The FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand features a number of production firsts including volumetric ‘datatainment’, fully remote live matchday hosting, and a stream dedicated to TikTok – but it is all in HD, reports Adrian Pennington
Born as a 12-team tournament in 1991, the FIFA Women’s World Cup was expanded to include 16 countries at USA 1999 and 24 at Canada 2015. For the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023, 32 nations compete for the first time.
The production plan will build on FIFA’s benchmarking broadcast tradition and will once again be enhanced with innovations and improvements.
Behind the Scenes: FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand - Fully remote host
For the first time in the history of FIFA tournaments, the Women’s World Cup will see the implementation of a fully remote live match production, with five host broadcast match directors and their teams operating from an existing technical hub in Sydney.
They will be supported by nine stadium-based production teams, comprising camera operators and a floor manager. Also at the hub, four teams dedicated to additional content and four slo-mo teams will produce various five match feeds – the Basic International Feed (BIF), Clean International Feed (CIF), World Feed (WF) and Additional Content Channel (ACC). Press conferences will be captured live and offered as a separate isolated feed.
The remote production model relies on a dedicated fibre Broadcast Contribution Network (BCN), which connects each stadium to the central hub in Sydney over 40G redundant links. Further, the hub is connected to the IBC over 400G redundant links.
Similarly, non-live production will also use a remote production concept: while some strands, such as the FIFA MAX server technical facilities will still be handled from the Sydney-based IBC, most post-production operations (short-form match highlights and 24-minute Daily Highlights programmes, amongst others) will be housed at a non-live hub back in London.
The host broadcast production format is HD 1080p/50 HDR with 21 to 25 cameras in use, depending on the phase of the tournament. Speciality cameras will include ultra-motions, super-slow motions, cable cams, pole cams and heli cams.
Following the successful use in Qatar 2022, cine-style cameras will be in operation at every single match. All feeds will be distributed in HD 1080p/50 HDR format HD 1080p/50 SDR format (Rec. 709) HD 1080i/50 Embedded audio – SMPTE-299M.
The BIF/CIF feeds carry 16 embedded audio channels including for stereo TV, radio, 5.1 and Multi-Channel International which is encoded in Dolby E.
Five internationally renowned directors will be leading their teams from the central hub in Sydney: Jamie Oakford and Gemma Knight (from the UK), Angus Millar (AUS), Danny Melger (NED) and Sebastian Von Freyberg (GER).
Behind the Scenes: FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand - The FIFA MAX server
The entire roster of video and audio content produced for the tournament will be ingested and logged onto the FIFA MAX server in 1080p/50 format. Approximatively 3,000 hours of content are expected to be uploaded to the server during the tournament and made available to all rights holders.
Behind the Scenes: FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand - Rich graphics and VAR
Enhanced graphics introduced for Qatar return for this event. The increase in the number of data points now available from each match at the tournament naturally lends itself to increased opportunities to pass on the most relevant information to the viewer.
The data, which is provided centrally by the FIFA High Performance Programme Department, is picked up by the graphics teams to support the narrative of events on the pitch. In-match enhanced graphics are usually lower thirds or found in the corner of the screen to ensure that the information does not detract from the match itself.
Full-frame graphics are used at half-time and full time; these are often on screen for longer as there is time to get into more detail about how a specific piece of data analysis is impacting the match. The graphics shown at half-time and full time are also useful for broadcasters, who look to use them either as in-studio analysis or as digital assets on their social media platforms.
For VAR, on-field reviews are covered in a Picture-In-Picture (PIP) format, with the main window replicating the images that the referee is offered for review by the VAR. FIFA will continue its trial with broadcasting VAR review decisions in-stadium and to a live television audience.
Behind the Scenes: FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand - Non-live production
A FIFA TV Team Crew (FTTC) project will serve additional content, mainly away from the live matches. Thirty-two FTTC producers, who are native speakers of their respective participating team, will be embedded with that team and follow them throughout the tournament and be responsible for the centralised production of any content coming from the teams. The producers will be paired with a local camera operator to produce exclusive player/coach interviews and with backroom staff plus footage of training sessions.
On matchdays, each crew will be in the stadium to support the HB coverage by providing further content such as pre-match and post-match interviews, fan colour, match ISO and post-match dressing-room filming.
FIFA TV will also create fully produced content pieces that are made available to broadcasters (again via the FIFA MAX). These feature star players, players to watch plus profiles of the head coaches and the backroom staff.
The production of highlights is also key to an event of this magnitude. FIFA TV will produce a two-minute packages for broadcasters to insert quickly in their programming or on their socials. It will then produce a more comprehensive 24’ round-up s programme every matchday. Both of these highlight offerings will be produced at FIFA TV’s remote production hub at Stockley Park in London.
In fact, FIFA TV started producing content around 18 months ago with footage and short films of host country/cities, promotional trailers, interviews and so on. A Preview Series of eight 26’ episodes tell the story of all 32 participating teams, how they qualified, what is special about them and what and who to look out for at the tournament itself.
Behind the Scenes: FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand - Digital first
Vertical mobile friendly content will be provided by content creators at every Host city using exclusive venue and behind-the-scenes access– such as arrivals, players on the pitch, goals, post-match moments, players with family, etc. Content destined for FIFA-approved platforms is produced with aspect ratios including 1:1, 4:5, 9:16 and 16:9.
Near-live clips will be provided within minutes (stadium sound, no editing) while edited clips such as ‘Digital First Highlights’ will also be provided. This operation will be crewed by eighteen Digital First content creators (two in each Host City covering matchday and other team activities), as well a senior producer and two video editors.
For the first time, FIFA will offer a digital production dedicated to TikTok that includes live streaming, clips, daily shows and content from selected influencers.
Behind the Scenes: FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand - Datatainment
FIFA has developed a new streaming concept it calls entertainment with data or datatainment. By using volumetric cameras, data will be collected from the players and fed into the feed in the form of augmented graphics. Captures of all elements such as player tracking and data (speed, distance, ball speed, etc.) will be translated into live data visualisation on dedicated match feeds, allowing fans to follow the action through heat maps, passing accuracy stats, head-to-head/ball possession comparisons and general player/team performance.
Matches to be covered with this concept including all three USA group games (v. Vietnam, Netherlands and Portugal) as well as all matches from the quarter-finals onwards.
Behind the Scenes: FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand - Kickoff
The 64 matches will be played at ten stadiums kicking off on 20 July 2023 at New Zealand’s Eden Park in Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau. Stadium Australia in Sydney/Gadigal hosts the final a month later on 20 August.
The Lionesses begin their tournament against Haiti at Lang Park, Brisbane on 22 July.