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Digital Stadia / Venue | 27.11.14

Broadcast Experiment

Innovating the way fans watch sport’s biggest event

World football’s governing body used the 2014 FIFA World Cup as a testing ground for three broadcast innovations that, in the long-term, could transform the way fans watch sport’s biggest event.

FIFA will be the subject of two groundbreaking films this year, but the likelihood is that you’ll only know about one of them.

United Passions, part-funded by FIFA and described by international media across the world as a “vanity project”, was created alongside France-based production companies Leuviah and Thelma, and may set a record for being the most publicised movie that no-one will ever watch.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter – played by Pulp Fiction star Tim Roth, naturally – plays a central role in the film that charts the organisation’s history right up to the point South Africa wins the vote to host the 2010 World Cup.

In October, 100 or so people were lucky enough to watch United Passions on the doorstep of FIFA HQ at the Zurich Film Festival, taking the overall takings to the $200,000 mark – according to film industry analyst Rentrak – some way short of the reported $27 million cost of the film.

However, 24 hours after that exclusive screening in Zurich, FIFA FILMS – the federation’s official partner responsible for the maintenance, management and commercialisation of FIFA’s archive – were promoting an altogether more credible cinematic release, the official 2014 World Cup film.

The film is partly the result of a FIFA media strategy that has focused on greater production innovation, focusing on 4K, 8K and 360-degree broadcast.

As Ivory Coast striker Gervinho headed in the winner against Japan on June 15, FIFA cameras were also able to zoom into the ex-Arsenal striker’s infamous hairline in greater quality than 4K, its partnership with Japanese broadcaster NHK allowing it to test 8K technology over nine World Cup matches including the final.

As you might have guessed, 8K racks up the resolution a step further to a resolution of 7680×4320, double that of 4K’s 3840×2160. Around 9,000 fans watched 8K World Cup productions at four live public-viewing sites in Japan.

The last major 2014 FIFA broadcast innovation, however, looks set to become a museum relic straight away. In partnership with the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute in Berlin, FIFA used the OmniCam system to give fans a 360-degree experience of the World Cup final.

In effect, 10 digital cameras produced 10 different 36-degree mirror segments that were stitched together in real-time to generate a broadcast panorama. However, like the other new innovations, FIFA says whether or not this technology will become widespread is “under evaluation”, and for now, the only certain destination for this technology will be in the new Football Museum in Zurich, expected to open in 2016.

According to FIFA, the investment in 4K is about being “more democratic” in its technical broadcast values around major events: “For the first time we worked out that no-one was watching [4K] on a small screen, and we knew that the definition was greatly improved, so it allowed us to make different choices when covering a football match.

“Because player recognition was not lost on a ‘wider’ camera, we decided to play it even wider. This separated us from the HD production and also showed off the screen size [of 4K TVs] and the extra definition of 4K, while also allowing the viewer to focus on a different aspect of football – the decision-making.

“At all relevant times, it was possible to see all the options available to the players both on the ball and off the ball. Our wider and less flexible lenses give us a less dynamic but more democratic type of coverage – it was up to the viewer to decide where to look more than being told where to look.”

By Owen Evans, Deputy Editor, SportBusiness International

Leaders Week New York

20 - 23 May 2019


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