Virtual Studio as a Part of Yle’s 2018 Fifa World Cup Studio: A Combination of AR and VR Technology with Two Cameras

 

The 2018 Fifa World Cup left us with a lot to reminisce about for the next four years while waiting for the next world championship battle: France’s victory, weak performances from the front-runners, the Video Assistant Referees, Neymar rolling on the ground, the surprise successes… However, for Keho Interactive two things stood out above all else: the opportunity to be a part of a huge event like this, and the successful use of VR technology in Yle’s live broadcasts. The development of VR technology continues in collaboration with Yle in its esports broadcasts.

Earlier this year Keho Interactive and Yle teamed up to create a studio for the Winter Olympics broadcasts, and much of the same technology was now utilised in the World Cup studio. However, there was one significant change: this project consisted of both VR and AR technologies, whereas only AR technology was used the Winter Olympics studio. The World Cup studio also had a green screen corner the size of 7 meters x 7 meters, where it was possible, for example, to make the studio host appear in a virtual football stadium.

The second step forward was having two virtual cameras that could be used to film both close-up and widescreen footage. This gave the director and the cameramen the same graphic freedom as they would have when filming with regular cameras. During the live broadcasts, Keho Interactive’s two-man team was attached to the cameras and fed graphics to the screen according to the director’s commands. As a result, the broadcasts included several illustrative and enlivening virtual elements: player holograms, player videos, the map of Russia, Instagram pictures, tweets and news clips.

 

The two virtual cameras

 

VR technology gained substantial visibility when the studio team decided to celebrate Midsummer Night’s Eve with a specially designed background portraying a summer cottage scenery. The whole idea came on a whim: the director had a vision of adding a picture from a summer cottage to the background of the broadcast. Keho Interactive, however, took the idea even further by creating an entirely virtual, interactive 3D scenery. The sound crew were eager to contribute to the mini-project, and thus the viewers could hear cuckoo calls and mosquito buzz. A virtual football goal was also created on the green screen, which allowed Jari Litmanen and Mikael Forssel to showcase their goal scoring skills.

 

 

The project was a combination of both relaxed and hectic moments, in addition to the thrill of live broadcasting. The most challenging part was managing the big picture: projects like this include a lot of people, equipment, and elements, and everything needs to be put together quickly while making sure that every single cable is plugged in. For example, the video and audio needed to be in sync, which required technical adjustments due to the shorter lag in the VR video feed compared to the AR video feed. However, things began to run smoothly in no time, and the crew was able to watch the matches while preparing for the studio broadcasts – they even set up a grill in the backyard, because what is summer without a barbeque?

For the entire time, there was a strong sense of being a part of making something big – and the intuition wasn’t based solely on a feeling, because approximately 3,9 million viewers tuned in to watch the World Cup. The project was literally big. Yle broadcasted all 64 matches live on television and/or streamed them in Yle Areena, which meant about 200 hours of live footage. The most amazing thing for Keho Interactive was seeing the results of all the hard work that was put into this project come alive in the broadcasts, so to speak.

 

Testing the virtual 3D graphics

 

The Fifa World Cup studio project was a continuation of the collaboration between Kho Interactive and Yle during the Winter Olympics. The team had about a month to prepare for this over a month-long series of live broadcasts, and the development work continued throughout the project. Never-ending innovation is a fundamental part of Keho Interactive’s work routine, and because of this, at the end of the tournament it was possible to have player holograms on a virtual football field to showcase the All Stars Team put together by Yle’s experts.

The collaboration with Yle continues in esports broadcasts, some of which have already been aired and with many more to come. Now the development of the virtual studio has yet again been taken a bit further by using only VR technology. You can find more information about Yle’s esports broadcasts, as well as the latest esports news here (in Finnish).

 

Written by Johanna Honkonen

Pictures & video: Mikko Karsisto

Editing: Johanna Honkonen