Industry Insights

Euro 2024: Game-Changing Video Production and Broadcast Technology

Get your four-pint-pitchers, your Three Lions, and your 2 o’clock finishes booked in the work calendar! UEFA Euro 2024 is here and this time it’s definitely coming home (or at least, its coming into our homes)

For football fans across the continent, Euro 2024 will see the following filling our TV screens for the next 4 weeks:

    • The best players (Mbappe)

    • The best teams (France, England, Germany, Portugal),

    • The biggest controversies (Mbappe falling out with teammates and/or manager and/or official soft drinks partners)

But for anyone working in video production or broadcasting, it’s an amazing opportunity to see the latest in video technology, equipment, and production. We’ll see it all as the teams take to the pitch and battle it out to be kings of Europe.

So, the team at Reels in Motion have taken a look over all things video production on offer throughout Euro 2024. We’ll go through, the camera setups used to capture live football matches, the 4K Vs HD production technologies, and most –importantly, whose opening title sequence will be better, BBC or ITV.

Table of Contents

The Euro 2024 Qualifying Groups

First things first, let’s look at the final tournament draw, purely for educational purposes…

UEFA Euro 2024 tournament gets started on Friday 14th June when hosts Germany take on Scotland at the Allianz Arena in Munich, with the final taking place on July 14th in Berlin. Between then, 24 teams will play 51 matches across ten cities – Berlin, Cologne, Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich and Stuttgart.  

The group stage splits the teams into six groups. The top two teams in each group will qualify automatically, and the four best third-place teams also qualify. In other words, it is actually very hard NOT to get out of the group stage. 

    • Group A: Germany, Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland 

    • Group B: Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania 

    • Group C: Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England 

    • Group D: Poland, Netherlands, Austria, France 

    • Group E: Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine 

    • Group F: Turkey, Georgia, Portugal, Czech Republic 

We’re then into the classic knock-out format of round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. 

The Broadcasters

In a sport where armchair viewers typically need to re-mortgage their houses for the honour of watching football on TV, it’s worth remembering that every game of Euro 2024 will be available on free-to-air channels and platforms in the UK. The 51 matches will be shared by BBC and ITV on Freeview and iPlayer/ITVX/STV Player.

For the keen eyed among you who spotted that 51 can’t be halved, both broadcasters will show the final – wouldn’t it be great if they were only allowed to each show one half of the final, and then have to alternate coverage on penalties. Viewers frantically switching between the channels would be a great way of experiencing the pressure the players face!

It is also incredibly enjoyable watching both BBC and ITV claim that they ‘won’ the negotiations on their match choices… Personally, I’m not sure fans are bothered one way or the other!

This year ITV are clearly confident that England will progress from the group stage as they are only showing one of the Three-Lions’ group games but have 1st choice on the round of 16 fixtures. Having said this, ITV also brag in their press release that they have secured the rights of Belgium Vs Slovakia. In your face BBC!  

Anyway, enough of this, let’s unzip the training kit, wave goodbye to our mascots, and get the game started with the camera and video production technologies. 

Filming the football, shooting the shots

Although BBC and ITV may be able to win the Battle of the Broadcasters™ through their array of pundits, pre-match build-up, and full-time analysis, they don’t have any actual involvement in the filming of the matches themselves. All broadcast operations are run by UEFA, who provide the broadcast feeds for them to use.

The analogy I use, is that when you go to the cinema, say an Odeon or Vue, it isn’t Odeon who have made the film, but they do welcome you in and give you a comfy view of the action (and try to sell you expensive things). So the next time you’re watching a game on BBC and a goal is missed because they’re showing a slow-mo replay of Ronaldo diving instead, it’s not Gary Lineker’s fault. Stop shouting at Gary!  

Instead, it’s one of the Match Directors hired by UEFA that should feel your wrath. The Director has access to 33 cameras to cover the match, plus another 13 cameras which focus on events off-the-pitch (team arrivals, fan coverage, aerial filming). If you’re interested in multi-camera setups, this is some of the kit they’ll be using at Euro 2024 matches… 

    • Two cinematic RF cameras 

    • Two camera cranes with hotheads behind each goal  

    • Eight super-slow-motion triple-speed cameras 

    • Two high-speed cameras 

    • Two high-speed polecams, one at each end 

    • One aerial camera system 

    • Eight handheld cameras 

    • And of course, a helicopter rig 

For anyone interested in video production, seeing the Directors use these options during the live match will be fascinating. Super slow-mo replays of crunching tackles, furious gesticulating from angry centre-mids and shots of weeping fans transform our viewing from simple sports contest to a full cinematic experience.

On the downside, I do find some of the European directors a little too keen to overuse the closeup shots of in-match play. This may be great to see a detailed view of the technical skills of the left winger as they burst down the side-line, but you can’t then see the rest of game or how the opposition are defending it. To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, just because they can, it doesn’t mean they should.  

Speaking of which… 

The 4K UHD vs HD conundrum

From a broadcasting point of view, the first controversial decision of Euro 2024 was taken months ago in an office in Switzerland (and is probably the only decision that won’t be reviewed by VAR in this tournament).  

With many of us armchair viewers now having TV’s and devices capable of supporting glorious UHD viewing, many people were upset at UEFA’s decision to capture and produce Euro 2024 in 1080p HDR (basically HD) and not 4K UHD.

There are, of course, good reasons for this decision, but when you look at how much other global events are prioritising 4K UHD delivery, it did come as a shock when the decision was made. Especially in a summer packed with events like Glastonbury Festival and the Paris Olympics, who are both delivering in 4K UHD.

At first glance it seems like UEFA are bucking the trend of UHD delivery, which has escalated massively since 2016, but in fact, they may be the trend setters. Many US broadcasters and platforms are also beginning to come to the same conclusion, with Prime, WBD and TNT all ‘threatening’ to switch live broadcasts from 4K back to HD HDR or 2K. So what are the reasons for the downgrading? 

Firstly, it is actually not really a downgrade. The visual uplift between UHD and HD is not as significant as you would think, and through UEFA’s audience testing, they discovered that many viewers actually preferred the contrast and details HD HDR provides in the light and shade to that of UHD. Add in the fact that many ‘younger’ viewers wouldn’t typically be watching the games on traditional large screen TVs, it makes sense.

But why not deliver UHD anyway for those who will be get the benefit? As with many things in life, it comes down to cost. UHD costs significantly more to maintain and run than HD HDR.

At the end of the day, even as a video professional who HAS to notice these dynamic improvements, it doesn’t feel like a big deal once you’re sat down in the pub enjoying the game.

The quality of the ‘storytelling’, game coverage, commentary teams and analysis far outweigh any pixel counting or marginal colour vibrancy improvements. And when the team you’re supporting inevitably crashes out in shame, I don’t think many viewers will be phoning in to TalkSport to complain about the lack of pixels. Although someone will probably find a way to blame Gareth Southgate for it.   

The Opening Title sequences

When you think back to your formative memories of watching tournament football as a child, what is it you remember? The games? A moment of individual brilliance? Or perhaps the crushing heartbreak of your first defeat?  

For me, I remember the songs and graphics of the opening titles sequences (yes, I’m aware of how lame this sounds).

I just love the way a good title sequence can capture the anticipation, excitement and emotion of the entire tournament. It reminds us of great moments of the past, rev us up about our team’s chances, and sets the tone of the next month of our lives.

Thinking about it now, this love of opening title sequences probably goes some way to explaining how and why we do what we do at Reels in Motion. For many of our video production projects, the brief for the video is very similar to that of the BBC and ITV producers in charge of the opening titles.

We must understand what our viewers want in the video. We must create an idea, an approach, and a storyboard that delivers everything our viewers need. And we must produce a video that inspires and excites and gets results. 

Of course, not all title sequences are successful, but when you think of the cultural and emotional impact that the BBC’s use of Nessun Dorma had on Italia 90, the power of the opening 60 seconds cannot be underestimated. 

At the time, the use of Nessun Dorma was deemed a high-risk decision – along the lines of ‘drunk blokes in pubs don’t listen to classical music’. Well, I’ve seen grown men in pubs openly weeping and screaming ‘VINCEEEEEEEEERRRRROOOO’ together 30 years after 1990. Put simply, it’s a banger! 

But classical music doesn’t always work. Sometimes we need to take a more, shall we say, lively route. My favourite is undoubtably BBC’s USA 1994 effort which used America from West Side Story. For those that don’t know it, take a look here

Not much football in sight, but let me tell you, it’s absolutely magnificent to this day. 

So, what will Euro 2024 bring us? BBC have gone with a highly visual approach that sees the camera bouncing around a pinball machine. Is pinball big in Germany? Perhaps, but it doesn’t feel like an instant classic.

Having said this, it may be a grower and become a cult hit we will still be watching in 30 years (will Baddiel and Skinner be singing about 90 years of hurt by then?).  

Either way, everyone at Reels in Motion is looking forward to Euro 2024, and in summary, it’s coming home.  

Euro 2024