Alkass Sports

Greenbox studio for international sports broadcaster relies on ARRI Solutions to blend virtual and physical elements seamlessly.

With more than two decades of sports broadcasting experience, Alkass Sports always aims to raise the bar in production content, to give fans the ultimate experience.

For its most recent facility, the broadcaster understood that a virtual studio would enable its team to provide multiple set designs with endless coverage options. The studio was designed and delivered to launch with Alkass’ coverage of the 2022 World Cup but needed to be flexible to also support a wide range of programming in the future.

The studio, including a 4.2m x 12m cyclorama, was built from scratch in just three months, so all technical and integration partners across physical and virtual elements had to ensure clear communication and coordination from the start. Within the overall installation project, ARRI Solutions was tasked with the design and installation for the studio’s physical lighting network, which was a fundamental element in achieving effective and realistic coverage. The team also delivered network control and electric distribution across the studio.

“Within a virtual environment, high-quality lighting is imperative to maintain authenticity and fine details in the images we broadcast,” explains Tony Gerges, Head of Lighting, Alkass Sports. “The presenters and physical set furniture on the studio floor need to merge seamlessly with the virtual backdrops to retain the illusion. If the balance is off, it’s immediately noticeable to viewers and can spoil their enjoyment.”

The lighting design comprises a mix of SkyPanel fixtures: S120 were installed to enable consistent lighting as presenters and guests move around the studio, S30 paired with Chimera softboxes provide diffused lighting for the green flooring, and S60-C together with S30 fixtures with Honeycomb for fill and diffused back lighting. Key lighting for talent is provided by a series of L7 LED Fresnel and ROBE T11. ROBE ParFect effect lighting fixtures were also included in the design where additional coverage or highlights are required.

“A major challenge in virtual studios is always keeping colors clean and crisp against the chromakey,” continues Gerges. “White is the most difficult, however it is the main color that our presenters wear, so we took a lot of time to test out the most effective solutions. The quality of light that ARRI’s fixtures delivers is unrivalled and the ARRI Solutions team worked tirelessly to reach the unmissable deadline of the World Cup while ensuring the very best results for our tournament coverage.”

During the World Cup, Alkass produced three different shows from the studio, mostly 60-minute post-match review and analysis sessions with pundits and presenters. To further enhance the broadcaster’s coverage, additional virtual and AR elements were introduced, including the presenters teleporting in and out of the studio. A remote location was set up as a small green screen, and then camera/lighting angles matched to the main studio, so that a photorealistic augmented guest could appear on the studio set from anywhere in the world.

With a huge upcoming schedule of international sports competitions and tournaments, Alkass Sports’ virtual studio is expected to be in heavy use. “Our viewers can expect to see more and more advanced virtual integration across our sports programming,” concludes Gerges. “Because the physical and virtual elements of the studio integrate so seamlessly, our production teams have the time and space to concentrate on their content, safe in the knowledge that the production quality will remain at the highest possible level.”

Watch a timelapse of the studio build here

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