Virtual studio a portal to the sporting world

Architecture van Brandenburg designer Damien van Brandenburg (left) and 3D artist Fernando...
Architecture van Brandenburg designer Damien van Brandenburg (left) and 3D artist Fernando Chiavassa show the Fox Sports network’s new 3D virtual studio, which the Dunedin team designed. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN & FOX SPORTS/MONTAGE MAT PATCHETT
A chance meeting of a Fox Sports network executive with a Dunedin designer has resulted in a game-changing studio set designed for the North American station’s coverage of the UEFA Euro 24 and Copa America football tournaments.

Fox Sports tech and innovation senior vice-president Zac Fields was in Dunedin recently to catch up with friend and Animation Research Ltd managing director Sir Ian Taylor, and have a couple of games of golf.

By coincidence, Sir Ian had a meeting with Architecture van Brandenburg designer Damien van Brandenburg, so he invited Mr Fields to join them and see what kind of work was going on in the city.

Mr Fields was so impressed with Architecture van Brandenburg’s work, he later invited Mr van Brandenburg and his team to submit a virtual set design for the sports channel which is watched by millions of people around the world.

Their pitch "The Cathedral of Sport", was selected by the network and went live last week at Fox Sport’s Los Angeles studio.

"It’s fantastic — really great," Mr van Brandenburg said.

"It shows that we’ve got quite a bit of global reach from here, and that we can achieve major projects all over the world."

It is believed to be the biggest and most advanced 3D virtual studio ever built for sports coverage.

"It was something we hadn’t done before. This is the first time we’ve done something with virtual architecture.

"It is like creating a building, so we approached it in the same way as we would designing a physical building.

"Just from the outset, it was a design that we knew would never physically be built, although the virtual component of it within their studio in LA feels like you’re standing inside a real building when it’s turned on."

He said the 360° immersive XR studio environment consisted of a backdrop of LED screens on three faces; and through technology, they could create a backdrop of anything.

"So as the camera moves, you see slightly different angles and it looks like it’s really there behind the presenter."

He said the set allowed the production to move through various rooms with eye-catching imagery and graphics, showcasing team colours, match-ups, player statistics, and more.

The dynamic backgrounds would also feature the cities where the matches were being played, fully immersing audiences into the cities across Germany and the United States for the two football tournaments.

The presenters’ desk and coffee table, complete with cups and saucers, were also designed by the van Brandenburg team.

Mr van Brandenburg paid tribute to Sir Ian for "shining a spotlight" on what Dunedin could do.

"He’s just so positive about what New Zealand has to offer.

"I think it’s fantastic for Dunedin and also New Zealand, that we have someone like him for an ambassador."

Sir Ian said he was just "showing off" some of Dunedin’s talent, and was delighted the company had beaten other, much larger American design companies in the bid.

"One of the things that I’ve been really saddened by in the last year or so, is the number of politicians talking about how New Zealand has lost its mojo.

"My answer to them is, you’re talking to the wrong people.

"Everywhere I go overseas, everybody thinks New Zealand is the definition of mojo.

"There’s people here doing amazing things, and that’s who we’ve got to focus on."