The technical legacy of the 2014 FIFA World Cup


The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil will be remembered for many things. A German victory, a Brazilian defeat, and an event that, overall, lived up to the hype and avoided many of a long list of potential problems.

But for FIFA TV, host production services provider HBS, and a long list of European broadcasters it will be remembered for other things. Battling through logistical issues like power, telecommunications, and simply getting around Brazil; global ratings that hit new heights; and another step forward for 4K, the second-screen experience and the merger of IT and broadcast technologies.

The lessons learned on the logistics side will once again be applied two years from now for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Venue and IBC/MPC construction will surely be a source of stress for all involved. And other challenges, like those related to power and telecommunications, will most likely make a return in some form or fashion.

But between now and then the new technologies that were on display at the World Cup will continue to evolve and, potentially, transform the way the 2016 Olympics (and the 2016 UEFA Euro tournament) could be produced.

The good news with respect to 4K, for example, is that the production at the World Cup featured 12 cameras meaning it is only a few cameras short of having a camera complement that matches that used week in and week out for football league production around the world. And the advances that have been made in the past 12 months in terms of 4K-production technology are well ahead, relatively, to the pace of technology progress in the early days of HD. 

The most important learning experience at the World Cup was not related to 4K but, instead, to the merger of IT and broadcast technologies. Traditional broadcast workflows that rely on traditional baseband signal transport is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The problem, however, is that as those workflows vanish there is a knowledge gap when it comes to solving IT-specific problems. Simply put, the traditional broadcast production workflow allowed for a technical facility to be built with a high degree of reliability. Fire up the operations and problems could be relatively easily identified and solved ... and often involved nothing more than a cabling mistake.

But the age of IT, as shown at the World Cup, is changing that. Connecting software-based systems from different manufacturers that were written by different software programmers means that interoperability is not guaranteed. And solving those interoperability problems requires a whole new way of thinking that will involve a team of programmers writing new code rather than an engineering team rethinking signal paths and equipment settings.

The continued maturation of IT within broadcast operations will be a major trend at IBC 2014. And the products on display at IBC 2014, both IT and 4K, will go a long way towards letting us know if the evolutionary nature of product development could make the 2016 Olympics a revolutionary event in terms of future broadcast services.

With respect to 4K, the advances in encoders, decoders and set-top box development could lay the foundation for 4K consumer services to be launched by the end of 2015, an absolutely critical component to making any 4K Olympic services in 2016 something more than a technology trial.

As for the IT challenge, as more and more products make the move to IT-based technology backbones expect that more and more problems will be identified with respect to deploying them within an environment that relies on IT-based systems from other manufacturers.

Both the challenges of 4K and the transition to IT-based production tools will continue to be a major emphasis of both SVG Europe as well as those who rely on Global Sports Jobs for new opportunities and information. And we encourage all of you to lend your voice to the debate about where the industry should place its energy.

The Technology in Sport Series - In association with SVG Europe

Ken Kerschbaumer is the Editorial Director of The Sports Video Group



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