Analysis: 4K Production Takes Major Leap at Champions League Final

The global game of football continues to drive technical innovation as well as consumer electronics in general, and Saturday’s Champions League Final in Berlin was no exception. UEFA’s 4K production of the match proved that developments related to 4K cameras and lenses in the past six months are ready to make a difference and overcome many of the difficulties of first-generation 4K production.

The new Sony HDC-4300 camera resolves depth-of-field and focus issues in 4K production.

The new Sony HDC-4300 camera resolves depth-of-field and focus issues in 4K production.

The first difference was simple numbers. When UEFA produced last year’s Champions League Final in 4K, the production had only four Sony PMV-F55 cameras. But this year’s production featured 12 cameras, with new Sony HDC-4300 4K cameras working alongside four Sony F55 units. The feed from those cameras went to Sony PWS-4400 4K servers and was cut on the Sony MVS-X series multiformat switcher aboard an OB unit provided by TopVision.

The second difference was production quality. Prior to first quarter 2015, any evaluation of a 4K sports production began with a very large negative: the lack of a true 4K camera offering the depth of field and focus required for live production of a sports event. That challenged camera operators to work hard not only to rack focus but also to maintain focus on the object of interest.

The new Sony HDC-4300 camera resolves those issues. The result, from a viewing standpoint, was a more consistent production with the entire image in focus, giving the viewer a true sense of sitting in the stands.

HD, of course, has provided a similar sense. But that is why the third part of the equation on display in Berlin (and across 13 Sky sports bars across Germany) was so important: the size and quality of the display. It measured 85 in. diagonally, and, for a viewer sitting at a proper distance of 1.5 picture heights (about 6 or 7 ft.), the emotional impact of 4K was palpable. Expressions on player’s faces were readily apparent, and tattoos on player’s arms and legs were detailed. And, of course, the textures of hair, uniforms, the field were also discernible. It was, simply put, an amazing experience swimming in visual-information overload.

There is still plenty of work to be done with respect to 4K production and even more work to be done on UHD distribution. But UEFA’s efforts in 2015 provide the foundation for UHD distribution in 2016 that will transform not only the Champions League but also UEFA’s Euro 2016 tournament next June and July in France. And given what was on display this year (and anticipated improvements between now and then), the public will likely have plenty of reasons to make the investment in 4K/UHD consumer displays.