Wall-to-wall football

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At Input Media we’re all about bending over backwards to find cost-effective production solutions for our broadcaster and sports channel customers.  One of these, DAZN – the global pure-sport live and on-demand streaming service – approached us with a pretty challenging ask.  Knowing that we hold the contract to provide a variety of UEFA Champions League and Europa League programming, they had in mind to broadcast a new football show from our Production Centre in West London.  They’d come to the right place, but they wanted us to install a new video wall too – and they didn’t have much of a budget…

Our studio set was originally built to use coloured LED panels or backlit, printed Perspex sheets to dress the walls with programme-specific graphics. These panels are disposed of once that show ceases production; perhaps not the most cost-effective approach, but it was the done thing and had been working well for our customers up till that point. DAZN’s needs would be very different, so we had to be sure we’d come up with a solution that would keep everyone happy.

One of the benefits of being within Gravity Media Group is that there are always friends to turn to. On this occasion, it was sister company Gearhouse Broadcast who stepped up, as they’d recently installed the sort of video wall DAZN were looking for in a TV studio for the FIFA World Cup. We tested a few of the wall panels they had in stock, and they looked so good and worked so well that we set about sourcing a similar, cost-effective solution for DAZN. We settled on Samsung’s new UE82 Series 82" displays, and placed an order for five units plus a spare.

The next challenge was configuration. Because ours would be a non-standard, five-by-one matrix, we needed bespoke software to match. We used components from Userful in Canada, which we then configured in-house. This helped us stay within budget, and the deal with DAZN meant we’d also have the benefit of retaining the kit for ongoing use afterwards.

The end viewing result is great. It looks as if the studio is in a box at Wembley without having to resort to green screening. It’s UHD quality, with minimal bezel space showing, and none of the technical issues (heat, power, fragility) we’d have had with a higher tech (aka more expensive) solution. It certainly wasn’t plain sailing, as we’d had to make some home-grown adaptations for mounting the screens on extending arms to help with access and maintenance, and we then had to rearrange the EVS monitoring positions and put in extra monitoring at the front of the vision stack for the producer, director and PA in the gallery. We also integrated some additional lines for extra audio monitoring to listen to all the tracks on all the inputs across two separate EVSs.

But we got it done. And in fact we achieved the build in just five days, which is a good job as we were already into September when we got the green light to proceed. DAZN wanted a dress rehearsal on the 11th – and before that we had our regular BoxNation show in the same studio on the 8th. That didn’t give us any margin for error, and although there were some heart-stopping moments along the way – for example, the screens fitted into place with just 9mm to spare! – everything was up and running by the time DAZN needed it.

The adjustments we’ve made have been welcomed by all our customers who share the space, and football programming from our studio is now being watched by more people than ever. What’s more, the kit is now part of our permanent install.  Now that has to be a result!

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