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Under21 European Football Championships adventure with UEFA, Global Production and 3D Audio.

From 16 to 30 June Italy was the home of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, played in the stadiums of Bologna, Reggio Emilia, Cesena, San Marino, Trieste and Udine, where the final took place on 30th June.

The all-important sporting event was entirely produced by UEFA and the technological partner chosen for the production of all the events was the Italian Global Production, which recently joined the international media group Euro Media Group.
21 matches played in two weeks required a considerable technical-productive commitment entrusted to the four technical and artistic crews that took turns on the OBVans in the various stadiums.

 

Technical-productive partner
Davide Furlan, CEO and partner of Global Production comments: the definition of "technical partner" is rather limiting because in fact we have been asked to take care of the whole editorial part and in fact we have provided all the directors, the assistant directors, the producers , the floor managers, the compound managers, all this army of over 200 dedicated people was managed by us."
Coverage was complete on all stadiums, and involved 21 games in two weeks.
The technical configuration included in the part of the tournament qualifiers and in the final a camera plan of 14 tv cameras including two super slow-motion 3X, a hyper-motion 6X, two RF radio steadycam, 5 EVS stations, OB-van on-board graphics and the VAR which for the first time was used by UEFA in a youth tournament.
The VAR was provided directly by UEFA while the graphics from Global Production were based on the expertise of another well-known Italian company.
There were 4 OB-Vans engaged, those that have just merged into the new corporate configuration that saw Global Production maintain its personal and professional corporate profile in the new international landscape of Euro Media Group.
Specifically, the vehicles used were OB6, OB7, OB8 plus a vehicle hired from Videe.

The first engagement
Furlan resumes: "It is important to underline that this is the first Global Production engagement in the new corporate configuration, for an event of great commitment that moved about 210 people in total and for each game has seen around 50 professionals lined up.
In each event, on board the vehicle there was a director, an assistant director, an EVS master who coordinated the replays, 5 EVS operators, a graphic designer, an audio mixer, the floor manager of UEFA who follows the entire production and enforces the international running order and guarantees editorial quality control.
Obviously in those matches where the Italian team was present there was higher media interest and so the mobile vehicles assigned were those with the greatest technical capabilities, namely OB8 and OB6.
The configuration of the cameras is standard and equivalent to the Serie A of football: it is known as Standard C for the preliminary stages and Standard B for the final and semi-finals.
The camera plan included the main camera -both 1 main and 2 colse up-positioned on the 16 meters, then a high back door, two low back doors a steady-cam radio-camera configuration with Link radio links by Links and Grass Valley Thomson moving along the left side of the field in the bench area and a central, high reverse on the other side of the field.
For the 14-camera configuration, a second steadicam was added, covering the right side and two other cameras "in opposite", in line with the line of the large area of the goals, but in reverse, beyond the goal itself.
The configuration was decided in tendem between the pool of Global directors and the UEFA manager.
In each stadium there is always a "beauty" camera, with a separate video signal wanted by UEFA and a Polecam was also involved for the final.

The set-up
UEFA had asked Global to take full control of the entire compound TV area and Global responded promptly by providing a compound TV manager for each stadium.
Three stadiums, where Serie A matches are normally played, are pre-wired while in the remaining three (San Marino, Cesena, Trieste) it was necessary to lay out temporary ad hoc wiring and this required the work of two dedicated teams of technicians for a fortnight.
The tight schedule forced in some stages to dismantle the setup immediately after the end of an evening game and move at night to the next location to be able to re-set up the next morning and be ready in the afternoon.
It was decided to produce audio in Dolby E, the audio coding system designed and optimized for the distribution of audio signals in professional environments. Surround and multichannel audio is routed via a conventional PCM channel, simplifying the wiring inside the production infrastructure.
The standard microphone configuration was provided by UEFA and configured with an additional implementation by Global sound engineers - in some respects - to have an even more present and engaging multi-channel Dolby.
Each camera showed stereo microphones that allowed to follow the shooting plans and then a multi-capsule microphone was placed in the main cameras area, responsible for capturing the ambient sounds, the empathic reaction of the public and recreate the typical spatiality made possible by the Dolby system.

3D immersive audio
Moreover, very important, for the first time during a live sports production an immersive sound recording and processing system was used, otherwise known as 3D Audio.
This philosophy of shooting, which allows the sound to be positioned in three-dimensional space in a very precise way, even at different heights than the viewer, was used by Global Production on the 27th in the Bologna semi-final as a final test and the 3D audio signal was recorded without going on the air.
The result was so good that it pushed to use the same system also in the final of Udine, this time also for the airing.
As many as 22 microphones were scattered on the playing field, some positioned on the cameras and others on the sidelines, according to the canonical positions of the shooting of the international sound in a high-level football match configuration.
If the points of sound picking were - therefore - traditional, there was an innovative management of these signals made with a German technical partner who provided special processors that were able to generate a live three-dimensional immersive audio.
Shooting takes place according to the typical techniques of surround and then a 3D digital codec allows to recreate a three-axis spatiality, never experienced before.
The system was created for musical uses in concerts and above all in multitrack recording aimed at audio post production. Instead here it was used live for the first time.
The end user did not receive a 3D audio but a particularly accurate multichannel and stereo, derived from the immersive 3D audio, with a much more defined presence and a very wide and open stereophony.

Davide Furlan underlines: "We are using 3D audio recording as a demo for some broadcasters to promote future applications in Serie A football in Italy, obviously and ideally in conjunction with 4K HDR video.
In headphones the yield its maximum, with the multichannel speakers of a surround system and also in the stereo, the presence of the spectator who feels himself in the field is exciting and certainly superior to any audio program heard so far."

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