Best foot forward

The FIFA 2002 World Cup kicks off in Japan this month and it won’t just be Beckham's haircut that is cutting edge. The technology used to televise the event is light years ahead of anything we have seen before. Digital Studio looks forward to a viewing experience like no other.

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By  Marcus Webb Published  May 29, 2002

Kick off|~||~||~|Forty billion people are expected to watch this year’s FIFA World Cup tournament, making it the largest television event in the world. The task of covering every kick of the event has fallen to Host Broadcasting Services (HBS) which shall provide multilateral radio and television coverage of the 64 matches to the event’s broadcast partners (BPs).

For the first time, this year's tournament shall be captured entirely in digital format, with absolutely no analogue or composite video broadcast technology being used.

The HBS video feeds shall be produced with 4/3 aspect ratio in the chosen 4:2:2 digital component standard compliant with SMPTE, in the 525-line / 60 Hz format. Interface to the telecommunications network will be at 270Mbits/s (ITU-R-BT-601-5). HBS has selected the Panasonic DVC-Pro 50 as the video standard tape format.

They shoot, they score

The decision to shoot digitally is a major innovation and shall offer enhanced broadcast possibilities, which go far beyond improvements in picture quality.

For the 64 matches of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, HBS will provide two categories of multilateral coverage: The Basic International Feed and a package of 'Super Feeds' delivered according to the rights acquired by the broadcast partners.

According to HBS, the basic international feed (BIF) will be of a superior standard to that of France 98 and will be produced with at least 20 cameras and six EVS multi-channel live, slow-motion machines (including 3 super slow-motions).

The coverage will be enhanced for the nine major matches, which are the opening, quarter-final, semi-final, third place play off and final matches. These matches will be produced with 23 cameras and nine EVS multi-channel live slow-motion machines (including 6 super slow-motions).

The BIF will start 10 minutes before the kick-off and finish 5 minutes after the final whistle.

In addition to the BIF, a package of super feeds will be produced for each match. These comprise the extended basic international feed (EBIF), a set of supplemental and isolated feeds (ISO feeds). These services enable a broadcast partner to differentiate his broadcast material from that of other broadcast partners.

The EBIF provides broadcast partners with extended match coverage including the periods before and after the BIF.

The EBIF will start 30 minutes before the kick off and finish 30 minutes after the final whistle. This means the EBIF will start 20 minutes before the BIF and finish 25 minutes after.

For nine major matches, the EBIF will start 60 minutes before kick-off, 50 minutes before the BIF. The actual coverage of the match will be identical to that in the BIF. There are three supplemental feeds supplied with multi channel stereo sound (TV International sound stereo + multi-channel 3 & 4).

A host of other feeds shall be available to enhance the quality of broadcasts. The tactical feed shall broadcast a continuous wide-angle shot of the pitch, allowing broadcast providers to identify and comment on tactical situations. Individual team feeds will focus exclusively on each team and provide broadcast partners with additional shots. Continuous isolated feeds provided from four selected cameras, called iso-feeds, will run throughout the game. These will include the venue's wide-angle beauty shot, a view from a fixed camera positioned in most cases on the stadium roof.

Spreading the play

For the first time in World Cup history two nations, Japan and Korea, will host this year’s tournament. Each country will have its own distinctive international broadcast centre (IBC.) One IBC will be set up in Seoul, Korea (IBC1-Seoul), while the other will be located in Yokohama, Japan (IBC2-Yokohama). Each IBC will act as a hub, receiving all video and sound signals arriving from each stadium. The IBC's shall be equipped to handle multilateral, unilateral and V&A (video and audio) signals alongside commentary and coordination circuits.

The signals will be distributed to the on-site broadcast partners’ unilateral facilities. From here broadcasters can add their own unique features such as talk shows, interviews, edited features. The signals are then sent to the satellite farm from where they are sent on to broadcast companies worldwide.

Both IBCs will contain production and engineering facilities as well as host broadcaster premises such as master control rooms, telco rooms, commentary switching centres and broadcast studios.

Slowing the pace

EVS shall be providing the majority of slow motion replay and highlights editing systems for this year’s World Cup. EVS shall be shipping 181/2 tons of equipment to Japan and Korea for the Cup. In all, 27 slow-motion engineers and operator trainers, a mixture of EVS employees and specialised free-lancers, shall be working on the event.
The project is taking place in collaboration with Thomson (High Speed cameras), Canon (70x zooms), Egripment and Vinten (camera support hardware). No less than 100 LSM-XTs are being deployed, 30 of which will be used in Super Motion mode in conjunction with the LDK-23mkII cameras.

According to EVS, "HBS is committed to take the quality of broadcasting up to unprecedented heights.” At first, the matches will be covered by twenty cameras and nine LSM-XTs, three of which will be operating in Super Motion mode. At least 23 cameras will be available for the nine major matches, fourteen of which will be routed to LSM-XTs. Six of these cameras will be LDK-23s supported by LSM-XTs in Super Motion mode. That means a total of twelve LSM-XTs per match.

Editing of highlights sequences will be possible on all LSM-XT systems. But two EVS AirBox servers are there specifically for the highlights feed, benefiting from a preview channel and mix/wipe effects on the main output.

Another manufacturer that is offering advanced solutions for slow motion applications for the World Cup is Doremi Labs, based in Burbank, California. Doremi has provided digital video disk recorders and video servers to a number of leading broadcasters for use in the tournament. BBC Resources will be using a park of more than a dozen Doremi machines as part of their live broadcasts of soccer matches.

Doremi's V1 DDR line includes uncompressed, MPEG2, and M-JPEG disk recorders. The V1 models suitable for slow motion replay are the V1-MP2 and V1x2. The V1-MP2 records with MPEG2 video compression and offers simultaneous record and play capability. The V1x2 features two independent video channels and uses MJPEG compression. Both models’ operation is similar for the slow motion application.
The V1-MP2 or V1x2 can record the entire live event while allowing the operator to instantly access any section of the video for play back in variable speed slow motion. As the live video plays the operator selects in and out points to create a video clip. When the desired clip is required to play in slow motion a single press of the button on the V1 front panel or the slow motion controller will instantly cue the V1 to the start point of the clip, where it will start playing the clip in slow motion.

According to Doremi, “the V1 disk recorder solution is a major advance over the current tape-based systems. A tape-based system is more expensive, requires two tape decks and the tape system is much slower, with the operator forced to wait as the tape deck shuttles to the desired point in the video. In addition, such a system requires expensive slow motion controllers. With the V1-MP2 or V1x2 slow motion control can be made using the front panel. This means a slow motion system can be put together for between US$11 and $15 thousand.”

The V1-MP2 recorder uses high quality MPEG2 compression (up to 50Mbs). Unlike other MPEG2 players/recorders that use IBP GOP structure, the V1-MP2 uses a 2 frame (IB) GOP compression structure and advanced constant block size compression system (CBSC) for frame accurate control and synchronization of audio and video.

The ground work

More than 2,000 km of cabling will be laid for the tournament. All wire will be supplied by Belden who will provide coax cabling to feed all incoming and outgoing signals to the static and mobile broadcast facilities set up at each stadium.

German company BFE, which builds studios for TV and radio stations, won the contract to build 42 forty-foot containers to fulfil the broadcast needs at each event and supply material for more than 200 commentator suites, eleven recording and presentations studios and up to 32 production units.

Approximately 1.5 million metres of Belden Brilliance audio and video coax cable for digital and analogue applications was provided to BFE.

"The order was manufactured and delivered to Germany in approximately three weeks," says Paul Cross, general manager of Belden Australia. "It took a concerted effort by everyone involved, including suppliers, to meet this large demand in such a short amount of time."

At the end of the day...

By the time the final whistle blows on the 2002 World Cup final on 30 June more than 1,000 hours of multilateral broadcast feeds will have been created by Host Broadcast Services, over 100 hours of HDTV will have been transmitted from over 260 cameras, operated from ten mobile flight case control rooms.
The fact that the entire process will have been conducted digitally is a revolution in modern sports broadcasting. Digital technology will ensure that the images of the 2002 World Cup shall be clearer than ever before. This, combined with advances in slow-motion technology and the increased level of interactivity offered by many broadcasters, promise to make the 2002 World Cup will be a joy to behold, no matter how your team performs.
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