Far for been satisfied with the progress achieved so far, Mediapro continues to focus on the next technical innovations. LaLiga’s technological provider has left its mark of innovation in the successful history of the competition, but it strives to achieve more. Mediapro CTO Emili Planas highlights that LaLiga is a global pioneer in the use of HDR technology or 360º systems. We asked him about the following challenges of the company.
Interview with Emili Planas, Mediapro
1.- What specific challenges do sports broadcasting pose compared to other productions?
There are many sports, and each one is unique in its own way, but, if we generalise, there are certain challenges that repeat time and time again. The most important thing is that maximum interest concentrates during the live broadcast, so all efforts must be made to tell people what is happening at that very moment. For this reason, in each event, we focus both on ensuring the production, using backup strategies, as well as showcasing the best of each sport using the finest possible resources. This involves from high-speed cameras, large optics and special cameras to quality replay equipment that is fast and accurate in operation, among other things. Although, having a leading team of professionals who know how to make the most of the best technology is essential.
2.- The production of specific football matches, such as the Classic Madrid-Barça match, involves a greater deployment of equipment. What challenges does this type of sporting event pose in relation to workflow or integration of technologies and equipment?
We produce more than 2,500 football matches worldwide every year at Mediapro, but we always treat the Classics as something special. Not only because each Classic has more audience than the Superbowl final, but also because the level of demand is at its highest. Years ago, a Classic meant using twice or three times more resources than any other match. Today, this difference is much smaller, because the resources used in the production of the two best matches of each day have risen almost to the level of a Classic.
Even so, there are challenges in terms of workflows or integration of technologies, since twice as many people congregate in the production of the Classics and, in addition to the international signal of the match, we offer a multitude of technical and production services to all television broadcasters who have broadcasting rights.
3.- The Spanish league is at the forefront of football broadcasts. What technical innovations stand out in your productions compared to those of other leagues?
LaLiga has always been at the forefront of television production, understanding that the best league in the world must have the best television production. Since the very first day of last 16/17 season, Mediapro began producing one LaLiga match per week in UHD-HDR, making it the first regular competition to be produced in HDR in the world. Now, we produce two games per day in UHD-HDR, maintaining our position as a benchmark in this field. With this, we aim to create more realistic images to offer more immersive productions.
Another innovation compared to similar competitions is that for this season, LaLiga will have a fixed aerial camera installation (OmniCam4Sky) in ten stadiums. LaLiga is also the world’s first regular football competition with a permanent installation of the Intel 360 replay system. We went from two to four stadiums with this technology, which allows us to literally fly to any of the points of interest that the producers may be interested in through virtualisation with real imaging.
This season, we have incorporated VR graphics with tracking, which allows visualising data on the field of play or right next to the players during the game, making the data obtained from Mediacoach or the information related to the game strategies come across as being much more visual.
And we continue to be leaders in remote production, which has allowed us to improve the level of match productions with fewer resources.
4.- What is the level of collaboration of the production teams and stadiums to ensure optimum quality productions?
The mentality of clubs and stadium managers is getting better and better in relation to productions. In recent years, teamwork with a common project vision has become commonplace. This allows us to make improvements that add value to LaLiga and facilitate innovation and quality in each production. These improvements range from better lighting in the stadiums to good turf care, to rigorous compliance with the times when players and coaches are involved in interviews and press conferences, among other things.
5.- Mediapro is one of 14 companies approved by FIFA to supply VAR technology. This is a significant challenge because it implies, among other things, the provision of all the technical support for the viewing room, operators and technicians in charge of image search. Hawk-Eye is currently the official supplier of all VAR technology used by FIFA, but their contract ends next summer. FIFA will then have to find a new VAR operator: Will this be one of the next big challenges for Mediapro?
We are putting a lot of effort into offering the best technology for VAR, taking into account all our experience in regular match production. This experience within the Mediapro Group is a major differentiating factor, where we can offer, in addition to the quality required for the VAR, added security, operability and flexibility. The Portuguese League and Libertadores Cup have relied on Mediapro for their VAR projects, and we are confident that other leagues and federations will do the same in the future.
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