Conceived as an idea in 2020, work to implement this ambitious project began in mid 2022, with the space coming online recently. “There was a clear will internally to become masters of our own content creation,” states Lukas Loss, digital content producer at Vodafone Germany.
“Previously, we have delivered a vast amount of video, event delivery and TVC production using external studios and partners. That production was expensive and lacked flexibility,” according to Loss. “With the building of our own studios, we could lower production costs and preparation time while simultaneously raising the scope of what our trained production team could deliver internally.”
“Through the pandemic and beyond, we soon realized that virtual meetups and hybrid event delivery would offer a more flexible model for conferences in the future. As a tech company, we wanted to build a state of the art, future proof studio with extended reality (XR) that would allow that.”
“But beyond that, creating an XR studio with an LED wall and green screen space unlocks new creative possibilities internally,” states Loss. “The social content team can level up the quality of its output, for example, and that is unmatched by most other brands to date.”
Divided into three different spaces, Vodafone Germany’s communications team can now support XR productions, live streamed webinars, conferences and even executive interviews.
A 15m curved LED wall for XR live production and events is at the heart of the main space. It also features a lounge area for talking heads or interviews, a master control room (MCR) for eight operators and a server room. The second studio area is a smaller green screen space with a pack shot area and an audiovisual podcast studio designed for up to four people.
But where do you start on a project of this magnitude? While the initiative would expand Vodafone Germany’s communication capabilities, doing so would require additional audiovisual hardware and display tech.
“We had to build the studios within the existing company campus,” Loss explains. “So, space was limited. We rebuilt one section of our existing conference zone, transforming it into a multifunctional studio.”
The biggest constraint during construction was the ceiling height, notes Loss. “That’s why our LED wall is only three meters high and the lighting truss is positioned directly above the wall. Likewise, all that tech produces a lot of heat, so we had to remove the old air conditioning unit, with the replacement deployed in another building due to the noise it generates.”
With those issues resolved, it was time to build and set up the MCR, with Blackmagic Design chosen as one of the preferred hardware partners for video.
“We chose Blackmagic’s hardware based on our previous experience with the brand and its products at other locations. Likewise, the single link 12G-SDI delivers on our requirement for a 2160p50 production workflow while keeping cabling requirements to a minimum,” explains Loss.
A versatile solution for acquisition
Vodafone elected to deploy the URSA Broadcast G2 camera for its versatility. “We get the best of both worlds; 4K broadcast style live production for streaming or 6K cinematic production with shallow depth of field.”
Combined with Blackmagic Fiber Converters, each camera channel requires just two cables: one for the camera and another for the tracking system. The remaining challenge for Loss was ensuring production didn’t run into moiré issues.
“We conducted testing to determine which type of cameras and LED resolutions would fit our budget, avoid any moiré and still give us the best image quality possible. In Blackmagic and Samsung, we have found the ideal combination to balance those requirements.”
Supplementing those is a Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K Pro paired with the Blackmagic Studio Converter and a 21” teleprompter screen. “It is a great camera for smaller setups that we can run on one cat6a cable, which we can put anywhere, providing there is an Ethernet port in the floor,” explains Loss.
Finding the right mix
In the control room, an ATEM Constellation 8K live production switcher and ATEM 2 M/E Advanced Panel run the show, with a Smart Videohub 12G 40×40 for routing video and remote camera control via an ATEM Camera Control Panel.
“The decision to implement ATEM was easy; we needed support for 4K 50p and the ability to handle 30 sources and 22 outputs during a typical production. Another great feature is the four multiview outputs; we use three for the video engineers and another as a preview for the talent on stage or in the back office.”
Vodafone Germany’s virtual set workflow relies on a series of PCs each equipped with a DeckLink 8K Pro capture and playback card, for ingesting live camera feeds into Unreal Engine and Ventuz.
“Both systems are fed camera tracking data from a dedicated tracking solution, with three PCs used to render out the built virtual sets; one for the virtual background on the LED wall, another for virtual objects/foreground and a third for compositing.”
When a virtual floor is required, Vodafone relies on its green screen area employing virtual sets composited in real time using Blackmagic’s Ultimatte 12 4K. “The edge handling is outstanding as is the spill suppression, and we can tune each Ultimatte to a specific camera’s view,” notes Loss.
“We can now cover a whole host of formats,” says Loss. “The magic was in finding the right tools to unlock that creative freedom while delivering on the rich feature set and fast setup times we demanded. We’re pleased with the results.”
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