IBC Innovation Awards winner BT Sport delivered the UEFA Champions League Final 2017 in HD with 4K, Dolby Atmos sound and a 12 camera 360-degree operation. 

BT Sport was host broadcaster for the 2017 Champions League Final in Cardiff Wales. BT Sport aimed to engage with as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible.

Separate trucks covered the game in HD and in 4K UHD with Dolby Atmos sound – using the Arena truck nominated for the content distribution award. A unique 12 camera VR operation provided a rich 360-degree feed, including in-vision graphics, live replays and a separate commentary.

The content was available online to all platforms as well as broadcast. Technology partners included Dolby, Ericsson, Moov, SAM, Sony, Telegenic and Timeline.

sport studio bts

Gary Lineker in the BT Sport studio covering Champions League

Source: BT Sport

BT Sport Production Hub Chief Engineer Andy Beale explains the delivery of the Champions League Final: 

What was the initial challenge faced by the end user: technical, creative or commercial?

As a number of the elements were world firsts, (such as live HDR programme and live VR 360 multi-cam produced feed) there was no precedent.

We faced challenges in all those areas but particularly technically and creatively. In the VR space, we had to develop ways to tell the story in this new medium as well as build a technical architecture from the ground up.

Again with HDR we had to work build a complex non-intrusive workflow that would still enable us to exploit all the benefits offered by HDR and Wide Colour Gamut and allow us to showcase the UEFA Champions League in the very best format available.

How did you collaborate to find a solution? Talk us through the process and timeline.

With VR we started by running some small scale tests in late 2016 with UEFA and DeltaTre. As these developed and we started looking at enriching the production from single camera feeds to a fully produced program that gave viewers that complete experience it became clear that we would need a host of custom tools that just didn’t exist. 

We approached Moov, who are an existing graphics partner and together developed solutions such as the “Jumbotron” and the 4K VR 360 stereoscopic graphics overlays that follow the vision mixer cut (reposition themselves for each source) as well as the commentator tool.

With HDR we had done several single camera tests and by IBC last year had designed the workflow we believed would allow us to undertake live HDR production in the real world, (and this was somewhat different to the suggested ways and claims being made by certain major vendors). So we approached Sony and SAM at IBC and invited them to part take in a proof of concept trial at the World Rally race in Wales, just a few weeks later in October. This was

So we approached Sony and SAM at IBC and invited them to part take in a proof of concept trial at the World Rally race in Wales, just a few weeks later in October. This was on a live production, not a separate “safe” test production. The results were astonishing and justified our approach.

After the success of the WRC we developed more tests with UEFA throughout the spring, refining our workflow and the complex multiple HDR and colour conversions required. The quality was so good that we wanted to showcase it in the best way, and we had already invited Dolby to help us refine the PQ variant we were producing. We worked closely with them to create a UHD PQ version with Dolby Atmos that could be shown in the Ray Dolby Theatre in London’s Soho.

What challenges did you face when collaborating with the technical partners in order to develop a solution?

BT Sport is very proud of its partnership model, it has underpinned our business since launch and enabled us to grow quickly but with great resilience. It has also been key to our innovation led approach that supports our vision to be “at the heart of sport”. We always choose partners that share our ethos and style, and we find that partners love working with BT Sport because of our can do attitude and real world approach. That in turn helps them develop products and solutions that are relevant. So we found working with the technical partners very easy and fruitful.

What makes your project unique from your competitors?

Ultra HD 4K, immersive audio, HDR & VR have been talked about a lot at broadcast conferences and shows for several years. We wanted to move on from talking about the possibilities that this technology offers to the viewer and start making this a reality. In doing so we have applied the technology to bring our customers even closer to the heart of the action.

As a result of the project, what has the outcome been for the end user?

The HDR workflows are now developed and refined so they are ready whenever we decide to do a full commercial product launch. And as a result of our work we are already using HDR source pictures to drive a better SDR quality.

It BT Sport customers will be able to enjoy VR on a variety of different competitions this season (17/18) including more UEFA Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and boxing.

What lessons have you learned as a result of this project? Have they resulted in any changes to the way you approach future projects?

We now know how to produce a curated live VR programme that consumers are thrilled with and the architecture that underpins it and similarity we have proved the workflows that are required for delivery of a live HDR service. In terms of project delivery our tried and trusted approach of engaging like-minded and motivated partners with the right expertise pays dividends every time.

Why is it important to participate in the IBC Innovation Awards?

The IBC Innovation Awards are one of the highest accolades in our industry and to gain recognition from the IBC judging panel in a very tough competitive environment is a fantastic endorsement of our hard and ground breaking work.