Yes, 9:16, not 16:9. In a move that has sent shudders round the world, for the first time a German soccer match was produced in full on vertical mode last week.
This is either part of the new customer-first broadcast sensibility or the end of civilisation as we know it depending on your point of view, but either way the broadcast of the German Bundesliga match between VfL Wolfsburg and SV Werder Bremen in 9:16 in addition to the usual broadcast format represents some kind of landmark.
It also highlighted how technically challenging doing something like this is if you’re going to do it properly. The 9:16 feed was produced by the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga as an entirely separate workflow with five additional cameras used alongside the normal 25. Rather than simply cropping in on the Ultra HD image, the cameras were tilted using special tripods to enable a full resolution broadcast to mobile screens. Meanwhile, in a separate control room the monitors were also rotated by 90 degrees to maintain continuity and make sure the director was choosing the images that the viewers would see on their devices.
This is, of course, all aimed at smartphones and social media, where the vertical format has taken hold. What’s surprising when you look at the pictures — and DFL has some video you can look at as well as a bit more explanation on the project here — is how effective they are. Obviously there are challenges, the camera crew in particular have to work harder to keep the action centred and it’s easy to lose the overall shape of the game when you don’t have the wide Camera 1 angle, but it could be a lot worse.
The economics of mounting two side-by-side productions will probably keep it from becoming more mainstream just now. But as a proof of concept it’s interesting and it’s not too hard to see how taking an AI-derived slice of a 4K 9:16 from an 8K capture, for instance, could well make sense at some point in the future.