Live From the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup: Fox Sports’ Studio Eiffel Tower Backdrop Dazzles
A café is home to the show, which is produced both onsite and in L.A.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup marks the third time that Fox Sports has had to find a studio-show location that not only captures the identity of a nation but also wows viewers. In 2015, the backdrop was Vancouver Harbor with its dramatic mountains and buzzing seaplanes. For the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Russia it was Red Square in Moscow. And, this year, Fox Sports has again found the perfect backdrop: the studio’s location in the Trocadéro in Paris gives viewers an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower. Drive Studios, based in Los Angeles, was tasked with creating an environment that would connect the studio to one of the world’s most iconic landmarks.
“The first thing we saw was the color as well as the steel and crossbeams so we wanted a set that would have a steel look, as well as match the color to the best of our ability,” says Rod Conti, VP, World Cup operations, Fox Sports. “And then, at night, the color on the set has the same orange that is seen in the sparkles on the tower.”
Crossbeams were incorporated into the set’s walls, and fleur-de-lis patterns decorate the walls as well. A touchscreen monitor is available in the main set and can be moved around as needed.
The specific location in the Trocadéro is behind the Café de l’Homme, but the café itself has been transformed into an operations hub for the studio team. There are also two additional shooting options via a standup set with touchscreen as well as a café table.
“The original plan was for the restaurant to be open and home run the cameras from here [to Los Angeles],” says Conti. “But, when we were in Russia last year and looked at what was back-of-house there, we knew we could get lighting and audio into what would have been a small space here.”
Once the decision was made to take over the restaurant, a full production team was able to be onsite, creating a more cohesive team with talent and production personnel working side by side. At its peak, there were upwards of 120 people onsite.
The control room for the studio show is located in NEP’s Aurora mobile unit, home to the video department, the front-bench team, audio mixing, and control of on-set robotic cameras. One big change from 2015? EVS and graphics operations are located in Los Angeles, where the studio-show content is finalized before being played out to viewers.
“It’s one of those things that make sense and, so far, has had some hurdles. But it has been easily done as communication has been great [with the team in L.A.], and it’s been working pretty seamlessly.”
A key part of Fox Sports’ studio-show philosophy is to not use glass walls behind the talent, a move that removes the possibility of glare and also gives the entire studio a more open and connected feel to the surroundings. Soft curtains can be repositioned to deal with weather issues, and, given that the studio in Vancouver was basically in front of a harbor that doubled as an airport, the team long ago learned how to overcome any audio issues that might arise from background noise.
Trocadéro is a busy place and is a center for everything from protests to picnics. And, physically, its stone surface makes it seem as solid as, well, rock. But beneath its hard shell is a maze of caverns and tunnels.
“It’s hollow underneath, so weight became a big issue as we were limited to 400 kg per meter,” says Conti. “The most difficult thing was reducing the weight and size. It took a couple of engineering groups to do that.”
With the tournament’s final three games this week being played in Lyon, the Fox Sports venue-production team will be in motion, complementing the efforts from the main studio.
According to Kevin Callahan, director, technical operations, World Cup, Fox Sports, two separate contingency plans for the final three matches depended on whether the U.S. was playing. “We hoped all along the U.S. would make it,” he explains. “Our goal is to take the viewer to where the fans are. So we will have shots of the American Outlaws, the U.S. fan club that follows the international teams.
“We will have shots of them walking to the stadium and then shift to an outside presentation platform at the stadium provided by FIFA TV and HBS,” he continues. “Announcer Jenny Taft will be there, and, once the fans are inside the stadium, we will go to the usual pitch-side position with Alex Curry, and then Jenny will move inside. Basically, wherever the fans are, we’ll have coverage.”
The Fox Sports World Cup venue kit will be in Lyon with two technicians, who will ensure that signals get back to the IBC properly. Camera shading will also be done from Lyon.