HBS, World Cup Preparations Enter Critical Phase

HBS operations around Brazil are moving briskly in advance of the official kickoff of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 12. About two-thirds of the production personnel expected to be working at the IBC during the World Cup are currently onsite, and the rest will be streaming into Brazil in the coming days.

“From a practical point of view, the mood in the editorial side is good, and people are pleasantly surprised,” says Dan Miodownik, director of production, HBS. “The PCR [production-control room], MCR [master-control room), and FIFA MAX server have all been put in place.”

The HBS production cabin in Rio houses control rooms for World Cup coverage.

The HBS production cabin in Rio houses control rooms for World Cup coverage.

He says the FIFA Max server, the heartbeat of the entire HBS operation, will be up and fully open for business by June 4, when rightsholders will be able to begin accessing feature stories created by the HBS production team.

“The first key point is communication and the broadcast-information platform, [which] will start to push out messages of the what, when, where, and how of content,” adds Miodownik. “The content will begin as a trickle and then become a stream, a river, and then a sea.”

The initial feature stories will give rightsholders content related to the host cities, with upwards of 50 city profiles available. ENG crews from the 12 cities that have a venue are submitting rushes and content, which is then edited using Adobe Premier.

“Our ENG center has 41 different kits all ready to go, and the first of the crews are coming in and generating content with the Panasonic cameras, Adobe editing, and file-transfer platform,” Miodownik explains. “Then quickly, by June 9, we will have almost all of the team ENG crews operational.”

The move to Premier is a change from previous World Cups, when Apple Final Cut Pro was the editing system of choice.

“So far, everyone is pleased with Premier and super impressed with Adobe’s approach,” says Miodownik. “And four or five key senior editors are very happy. The last thing you want are users to be distracted or disappointed, and so far the feedback is very good.”

Ready for the June 12 kickoff, the HBS production setup will be put through its paces for a test match on Sunday.

Ready for the June 12 kickoff, the HBS production setup will be put through its paces for a test match on Sunday.

Creation of feature stories is one thing, but it is coverage of the live matches that is obviously most important to football fans and rightsholders around the globe. On Sunday afternoon, there will be an important test match in Sao Paolo to make sure that every part of the HBS system from an operational, technical, and editorial level is ready for the first real match on June 12.

“It’s a rehearsal at a technical level and, to a lesser degree, the editorial as well,” says Miodownik.

That rehearsal will be done out of an HBS production cabin similar to the ones used in 2010, when the World Cup was held in South Africa, and will feature more than 40 cameras. The cabins were shipped over from Europe via sea freight, and the production kit, pulled together by Sony, is currently being installed at the venues.

“We can say that the decision to centrally equip cabins was the right one,” Miodownik adds.

From his perspective, the most impressive accomplishment to date is the presentation studios that HBS has built on the Copacabana in Rio.

“They are astonishing considering their scale and location, and they are also unbelievably impressive, jaw dropping,” he adds. “We are super impressed with the way they translated from planning to reality.”

The World Cup is always a massive undertaking, and this year’s is no exception. There are efforts related not only to the main TV broadcast but also to the multimedia side. In 2010, HBS raised the bar for “second-screen” production with an operation that built highlights specifically for distribution to smartphones. That system is taking another massive leap in capabilities, thanks to the EVS C-Cast, which will allow fans to do things like choose alternative camera angles on key plays.

“We’re pleased with what we’re seeing,” says Miodownik, “but every second, minute, hour, and day is critical to building confidence.”

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