Virtual stands and enhanced audio for LaLiga; Extra Premier League games on DAZN
By Simon Ward
LaLiga is to incorporate virtual images of stands and added fan audio into its broadcast coverage as the top Spanish soccer league resumes, without spectators in attendance, this week.
Working with Mediapro, the Spanish production company that is an established partner of the league, Vizrt the Norwegian company which provides live sports broadcasting solutions, and EA Sports, the video games developer, remaining matches in the top two divisions in the 2019-20 season will now be presented with enhanced digital innovation.
This is to compensate for the lack of fans and atmosphere, with matches having to be played behind closed doors for health reasons in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Spanish viewers will have a choice of natural or virtual coverage, but the international audience will only receive the enhanced offering.
The top-tier LaLiga and second-tier Segunda División have been suspended since early March as a result of the health emergency but, with the situation having improved, are resuming on Thursday and Friday respectively.
With the input of Vizrt, which works with other European leagues, the stands will be virtualised, with images of seated fans wearing the colours of the home team.
When the action stops, the image of the fans can be transformed into a canvas matching the colour of the home side and will carry institutional messages.
LaLiga said this virtualisation "will allow matches to be seen in an attractive way that closely resembles how they looked and sounded before the competition was postponed."
In addition, to enhance the viewing experience, LaLiga and Mediapro are offering some new camera positions, made possible by having them in places that would normally block the sightline of fans in the stands.
The aerial camera will have a different flight path to offer new shots, the bench camera will be moved to the opposite stand, and, for health and safety reasons, robotic cameras will be used in the tunnel.
Courtesy of EA Sports, which produces the renowned ‘FIFA’ title and is an official partner of LaLiga, the forthcoming match broadcasts will also feature virtual sound.
In a project entitled ‘Sounds of the Stands’, the audio in the video game, which was captured in real stadiums, has been digitally adapted so it can be implemented in real time during matches, and varies to correspond with situations such as goals or fouls, creating what is known as ‘Atmospheric Audio’.
Artificial crowd noise has already been offered as an option in broadcast coverage of Germany’s Bundesliga since it resumed last month.
In a statement, Javier Tebas, the president of LaLiga, said: “We have made these broadcasting changes so fans can enjoy LaLiga. We work with global partners to offer a great viewer experience. We are in an exceptional situation, but for us it has been important to be able to adapt and offer a compelling, cutting-edge broadcast to our fans.”
Telefónica, the Spanish telecoms giant, which owns pay-television operator Movistar Plus, is the main home of LaLiga in the country, in a three-year deal worth €2.94 billion ($3.32 billion), while Mediapro has rights to live coverage in public establishments, in a deal worth €480 million over the same period, to which it added exclusive internet rights to clips.
The digital innovations will be in place until spectators are allowed back into stadiums, and Tebas has not ruled out that prospect this season.
Speaking to Movistar on Sunday evening, he said: “Fans should be back as soon as they are allowed to be back.”
The first top-flight match to be played upon the resumption will be this Thursday’s Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis.
To mark the resumption of the league, LaLiga is planning various promotional activities in Spain and across the globe this week carrying the #BackToWin message.
These will include images and videos of the competition and its fans projected on to buildings in various cities, including the Golden Tower in Seville and the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.
In all there will be initiatives in over 50 countries, including digital and in-person events, media campaigns, prize draws, competitions and influencer campaigns.
LaLiga club kits will be showcased in hanging exhibitions in Spanish cities and there will be urban art exhibitions in 12 cities on five continents, including London, Paris, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Lagos and Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, DAZN, the over-the-top sports streaming platform, will be offering all matches from the remainder of the Premier League season in Spain when the English top flight gets back under way, following the coronavirus-enforced stoppage, next week.
DAZN holds rights to the league in Spain, Canada, Japan and Brazil but, under its agreement for Spain was restricted to showing only those fixtures that are televised in the UK.
With the schedule for the rest of the 2019-20 season having been restructured to enable all games to be shown in the UK while they are played behind closed doors, DAZN will show all 92 matches in the rest of the campaign.
DAZN will continue to show all Premier League fixtures in Canada and Japan, and two per round in Brazil under a sub-licensing agreement with ESPN in the South American country.
The English league resumes on 17 June with Aston Villa versus Sheffield United and Manchester City against Arsenal.