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https://www.panoramaaudiovisual.com/en/2021/09/09/mediapro-laliga-claves-tecnologicas-temporada-21-22-futuro-retransmisiones/

Cinema Camera LaLiga 2020-2021 Mediapro

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After the absence of the public due to the pandemic, LaLiga begins a new season in which UHD, immersive sound, remote production, the use of the cloud, multi-screen, 5G or virtual advertising make up the added value that has made from the broadcasts of the best league in the world, a world reference in broadcasting.

Emili Planas Mediapro

Emili Planas, CTO and operations manager of Mediapro; Òscar Lago, director of Mediapro, and Sergio Sánchez Castañer, Head of TV Production of LaLiga share some of the new lines of work in sports production at the highest level.

The technical, visual and narrative evolution of sports productions dedicated to the king of sports have been characterized by unstoppable progress for decades.

Óscar Lago - Mediapro

The will of the football clubs, the invaluable support of LaLiga towards the internationalization of the competition, the courageous support of content providers and the unquestionable talent of production companies such as Mediapro have made LaLiga, today, , innovation node and know how.

Sergio Sanchez LaLigaThe question is not trivial. The thousands of hours of work dedicated to the work, either. A constant collective effort is what has ended up defining the competition as a world reference in terms of sports performance, technological impulse and support for the development of clubs. Everything is measured, everything has a meaning and everything is rethought week by week.

The last major rethinking took place just a few months ago, when the Mediapro team, led by Òscar Lago and Emili Planas, together with the LaLiga division led by Sergio Sánchez Castañer, tackled a new season marked by a gradual return to normality .

Mobile Unit - Òscar Lago - Mediapro - LaLiga

The public returns to the stadiums

The relaxation of the sanitary measures has allowed us to begin to see the public occupying the stands of competitions such as LaLiga. And with this movement, everything changes. The narration returns to its being, and from the training environment it evolves to the reflection of the true football passion, in which the fans passionately deposit their feelings. This, how could it be otherwise, is reflected in the production of LaLiga. Planas exemplifies this change with the return of 5.1 audio, which "made no sense" without the absence of the environment surrounding the competition.

Lago brings the operational side of the production, but also the creative side, the one that will end up defining the story surrounding the meeting. For him, the return of the public marks a before and after. Now they can play with plans that they didn't have before. You can show the reaction of the public "when there is an important play or a goal", something that, in short, "helps a lot to the television show”.

The pandemic has served to put the value on role of the public in sports broadcasts. But also to improve the broadcast. This “freedom” when it comes to redefining positions has made it possible to improve the coaching chamber, which was previously “lateral, in profile”; or keep robotic cameras in the locker room tunnels, which "take up less space and give a more beautiful shot than the one provided by the operator with the camera on his shoulder". Apart from the capture, this period has helped Mediapro to experiment with "decentralized and delocalized" production elements, as well as to develop new augmented reality graphics with tracking data from Mediacoach. “We are going to maintain the technical knowledge that we achieved thanks to Covid,” Lago emphasizes.

Extensive coordination work

blankSergio Sánchez is clear that LaLiga, as a "reference competition worldwide", has the purpose of being at the "technological vanguard”. In this way, it assumes a role of “disseminator, prescriber and promoter of the development of technology applied to television broadcasting in sport”. It is a process carried out hand in hand clubs, rights owners and Mediapro itself, fostering a "coordinated and sustained" work that works on a "strategy of continuous improvement and development of television production." Whether through continuous meetings or with the figure of the match director, who verifies that the necessary support is given to meet audiovisual quality standards, the competition always walks towards improvement, guided by high demands.

In the end, LaLiga puts all kinds of resources with the firm objective of achieving compliance with its quality standards: "We share the goals of the seasons, the new resources available, we review procedures and we carry out supervision and correction game by game", he remarks. Sánchez on the continued work of all the agents that make the tournament possible.

Drone LaLiga 2020-2021 Mediapro

How do you improve a high-level broadcast?

Technological leaps can accompany the improvement of production. Thanks to "small" resources, such as innovative realization or the mere implementation of HDR, that always grateful "wow" effect of a broadcast can be generated. However, how can you improve the production of a sports competition? Is the solution to scale the resources? Perhaps in adding new elements?

On behalf of LaLiga, Sergio Sanchez addresses the issue from two perspectives: quantitative and qualitative. Within the first group, he highlights the “enormous” increase in the endowment of technological resources: “We have more and more cameras, more modern mobile units, we do remote productions in many more matches, we have LaLiga audiovisual assets in the stadiums, such as aerial cameras…”. However, he passionately defends the qualitative progress, which passes for “add value added content” different from what can be found in other competitions. In this area, Sánchez highlights the use of drones or the new cinematographic camera.

From Mediapro, Lago considers it necessary to clarify that the scaling of technological solutions, although it is a great resource, is not always the best tool: “A greater number of cameras does not allow you to use more shots during the broadcast or increase the rate of shots. […] It is something that should be assessed qualitatively and not quantitatively”. According to the director, having more camera angles and measurements will improve replays and images seen on the pitch, being able to choose the best angle for each moment. This is how you work in big competitions such as world championships or European Championships, in which you work even with 44 cameras.

Planas shares his colleague's opinion, although he points out that a growth path involves adding cameras with better or different features, such as high-speed cameras: "The quality implicit in each camera also implies a higher quality on the part of the viewer in the perception of the play.


To innovate or not?

A question arises to me, to what extent can new elements be added without breaking the daily life to which the football spectator is accustomed?

Oscar Lago: “Al final, conducting a football match consists of telling a story. Make known what is happening on the ground with all its collateral actions and with all its background. However, sometimes breaking something means the viewer doesn't like it. We continually think of the viewer. That's why we constantly analyze and evaluate what he likes and doesn't like. We try to have the best elements and, above all, to be very innovative, although innovation sometimes means risk and not getting it right. Our goal is to make things that most viewers like. And now, with all this new situation of whether young viewers are not so hooked on football or not (there would be a lot to talk about here), we also try to capture the attention of young viewers”.

What things do you have in mind to capture this audience?

Oscar Lago: “We think about many things. What's more, I'm sure that in a year or two we'll be doing things that don't even cross our minds. The cinematographic image, for example, has been a "boom" in young people, since it reminds them of video games and gives a sensation of hyper-realism. Other things that we have contemplated is the multiscreen, which will have an evolution in the future. Perhaps, although we are doing futurology here, we will be able to provide different graphic options during the match depending on the type of public. One will be able to watch the match with the same realization, with a very tactical graphic design; and another will be able to see it with a funnier, more carefree staging”.

Sergio Sanchez: “We are not discovering anything in the sense that each generation consumes content differently. It is a challenge to offer more personalized or adapted content to each viewer profile. […] In sight are the experiences that have been developed successfully, such as the “casters”, which was a brave decision in its day. There are many viewer profiles and the challenge is to offer different possibilities so that each viewer finds their preferred option”.


LaLiga 2021-2022 Multiscreen Mediapro

The multiscreen arrives at LaLiga

One of the main novelties of the 21/22 LaLiga season is its multipantalla, a parallel signal that shows a different way of watching the game, with a selection of parallel shots that allow a different follow-up of the action than the one that the spectator usually does.

As Planas comments, this initiative responds to a new viewers profile. We are talking about people who no longer watch television, but who frequently consume soccer through their tablet or computer. This public, accustomed to consuming in a multidisciplinary environment such as Twitch o YouTube, requires a new type of stimulus to capture its engagement. The proposal, halfway between a proposal for interactivity and the second screen with additional information, seeks to complement the current commitment of the operators, although its evolution in the medium term is not ruled out.

How is this signal produced? As detailed by Planas, all the signals travel from the mobile unit to the Barcelona production center, from which LaLiga's production is centralized. From this reception of live signals, all the screens are generated through a production system in cloud and the final production is sent to the different destinations.

The value of the cinematic look

The cinematographic camera It is one of the main developments that came to fruition during the 20/21 season, marked by the pandemic. It is quite a milestone, if we consider the generous acceptance by the respectable of this look cinematographic, a term translated in the Mediapro production for LaLiga by a limited depth of field and a slightly different color treatment.

blank"To do that look cinematographic we needed a large sensor camera, a full frame 35 mm”, Planas begins to detail the process of selecting and adapting LaLiga's cinematographic camera. The first tests began with a camera Sony Alpha and Prime optics without zoom "to be able to play with very open diaphragms". Once satisfied with the visual finish, Lago suggested the need to be able to use that camera as if it were one more in a game. In his own words: “The final camera works in dual mode. It has a television mode, with a normal camera depth, and with a very quick change it goes to cinema mode. Currently, this system operated with a steady It is used for previews, warm-ups, players exiting the field of play, out-of-bounds or goal celebrations, among other uses.

The camera that the Mediapro team has finally opted for is a Sony Venice, which shares a sensor size with the Sony Alpha and allows colorimetry and dynamic range to be adjusted much more quickly. Requiring a focus puller for best results, the system picks up live signals with virtually no latency in 1080p50 HDR 10-bit 4:2:2. However, the original signal it captures is 4K, material that can be used later for archiving or summaries.

FanCam LaLiga 2021-2022 Mediapro

Bringing the competition closer to the viewer

Another key this year is the fancam, a resource to bring the protagonists of the action, the footballers, closer to their followers in a much closer way. And there is a collective desire to bring viewers closer to the action. However, there are barriers. Barriers overcome in other teams but that in the world of football have not yet been crossed. Listening to the coaches give instructions or obtain biometric data of the action, as has happened in other competitions, could help reduce the distance with the players.

FanCam LaLiga 2021-2022The reality is that neither in LaLiga nor in any other top-level football competition has this season been opened. In Planas' opinion, although these types of resources are technically possible, they may not be positive for the competition. Lago shares the opinion of his colleague, and stresses the need to put the value the progress of the competition during the last decade. “Ten years ago there were no rules to follow. Each television that had rights negotiated directly with each club every week to get what kind of images. Everything was very unstable. There are thousands of sounds that were not captured because it was not allowed to put a microphone or a television in a specific place”, he comments, to later vindicate the current situation: “Now we have a regulation and we all go hand in hand with the same objective. The clubs have understood that the improvement of audiovisual production is not a whim of a television or a producer, but rather it directly benefits them […] We work in a very comfortable way and at all times they encourage us to make improvements”. “In the end there is things that are private and they do not favor the competition or anyone else. It is a very simple regulation that is neither more nor less restrictive than other competitions”, says Lago.

Sánchez, for his part, acknowledges that football has historically been a sport “extremely conservative” regarding the “preservation of the privacy of some content”. In his opinion, sport must "evolve" in order to become "more televised and closer to the viewer." The person in charge of LaLiga, although he recognizes the progress that has been made in this regard in recent years, placing value on the television transmission regulations previously referred to by Òscar Lago, considers that it is necessary to continue carrying out educational work on “ value of the generation of audiovisual resources on the development of the structure of the competition itself and its clubs”.

Òscar Lago Mediapro Mobile Unit LaLiga

UHD production in LaLiga

Currently, LaLiga has several games every week with a production in UHD. This operation began in the 2016/2017 season. At that time, the Mediapro team had a UHD mobile unit with 8 4K cameras, which amounted to a third of the entire production. It was a complex period, given that, as Planas relates, “at that time no one did UHD live”. In fact, it could be doubted that the production was clearly profitable considering the percentage of viewers that could enjoy this resolution and features.

Over the years and seasons, the situation has changed. Mediapro has bet everything on UHD production, developing its own internal workflow to be able to offer an HD signal of the highest quality starting from a 4K workflow. Currently, all cameras used for production, except mini cameras, start from a native 4K HDR quality. This enables maximum HD SDR quality, given that “the starting point is very high”, Planas points out.

Currently, in Spain you can see a selection of matches in UHD. But only the party. The preview of the match in 4K, something that is already offered in other European leagues, is still a pending issue. As Emili Planas explains, this decision corresponds to the operators and would imply certain high costs, given that it would not only imply transmitting images of the stadium and the environment in UHD, but also all the videos used during this format, as well as all the control of realization by the operator would have to be prepared in 4K. However, the CTO of Mediapro is confident that it will be implemented in a very short time.


Remote production in the biggest meetings

Currently, Mediapro dominates remote production flows and could launch itself to produce a classic, if you so wish, under this format. Why haven't they decided to take the leap yet? What is remote production missing to get to that point?

Emily Planas: “You have to approach production from two perspectives. Technically it is possible. That in addition to being technically possible, it is economically possible… There we could already have discussions, because we are talking about very specific events and remote production is done when you have a regular production. What's more, if you do a concrete and specific event, the technological development to cover that event is so great that in hours of engineering it probably won't work out for you. Another question, which is what Òscar can explain to you, is how to make a classic and if it could be done taking into account all the human resources involved”.

Óscar Lago: “I just have to say that it is something that will come. I don't know when, but it will come. An adaptation phase will be necessary, because in the end it is difficult to replace direct contact with people on the team. But, obviously, if the technology allows it, sooner or later it will be done”.

So, the biggest challenge could be adapting, personally, to this new type of interactions in the field of production?

Óscar Lago: “In the end, there are things that seem very far away and when you find them you adapt very easily. The production teams have been used to working offshore for many years at Mediapro and the dynamic already exists. In the end, there are things that until you do them seem impossible. But I don't see any more problem than that: an adaptation period that would surely be brief”.


CloudThe use of the cloud in sports production

The use of technology cloud in production It has multiplied exponentially in the last five years. Decisions originally discarded now become regular resources of large producers. Mediapro is no less. As Planas transfers, we are facing a “fantastic” resource, since in the absence of specific resources or when providing a service that was not planned, it works like a window to provide solutions to a production.

Computing or storage under a pay-per-use model. These and more tools are on the table. And what's more, the mobile units located in the vicinity of the stadiums show progress in this field. Planas provides more details: “Until recently, a mobile or a production center was a place full of equipment capable of receiving signals, processing them, treating them. They were made up of dedicated and very expensive machines, since they worked with baseband signals with the ability to modify very large bandwidths. The IT part has been reaching these capacities on a more or less regular basis. […] It started with the sound, then with the graphics and now it has reached the video signals”.

Despite this progress, Planas considers that "there is still a world" until a production can be done completely in the cloud. To this day, it is still worth having the computing that is leased to third parties “in your own rack room”. Mediapro, given the high specifications of its clients, does not conceive cloud production as its main way of working. The requirements are too high. The technology has not reached that point. However, it is already being put into practice in other products such as Ubeat, an eSports channel”. “Ubeat is a channel where the level of quality of service is high, but not as high as LaLiga. In addition, their workflow lends itself to doing it in the cloud”, says Planas, although they acknowledge that they study project by project the convenience, or not, of workflows in the cloud.

5G mobileDoes the 5G really Will it mark a before and after?

5G technology, which has currently reached urban centers in our country as a 4G reinforced, raises numerous possibilities in the future in terms of production. Planas, when asked about the role that future 5G networks will have, those whose specifications include solutions such as Edge computing, identifies two great apps: “For us there are two things to keep in mind regarding 5G. On the one hand, there is how we can take advantage of its bandwidth and higher level of connectivity for our production. On the other, it is to understand how 5G can increase the chances that the viewer connects with high-quality video streaming for content consumption.”

Within the first block, Planas affirms that the presence of 5G in the stadiums will not only allow for sufficient bandwidth in the stadiums, allowing sending a photo, an audio or accessing the Internet, but also offer “new types of content to the spectator who is in the field”. The Mediapro team has several ideas about what type of content could be offered to give added value to the spectator who travels to the stadium. However, the unknown is who will be able to market these new products. The club? The broadcaster? The telco? An OTT? In this regard, Sánchez defends the development of 5G, as well as new technologies, in the strategic objective of LaLiga in help clubs increase club revenue match day (game day). “In this sense, 5G will enable enormous development. Our regulations already allow the signal of the match to be easily transmitted to the spectators through the giant screens”, he affirms, opening the door to the reception of content in real time on the mobile devices of the fans.

On the other hand, there is the application of 5G in production. In this regard, Planas affirms that “remote production capacity” could be increased exponentially, reducing latency to negligible amounts for all types of productions. However, to get to this point, a true 5G network deployment is necessary, with a high density of nodes in key infrastructures… such as stadiums.

UHD Spain - LaLiga

Hyperpersonalizing virtual advertising

2012. That was the year that Mediapro implemented virtual advertising in its operations. A system that has been gaining in stability and versatility over the years, and that currently allows replace or insert specific advertising for each market. The question is its evolution. As the latest marketing trends seem to point out, increasingly closer to hyper-personalization, this involves creating personalized advertising for the viewer.

pass the 12 feeds that Mediapro currently offers at 15 or 20 is a simple matter. But personalize advertising to each user taking into account their personal preferences? That, according to Planas, is a more complex task: “Personalized advertising is a relatively complex technical level, since you have to insert the virtual one in the final device of the viewer, be it a tablet, a PC or a television. However, the challenge is also at a commercial level, since the commercialization models will have to change”.

The H.265 standards already support a graphics layer, which is used to add a specific fly or add interactive banner ads. However, from there to applying it to a broadcast and making changes to each user's own image, there is a world. Planas considers that it is difficult that “in the short term it can be done easily”. "And also make it profitable," he adds.

LaLiga is firmly committed to the development of these technological and commercial solutions. Sánchez points out that innovations in artificial intelligence have made it possible to develop this type of resource, to which the competition allocates numerous resources: “LaLiga has contracted an international company that verifies the quality of advertising virtualization game by game. […] In an extreme case of system instability, action could be taken to provide an alternative and thus protect the highest good, which is the integrity of the party's signal and its quality standards”.

LaLiga

The future of streaming

Emili Planas, Òscar Lago and Sergio Sánchez have deposited their particular vision on the development of technology in sports broadcasts. However, where is his future headed? What will mark the next five years?

Sánchez considers that tomorrow passes by continuing to contribute value added that differentiates the broadcasts, which will generate "more proximity and more closeness of the viewer with the event", making them feel "part of it". Taking this precept as a reference, the person in charge of television broadcasts at LaLiga focuses his speech on the possible participation of the viewer in the broadcast: “There is a dynamic that is clear. The viewer will be the broadcaster himself according to his way of understanding the game or his preferences. There are spectators interested in a more technical profile, but others who simply want a more conventional observation of the match”. “Obviously, it is difficult to foresee the evolution of our sector in the long term, but currently the main challenges are working on proximity, closeness and personalization of the viewer's experience”, he remarks.

Òscar Lago is clear that the viewer must continue to occupy a central role. What's more, as he points out, “it will have an active part in future interactive products, through which the viewer will be able to interact with the screen and choose things that they will like”. Emili Planas shares his partner's vision, although he acknowledges that, until now, the spectator has played a passive role. “Who is going to be able to rack their brains to perform better than the director who has spent years performing a match?” Planas questions.

The definitive and transformative evolution of support

While the concepts of participation are promising on paper, the reality is that viewers they barely participate actively on the broadcast. In fact, two years ago, together with LaLiga, Mediapro offered a second-screen application based on data from Mediacoach, a deep professional source with all the data to understand a match. Despite the promise of development, the vast majority of Spanish viewers did not use it regularly. In the end, as Planas details, “the usual soccer spectator can be with his friends or with his family, but always watching the screen. He doesn't disengage from that screen, so the second screen was unusual."

blankNevertheless, something change. The match is no longer seen only on television, but on any device. Mediapro and LaLiga have it clear. And, if the viewer watches a match on an interactive screen, it is possible that he can receive additional information to be managed by the user himself without losing sight of the match. And that he himself expresses an interest in a team to receive personalized and editorialized information. And that, to customize the broadcast, you can count on the tools to manage graphic layers, choosing which statistics or which planes to see.

All of that is possible. And change may come before we know it.

A report by Sergio Julián Gómez

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By • 9 Sep, 2021
• Section: Catchment, Issue, reports, TV