LaLiga and Mediapro have incorporated a new pitch-side camera into their broadcasts, providing viewers with an image quality similar to that of a film or a video game, as well as an ultra-realistic experience that makes them feel like they are actually in the stand at the stadium or just a few meters away from the players on the field.
LaLiga believes it is the first major soccer league to integrate a camera with these features into its live broadcasts using a wireless link.
This kind of camera is normally used to record “extra” content, such as the pre-match arrival of players and fans at the stadium, but until now had not been used as an official camera to broadcast live match action.
The large-sensor, mirrorless camera captures an image with a very shallow depth of field thanks to its 35mm sensor, thus achieving a very different result from other, more established broadcast cameras. The resulting blurred background video effect is similar to ‘portrait mode’ photographs that can be taken with certain mobile phones.
In addition, it integrates a stabilizer support similar to Steadicam technology, providing a cinematic visual experience, comparable to the image quality of a video game.
This new initiative was tested for the first time during the Valencia CF vs CA Osasuna fixture on Matchday 19 (Thursday 21 January) and during FC Barcelona vs Athletic Club on Matchday 21 (Sunday 31 January). LaLiga fans around the world will have the opportunity to enjoy this realistic image quality in selected matchday fixtures during the rest of the season.
The rig is made up of a Sony A7S II camera with 35mm sensor; Sony optics (Zeiss) 55mm; shutter 50 Aperture 2.8 Iso 100/T. color 4800K/gamma HLG/color 709; on a Zhiyun crane gimbal stabilizer.
The A7S is Sony’s newest entry in its full-frame mirrorless lineup. With mirrorless cameras, light travels directly through the lens and onto the image sensor where it is translated then displayed by the electronic viewfinder. This is the same camera technology found on smartphones and point and shoot cameras.
Mirrorless cameras have the advantage of usually being lighter, more compact, faster and better for video; but that comes at the cost of access to fewer lenses and accessories. For DSLRs, advantages include a wider selection of lenses, generally better optical viewfinders and much better battery life.
With fans still absent from stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic, LaLiga and Mediapro have continued to introduce technological innovations to improve the audiovisual broadcasting quality of the competition, among them new camera positions that achieve better angles and provide new shots never seen before.
LaLiga already has more stadiums with aerial cameras – 14 in total – that offer a unique vision of the game, as well as drones for other aerial shots, and 360º replays at eight of its stadiums.
Mirrorless cameras have also been pressed into action at a live NFL match this season. Fox Sports deployed a Sony a7R IV on a DJI Ronin-S gimbal to capture live shots at a Washington-Seattle game in December.
“This camera isn’t ordinarily made to shoot live video,” Mike Davies, SVP, technical and field operations, Fox Sports, told Sports Video Group’s Brandon Costa at the time.
“It certainly does a great job of shooting beautiful video but is not typically used for live. We were astonished by how much this was recognized.
“Certainly, we liked it, and people on our crew have been working with it all year, but we didn’t know your ordinary viewer would see such a difference sitting on their couch. It’s fantastic.”