ITV Sport: A breathtaking coverage of the Rugby World Cup from the Land of the Rising Sun

Anna Valley - Pic of Rudby World Cup Stage for ITV Sport coverage

Technical challenges, complicated logistics and a “Super Typhoon” were not enough to stop what undoubtedly was one of the most complete coverages of the Rugby World Cup 2019. ITV Sport has demonstrated its versatility and adaptation during the 5 weeks that it lasted one of the most important sporting events of the year. Find out how the broadcast was done by reading this interview with Roger Pearce, technical director at ITV Sport.

What have been ITV Sport work areas at Rugby World Cup?

ITV presented the Group Phase of the tournament from The Maidstone Studios. We had three commentary teams, and three reporting teams in Japan throughout the tournament, plus three “Venue Inject” teams that could be deployed at any game to provide two live remote presentation cameras into the UK hub studio. At the knockout phase, we moved the full presentation to Japan with fly-away OB’s at Oita and Yokohama stadiums. The Tokyo games were remotely presented into the main OB’s using 5 cameras via IGBS GEth fibre.

What has been the biggest challenge of the Rugby World Cup coverage?

The biggest technical challenge was devising a workflow that handled extensive host material in 1080 59.94p and delivering the programming in 1080i 25 whilst maintaining the highest quality possible. We decided to create a 59.94p island in the UK so that standards conversion was kept to a minimum. The logistics of moving nine roving teams and a major OB operation around Japan have been a huge challenge for our production managers. We also had to cope with a “Super Typhoon” half way through the tournament which caused the IBC (International Broadcast Center) to be shut down as a precaution. This removed our small technical hub in Japan for a day but it was understandable that the primary consideration of IGBS and ITV was the safety of everyone in Japan.

What has been the transmission standard for your coverage? Are you already working in 4K / HDR?

We present in HD SDR on all platforms.

What technical resources did you use to produce a regular tournament match?

UK Studio was The Maidstone Studios (Large Studio and galleries, MCR, 5 x Avid Edits and media management). OB facilities in Japan were provided by NEP (2 x Flyaway OB with 8 x Cameras, EVS etc.). The extensive connectivity was provided by Globecast.

What about the final match of the tournament? Was the production different?

We had a two hour build-up for the Final so used two extra pitchside presentation positions to enhance our existing pitch-view presentation studio. The aim was to stay pitchside as much as possible to give the viewer a real feel for the occasion. We also covered 3 Fan Parks in the UK using LiveU equipped camera crews.

You have also done a complete daily coverage. How has the production of these connections been?

We presented the intensive group phase from the UK, so we were able to take the World Distributed game coverage augmented by a number of ISO feeds from the IBC in Japan. World Rugby also provided additional material via direct access to its media server (The TRI). The match days contained up to four live games a day with 48 in total.

Transmission devices are getting more and more relevant for the production and coverage of these events. What system did you use?

Globecast provided an extensive contribution and acquisition network between Japan and the UK. In addition, we used LiveU to get media from our reporting teams back to the studio and OB. This has worked well for us over a number of years and makes getting material back for editing or live injects straightforward. We shot all location material in 59.94p and edited it in Maidstone, which worked well.  We have also developed the LiveU workflow to allow the system to be deployed as “disaster recovery” backup to our main fibre and satellite delivered contribution feeds to the ITV transmission centre. We use the “least cost bonding” feature to maintain a cost effective path using a mix of Internet, 4G and Ka satellite data.

AR graphics - ITV Sport

Some companies already offer equipment ready for 5G broadcasts. Did you study the implementation of these resources?

We did consider 5G based technology but it was not mature enough in either the UK or Japan to be used effectively, so we ruled it out for this tournament. 5G will offer offer a deployment and cost benefit if the manufacturers, such as LiveU, Mobile Viewpoint and Dejero can deliver at the right price. However, the real benefits of 5G will only be obvious to the broadcaster when slicing is routinely deliverable at a reasonable price.

What graphic system did you deploy?

Vizrt based studio and OB graphics from Alston Elliott. The UK studio used foreground and background AR graphics to enhance the presentation. Displays and AR processing were by Anna Valley.

Have you benefit of remote production systems during the production of the Rugby World Cup?

We remotely presented the Tokyo quarter finals and Bronze game via IGBS fibre into our Oita and Yokohama OB’s.  We have been using remote presentation workflows since the FIFA World Cup in Brazil 2014, and consider it a valuable option for situations such as this where having a second OB operation in Japan would have been both impractical and cost-prohibitive.

Have you tested any new technology during Rugby World Cup?

We pushed the boundaries in every area on this one. The production requirement was extensive so we have had to think creatively and remain agile in our planning. The 59.94p workflow meant that we were often jumping new hurdles in building an effective 3G post production hub within the live coverage overlay.

In your opinion, what will be the next groundbreaking technology that will shake Rugby World Cup 2023?

The future of broadcast coverage of major sports events has to migrate to the cloud and I can see this evolving as the services become available. If 5G slicing can be delivered by 2023 then it will undoubtedly be a major bonus to the broadcaster in enabling fast and cost-effective access to live and recorded feature material.

This report was originally published on TM Broadcast International 76

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