MADRID – They say that it is the best match that can be seen in the world of football and they are right: the passion, the rivalry, the titles … Everything is at the height of a global event that, every year, brings together millions of people in front of the television. That is why LaLiga has taken a step forward in the production and realization of a sport that goes hand in hand with the show and that, a few years ago, has been a pioneer and reference for other championships.
On the morning of the Classic, Valdebebas dawns with some wind and clouds that threaten a storm in a few hours. The incessant wind accompanies the landings and takeoffs from Barajas airport, which, a few kilometers away, completes the postcard of the less urban outskirts of Madrid. There, in the so-called Real Madrid City, an army of Mediapro workers have been working for days for nothing to fail in what, according to Sergio Sánchez, head of the audiovisual area of La Liga, is the “most important game of all.”
Meanwhile, those responsible for Mediapro continue to carry out the relevant tests and mount the latest cameras for a broadcast that has become an international reference. Óscar Lago, Head of Production, receives ESPN in a mobile television unit that was recently acquired. There he tells us that there will be 30 cameras to be used during the match and that, except for 2 or 3 cameras that will not be for “legal and infrastructure issues”, they will be the same as for a Classic with an audience.
And it is that this edition of Real Madrid – Barcelona in the capital of Spain is conditioned by two reasons. The first, which is played in a stadium as small as the Alfredo di Stefano and, the second, the proximity of the Barajas airport. As for the stadium, as is normal, you cannot use cameras that were intended for the public at the Santiago Bernabéu. In reference to legality, the famous helicopter that flies over the stadiums had to be exchanged for a 4.5 kilo drone that offers fantastic “beauty images”.
Despite the difficulties, everything seems normal. Even better. Lago boasts ESPN’s pioneering use of “movie-look” cameras. They are the same cameras that in social networks they call “those of the Playstation”, because they have an image similar to that of video games.
“In November we saw it in the NFL and we thought about how to apply it to soccer. They are different sports because there are not so many breaks here. On the first day Griezmann came to celebrate the goal in front of the camera and it had more positive repercussions than we thought. People started saying that it reminded them of the PlayStation and they really liked it. We implement the option to improve performance. We have gone from having 6 or 7 shots per game to placing it in dual format like Steadycam ”, says Óscar Lago.
In fact, LaLiga offered us to test this camera and the feeling is incredible. First of all because of the weight, that not everyone is prepared to carry a vest plus the camera and its support, which weigh about 30 kilograms. And second, because of the texture of the final image. The viewer has a spectacular depth of field with cameras that La Liga has adapted to live sports in record time, since they are more oriented to recording than to live broadcasts.
Beyond the technical challenge, clearly mastered, the broadcast of a Classic has an unavoidable problem: the lack of an audience. In that regard, Óscar Lago
“The lack of a real audience is a very big handicap but, unfortunately, that’s the way it is. The public is vital because football is passion and, without an audience, it is not the same. We try to alleviate it by showing more reactions from players and more repetitions by having a little more time for it ”, comments the Head of Realization of Mediapro.
The device is completed with another 4 special ultra-slow cameras to follow several players that record at 300 fps and another three cameras that record at 75 fps.
In addition, the inclusion of the virtual environment has been implemented successfully since the beginning of the pandemic. The device minimizes the impact of empty stands and the absence of public.
“The virtual stands allow us to make the spectator forget that the stadium is empty. It is the key to success. Psychologically, they disconnect and forget that there is no audience, while the sound helps that feeling last for the 90 minutes, ”says Lago.
As the hours go by, the Classic is getting closer and the tests to make sure everything goes well are ending. The blue of the Di Stefano bleachers contrasts with the bright green of the lawn. A couple of club workers comment that “it is impossible not to play well here.”
The League has tried to develop a mechanism so that the relationship between the fans and their players is maintained. And it is closely related to the realization of the matches. It is the inclusion of the Fan Cam. These are cameras located in the stands so that players can celebrate their goals in a personalized way.
“Encouraging the relationship between the player and the fan is key for us. Being behind closed doors, the games are very cold and that tempers it, ”says Sergio Sánchez, head of the audiovisual area of La Liga.
Just three hours before the start of the match and a drone flies over Alfredo Di Stefano. It is the most unequivocal sign that all the work of a year bears fruit and that, from 9:00 p.m. local time, the protagonism and responsibility will fall on the main actors of a Classic that is from a movie. It is the turn of Messi, Courtois, Benzema, Pedri and the rest.