during the game. For some matches, there are additional stereoscopic camera rigs for the special 3-D coverage.
In addition to the extended stadium feed (ESF), a clean feed, the mobile feed and a beauty shot of the stadium are all fed back to the media server at the IBC. The team A and B and player A and B camera feeds also are returned to the IBC for recording on the media server and for use by MRLs that are at the IBC but don't have facilities at the venue. (See Figure 3 on page S10.)
The OBs use a variety of Grass Valley switchers, including Kayenne 4M/E and Kayak 1M/E units. A total of 10 Kayenne HD and 30 Kayak HD units are used across the venues for the broadcast feeds and to feed the stadium display screens.
HBS aims to produce each match with a neutral style, favoring neither team. One rule is live coverage only when the ball is in play, with slow-motion replay only when pertinent. The production is delivered to audiences with different expectations — football experts and ordinary viewers — plus different nations deliver football in different ways. Some still use only five cameras to cover a game. In addition, viewers are watching on a wide variety of devices, including small analog portables and PCs.
Many leading broadcasters have OB facilities at the stadiums to cover their national teams and can produce more partisan coverage.
For HBS production, the director at each venue uses a production crew of 50, including cameramen, production switching and EVS operators. There are additional HBS technical crew at each venue.
Camera feeds are recorded to EVS production servers at the venue. The best clips and sequences are transferred from the TOC to the FIFA MAX media server at the IBC in Johannesburg.
Mediabroadcast provides backhaul services from the venues to the IBC. The company is a partnership between Media Broadcast and local systems integrator Telecom 180. Mediabroadcast uses the infrastructure and network of South African telco Telkom, which provides the high-bandwidth fiber circuits for the IP-based broadcast contribution network.
Sports graphics specialist Delta Tre is providing the graphics for the main feed. To allow broadcasters to add their own graphics, only the lower half of the frame is used for Delta Tre graphics.
Players and the ball are tracked to create stats for MRLs to use in their analysis of games using statistical analytics software MAGMA Pro (Match Analysis Graphics Machine) from Delta Tre, powered by Piero. HBS production teams are able to replay pictures integrated with MAGMA Pro data from the FIFA MAX server to create analysis of key moments such as goals and the position of every player on the pitch.
The software identifies patterns, categorizes them and grades them. Producers can search the database to find the key moments and preview relevant clips from their desktops. The data can be output as statistics on screen or can be fused with the clips and pushed to Piero, which automatically adds the virtual graphics effects.
As part of the production philosophy to create clean coverage following the main action, graphics effects like virtual offside lines are used sparingly.
Audio and commentary
HBS must cater to viewers listening in mono all the way through to 5.1 audio on a home theater system. To meet varying requirements, a TV stereo mix, a radio stereo mix and a 5.1 mix (encoded Dolby E) are created by HBS. Twelve pitch microphones, some surround, pick up crowd sound and atmosphere. The basic commentary is in English and is provided as an extra channel.
At each venue, a commentary control room provides all the facilities for the commentators from the MRLs. HBS uses its stock of Glensound commentary boxes that were specially customized to its requirements.
For this World Cup, HBS has expanded the number of ENG crews covering the teams and added crews to shoot general supporting features. At the 2006 event in Germany, 14 crews covered the teams. This time there are 32 ENG crews, equal to the number of competing teams, that film teams the day prior to a match (MD-1) and cover team press conferences. An additional eight crews shoot feature material for use in the “world package” for the EBIF feed. The crews use Panasonic P2 HD camcorders, with Mediabroadcast providing DSNG facilities for backhaul to the IBC.
GlobeCast is providing 12 HD/SD SNG uplinks at venues and training camps for many of the international broadcasters that are covering the tournament.
International Broadcast Center
The hub of the broadcast operations is the IBC at the Johannesburg Expo Center. The IBC has areas for HBS facilities, including the master control room (MCR) and the central equipment room (CER). Other areas are available for the MRLs to set up their own facilities. To cope with the vagaries of local power, the center has dual redundant power generation with a generous over capacity.
Adjacent to the Expo Center is a 5000sq-m dish farm for the contribution and distribution links.
At the heart of the IBC is the FIFA Media Asset Exchange (MAX) server. HBS loads match feeds, clips, highlights, city profiles, ENG material and any other material that is needed by the MRLs to create their own packages. During each match, the servers capture nine feeds per venue. In all, 3000 hours of HD material will be available to broadcasters. The material is stored as DVCPRO HD format at 100Mb/s, but clips also are available in SD as DVCPRO 25.
Continue to next page
Many MRLs shoot their own material, and they can load clips that they wish to offer to other MRLs in a “media stock exchange,” also hosted on the MAX server cluster.
As material is ingested, HBS loggers add descriptive metadata to the clips. The tagging operators have eight workstations.
Distribution of the matches and associated reporting are over a combination of satellite and fiber. One supplier alone is providing 1300Mb/s of fiber capacity out of South Africa with full redundancy. Mediabroadcast is providing links from the IBC back to Frankfurt and Paris using undersea fiber to feed European broadcasters.
Net Insight is supporting a wide range of contributions to North and South American and European broadcasters from South Africa with a video-over-IP transport infrastructure. The company has been contracted by EPSN to manage the distribution of feeds from South Africa along undersea fiber-optic cables into the broadcaster's New York hub. ESPN then routes on to affiliates in South America.
The satellite teleport and telecommunications infrastructure for the World Cup supports transmission capacity of 40Gb/s and will be used after the World Cup to provide broadband services to South Africa.
Eutelsat has four satellites — W2A, W3A, W4 and W7 — covering Europe, Africa and the Middle East that are available for use by MRLs to distribute the tournament to their viewers. The EBU has added two transponders on W2A to bring back matches, reports and highlights to its HQ in Geneva for distribution via W2A and W3A to its 75 members. Nimbra transports the host feed to Eurovision, the terrestrial network services wing of the EBU, which acts on behalf of Europe's public broadcasters.
Other clients providing services for the tournament include GlobeCast, APTN, Arqiva, Telenor and TV.
Although the matches must be live, much of the background coverage is not so time-sensitive. Some broadcasters are using WAN acceleration techniques to deliver coverage like clips of training sessions and team interviews as files using the public Internet. This method can represent a big cost saving over satellite circuits and fiber.
Although 3-D may catch the headlines, 2010 is going to be the year for mobile coverage. With a specially produced mobile feed rather than a transcode of the primary HD signals, mobile viewers are able to keep track of their teams' fortunes throughout the day. FIFA has partnered with Ericsson to provide content management and distribution to MNOs for what will be the most comprehensive mobile coverage of the World Cup tournament so far.
FIFA has worked with MNOs and MRLs to create content for users on a nation-by-nation basis. The focus is live match feeds composed for mobile screens and daily news and feature content based around individual national teams. This includes team arrivals, dressing room coverage, team lineups, goals, action, highlights and interviews.
This year marks the beginning of regular 3-D broadcasts. ESPN launched its 3-D network with the opening game of the tournament, South Africa versus Mexico. FIFA signed the rights agreement with Sony (also an official FIFA partner) in December 2009. HBS has taken the precaution of trialing 3-D productions with eight broadcasts of French Ligue 1 football.
The 3-D coverage is a separate production from the regular HD coverage. The 25 3-D matches are shot at five of the 10 stadiums. The Sony production uses two 3-D OB trucks from French operator AMP Visual TV and Telegenic from the UK. Both companies have considerable experience shooting 3-D events, including tennis and football.
The AMP Car 8 covers the Johannesburg matches. It is equipped with a Sony MVS 8000 switcher and the Sony MPE200 multi-image processor. In addition to the usual crew, the truck is manned by eight convergence technicians (stereographers).
At every stadium, seven or eight pairs of Sony HDC-1500s mounted on Element Technica Quasar stereo rigs are used to shoot the 3-D coverage. The cameras are fitted with Canon lenses. The rigs can be used as beam-splitter rigs for close-ups or side-by-side for long shots.
The convergence technicians manage the stereo images using the multi-image processor with MPS-3D01 stereo processing software. The processor can perform color matching, image alignment and convergence adjustment, including toe-in correction. Data is exchanged between the processors, the CCUs and the Canon digital lens servos, which enables the 3-D box to correct lens misalignment over the zoom range and drive some aspects of the rig, including the interaxial spacing.
Not many viewers out of the 750 million expected to watch the final will actually see the live 3-D. Acknowledging this reality, Sony Pictures will release the official FIFA film on 3-D Blu-ray later this year, by which time there will be many more home theater systems capable of displaying 3-D. FIFA, HBS and Sony hope that the 3-D coverage of the tournament will kick-start the industry and open up production across the world as broadcasters see what is done at the World Cup.
The World Cup regularly gets higher global viewing figures than any other sporting event, so covering this monthlong event calls for a logistical feat equaled only by covering the Summer Olympics.
The host broadcaster, HBS, has 2500 staff in South Africa for the event and has called on the services of many systems integrators and rental facilities to assist in the provision of the temporary facilities for the coverage of the World Cup.
The main coverage is HD, but for the first time, a mobile feed framed for the small screen with its own dedicated camera provides around-the-clock coverage of match preparations, comment, highlights and news for fans to watch from “breakfast to bedtime.”
Viewers will not be disappointed by the coverage; whether their teams meet their expectations is another matter.