The 17th edition of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Athletics Championships recently took place at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. The 10-day competition saw nearly 2,000 athletes from 209 countries compete.
This year’s event made history by being the first time the tournament has taken place in the Middle East since the event began in 1983.
For 2019’s event a range of technical innovations were introduced including. Among these were new camera angles, light shows, and increased engagement with competing athletes. This aimed to bring a ‘new and exciting dynamic’ to the event.
IAAF event presentation manager, Florian Weber, was responsible for the athletics presentation concept and challenged Creative Technology (CT) to deliver. CT provided entertainment lighting, LED athlete entrances for both track and field positions, a projected track-athlete introduction which covered the entire running track, and an LED medal ceremony podium on top of the Event Presentation control and stadium relay screens.
The track projection required the stadium to be dark, which required the sports lighting be switched off – something less than ideal. Weber commissioned CT to provide a VR model of the Khalifa Stadium containing the proposed LED screens and track projection, athletics apparatus and production overlay, in order to present the concept of the darkened track projection to broadcasters to make sure they understood and bought in to it, however it soon became a key pre-production tool for the IAAF. This was because it allowed pre-visualisationof the entire stadium, something that was invaluable for sponsors and stakeholders, as well as the broadcast team; it allowed the team to pre-plan camera locations, camera specifications and lens specification. This helped reduce costs as it reduced both overall broadcast costs and site-visit requirements.
The VR model also allowed CT to work closely with the IAAF sports presentation team to plan and design the in-stadia overlay, integrating all the event’s sports, presentation, functional, and broadcast elements.
A number of LED screens were installed throughout the stadium to enhance spectator experience within the venue and create a greater focus on the sports. The LEDs were placed in key areas including: stadium relay screens, the medal presentation and ceremonies stage, and athlete entry screens. CT supplied over 500sqm of curved 4.8mm LED screens to display all sports presentation content including live video feeds, event information, live results and athlete information.
CT also supplied eight mobile battery-powered LED Monoliths, which could be positioned anywhere around the athletics arena displaying live data for athletes’ names and country flags.
Lighting was added to enhance the event and draw focus to areas such as the athlete’s entrances, medal ceremonies, and winning athletes. CT delivered over 80 lighting fixtures which comprised of a mixture of Robe BMFL Blades, Clay Paky Sharpy Plus fixtures and Clay Paky B-Eye K15. CT also provided lighting fixtures around the top of the stadium.
CT used over 100 21K and 31K laser projectors to display custom content across the entire running track.
The creative team, headed up by Florian Weber, was made up of Rob Currie and Nick Clark-Lowes who worked closely with the CT team, led by project manager Matt Hartfree, to develop the content and technical solution to deliver the brief.
The vision took over a year of planning to realise, including a feasibility study at a local athletics track, as well as projection tests onto samples of the Mondo track surface at the Khalifa stadium to get the projector placement and colourand light levels right. These placements and levels were then modeled in the Photon server to figure out how to project a single continuous image, whilst also considering the structural and environmental constraints of the stadium, and other stakeholder requirements.
CT provided cameras and switching to ensure a fluid delivery of the sports presentation content for the stadium LED screens which included: EVS playback, custom graphics, real-time edit and playback for production highlights. In all, 24 broadcast and dedicated camera feeds were fed into the PPU and sent out via the switcher as 4 separate HD video outputs, each fed to the stadium control system over a Mediornet wide area network (WAN). Communication and audio feeds were also transported along with the video signals via the Mediornet WAN.
As part of the event presentation team, three editors delivered individually designed content to each event final for use in the live event presentation and international broadcast. The editors had multiple feeds and an eight channel recorder linked on 10GB network to multiple NAS drives supplied to them, which allowed them to select and record the event from all available camera fees in the stadium. They also had access to all broadcast EVS content collected on-site via IPD Director.
Two Barco Encore switchers controlled the content to every display, whilst eight Watchout media servers with 32 HD outputs provided the content playback to the LED. These also captured 4K live data from Mercury Sports in order to display the athlete names and digital flags for the medal ceremony.
The projection mapping and content playback was handled by six Photon media servers.
CTs Mercury sport application formatted and interrogated the results and timing data to drive Character Works, allowing CT to deliver 13 independent scoring outputs, each able to display different graphical states for 49 athletics events.
CT supplied a Yamaha CL5 desk, and Sigma Spot-on for audio playback to control the feed to the stadium PA system.
Creative Technology supplied the communication systems for the event presentation team and broadcast production team. The event presentation system was made up of a Riedel artist 128 matrix and included 16 comms panels and 12 ways of Riedel C3 belt-packs. The artist matrix also managed 20 Bolero wireless belt-packs for the floor management team and 4 CCP-1116 commentary units. CT also supplied 50 duplex hand portable radios as a backup.
For the broadcast rights holders CT provided 150 hand portable radios with 18 duplex talkback channels linked from the stadium via an audio over fibresolution. 24 channels of MADI delivered over Mediornet were used to make four-wire connections between event presentation and the broadcast compound.Another 36 radios, four channels of Helixnet talkback and Glensound commentary units were provided at the Corniche for the Event Production of the road racing events, the system also featured motorbike communications and audio channel.
Doha 2019 saw the premiere of the midnight marathon taking place along Doha’s corniche. CT supplied video and audio solutions for the marathon and walks along the corniche with further audio and communications for the spectator grandstands. CT was also responsible for distributing all live signals and content to the LED screens that ran along the finish line.
Head of sport at Creative Technology, Steve Purkess, said: “Working towards the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha has been an amazing journey, delivering presentation techniques at a scale more commonly seen in opening ceremonies into live athletics gave us a unique challenge. It has been a privilege for CT to play a part in delivering this game changing approach to event presentation.”
CT’s Middle East general manager, Irum Ashraf, added: “Our local office fully supported the wider Creative Technology team with both human and technical resources. Having been part of several Athletic meetings held in Doha over the last year, CT’s local office played a pivotal role in providing knowledge of the local market, which helped with our successful delivery. It’s a very exciting time for Sport in Qatar right now and having a base here puts us in a prime position to be involved in such great events in the future.”