Jacob Krzywak

On Saturday, May 26th, a grand feast took place at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev as two great teams, Real Madrid and Liverpool FC, clashed in the final of the UEFA Champions League. The match was packed with situations football fans have never dreamt of.

It is worth looking at the event from a technical angle. The spectacle was transmitted in 4K standard (40 video cameras working in many configurations) along with 3D Audio/Dolby Atmos (more than 50 microphones), working with the most modern broadcast trucks, logistics vehicles and even a helicopter.

Olympic Stadium in Kiev

UEFA Media Rights & Production Services were responsible for the delivery of the broadcast and technical production of the match, appointing German broadcasting company TVN MOBILE PRODUCTION, which involved 73 specialists on this project.

Enjoy the discussion with TVN MOBILE PRODUCTION on technical support, logistics, preparations and the broadcast itself.

Multimediav: This match was one of the most important sport events of the year. How much time did the preparations demand?

TVN Mobile Production: Following the tender procedure in 2017, for which extensive documentation had to be submitted, we were awarded the contract by UEFA at the end of November. Preparations began immediately. First on-site appointments and previews took place in November 2017.

What do the logistics of such preparations look like?

The preparations to be made are immense: logistics, insurance, route planning, carnet, border crossings or customs clearance, then the entire personnel planning including checking ID documents and health examinations. Finally, of course, the assembly and preparation of the complete production technology is on the agenda.

Is technical documentation available to you before such events?

Yes, we received a comprehensive overview of requirements and specifications from UEFA which we had to adhere to. UEFA have extremely enacting standards, both for their 4K and HD deliveries. But especially in connection with UHD/4K, all positions were optimized until the last minute and modified with regard to the changes requested by the customer and the director (e.g. additional cameras, position changes).

The TVN Mobile Production team

Who in the team is responsible for such a production?

UEFA Media Rights & Production Services appoint a team to oversee and manage the whole production project. TVN then also assign their own team to manage this delivery, who are available to UEFA as a primary contact. We appoint experts in each area, who then concentrate on such a project around the clock. Besides the planners and dispatchers, we have a fleet management team as well as technical managers for video and audio with their teams.

Did you use several broadcast trucks for the transmission and production?

We used three OB vans plus four set-up trucks altogether, including one for the ZDF unilateral production. Our complete fleet is networked. Some vehicles served as a backup solution for uninterrupted production in the event of any failure.

What setup is in each of broadcast trucks?

Our OB vans are equipped with a fully redundant 3G video router (GV in OB van 2, Imagine in OB van 5), which also embeds and de-embeds. In every OB van, the Lawo mc² mk2 console is connected to the router via Madi; VSM takes care of the intelligent audio routing in between. TVN uses Sony for UHD technology – from mixers and HDR format converters to all system cameras. Necessary conversions from 3G to 1080i were done by Lynx Green Machine and the Linx Titan. The Riedel Artist Intercom system of both OB vans was coupled via fiber optics.

Preparation for unloading

The audio concept consisted of three sound control rooms. TVN-UE2 with the Lawo MC 56 produced the main feed for UHD in stereo and 5.1. The sound control room in TVN-UE5 produced the multifeeds with a Lawo MC 66 MK2. Here, all superflash and flash interviews were produced in parallel – it also served as a backup audio control room for the event of a failure of the main OB truck. The third sound control room was an MC36 in a container control room for Dolby Atmos. For communication, the two OB vans were networked and about 80 Artist call stations and several 4 Wires were used.

I am very curious about the audio/video signal transfer. What did it look like from a technical aspect?

The special feature of the signal routing was the fact that the UHD workflow required video signals in 1080p50 to be exchanged between the OB trucks and the T.O.C.; this required the use of high-quality BNC cables and 3G-compatible hardware. We are talking about more than 150 video signals, many of which contain 16 channels of audio.

We enjoyed a high visual quality thanks to 4K broadcast. What was the setup like?

UEFA had 29 cameras in UHD mode in operation, which ensured that 95% of the produced broadcast signal was real UHD. The remaining upconverted 5% of the transmitted signal consisted of the tunnel camera, the high-speed cameras and the slow motion playback.

40 video cameras is an impressive number. How were they distributed at the stadium?

The football stars should not remain unobserved for a moment. In addition to the traditional game cameras, 5 cameras alone accompanied the stars to the dressing rooms. Three cameras watched the coaches during the game, another two watched VIPs in the audience such as Kiev mayor Mr. Klitschko. Nine high-speed cameras showcased every major incident with 600 frames per second, while the spidercam slid above the players’ heads and captured the pictures from a bird’s eye view – also in full UHD. Two beauty shots – one camera mounted in the stadium, another on a 65m high lifting truck outside the stadium – captured the evening mood in and around the stadium.

What does the signal transfer between video cameras and broadcast trucks look like?

All cameras are connected to the OB van using fibre optics. The traditional copper cable can no longer be used with the amount of data generated by a UHD camera. In addition, the distances between the TV compound and the stadium were unusually long: UEFA and TVN alone used 25km of camera cable in Kiev. What is more, special cameras such as the in-goal-chips or remote cabin cams were operated via our stage boxes, which were also used to connect microphones and displays with the OB van. In total, 31km of glass fibre had been laid in the stadium for the host broadcasting cameras alone.

There was also a helicopter? What equipment did it have on board?

A Sony F55 UHD camera was installed in the helicopter, which could be swivelled out of the cabin via remote control. A special mount absorbed any vibration caused to the camera by the helicopter. The signal was sent to the OB truck in UHD and in parallel in HD to ensure double transmission security and the best picture quality in HD and UHD at the same time with Vislink hardware.

The helicopter’s signal was discreetly transmitted to many customers on the TV compound, so that its spectacular aerial images could be seen on TV almost continuously anywhere in the world.

Were there really 50 microphones in the arena?

There were even a few more. On the field alone there were 25 microphones that were only used for close balls. In addition, there was the microphony for the Ambience, consisting of 5 x Sennheiser ORTF stereo microphones and two special main microphones. We hung the Schoeps ORTF 3D in the stadium roof and used it as main microphone for Dolby Atmos and Dolby 5.1.  The Sennheiser Ambeo was used as the second main microphone. This microphone has the advantage of being very small and can be installed at the height of camera 1. Another advantage of Ambisonics technology is that it can convert any format with 4 audio signals. In addition, there were about 15 microphones on the handheld cameras, most of which were Sennheiser MKH 418S. And not to forget, we still had about 15 x Sennheiser MD 46s in use on the multilateral reporter positions.

Sound at the highest level

The characteristics of the microphones differs according to the needs?

Supercardioid for closeballs and cameras. Room systems and ORTF for audience.

What does the use of Dolby Atmos technology change in the production of such sporting events?

Only a few additional microphones, new encoders and the necessary monitoring technology are required. In relation to this, the output is immense.

With regard to Audio/Dolby Atmos, the production required hardly any additional effort and ran smoothly. The 3D sound experience in football is great.

How is the audio mixed?

In a mobile sound control room with 5.1.4 monitoring technology and Lawo mixing console with Neumann loudspeakers.

Finally I would like to ask about the level of difficulty and problems which occur during the production… Can they be avoided?

Each production brings its own special challenges – technically you can avoid most of them by using your own equipment. Especially in Kiev, the language barrier and the Cyrillic alphabet have somewhat restricted our ability to act outside the stadium – where do you buy mineral water for the crew, for example, and how do you order the pizza on the phone for them? But we were able to help each other very well in Kiev, as we also have two Ukrainians in our team.

Thank you for the talk.

Thank you.