Production teams have already been working for months on the forthcoming World Cup coverage
In the months building up to the World Cup, unseen hands have been working away to create the massive infrastructure needed to bring viewers the most multi-faceted coverage ever.

While England fans are sitting in their armchairs fretting about broken metatarsals or whether Sven should plump for 4:4:2 or the Christmas tree formation, production teams will be hard at it, scuttling around Germany to capture the sounds and pictures of the World Cup.

It is a huge undertaking. The tournament will be watched by an estimated accumulated audience of 32 billion. There are 64 live matches to cover at 12 stadia in just 31 days; reports to film from press conferences, training camps and team hotels; and highlights packages to pull together. If England reach the final stages, the BBC and ITV crews, and the media outfits helping them, will be as knackered as the team.

From its command post at the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in Munich, Host Broadcast Services (HBS) will be providing one high-definition feed live from each match and providing pre and post-match coverage.

To fulfil its contract with world football's governing body Fifa, the Swiss-based host broadcaster is calling on the services of media outfits such as UK mega-indie TWI. For every game, TWI is making 30 minutes of feature material available to all national broadcasters to dip into.

Over the past two years TWI has been gathering footage from around the world while producing the weekly magazine show, Fifa Futbol Mundial.

For the tournament itself, TWI is taking 14 five-man crews to Germany to film up-to-the-minute content, together with a production team of around 20 at the IBC to put the programmes together.

It promises to be a tough job: each 30-minute package has to contain five features and be made available to broadcasters by midnight before each game. 'The guys on the road have the best jobs. They get around and see some games,' says Gerry Harrison, TWI's executive producer of football. 'The worst job is turning the stuff around at the IBC. We'll be in a bunker for four weeks.'

Technology has come on rapidly since the last World Cup. 'We did the same job in South Korea and Japan in 2002, but broadcasters only slowly twigged that all this material was available. And it wasn't available on a server. Broadcasters had to tap me on the shoulder and then I'd give them a tape,' recalls Harrison. Four years on, TWI is using tapeless technology. 'The material all comes in on a server. The broadcasters will see what's coming in and they can take what they want.'

Belgium-based EVS Broadcast Equipment is providing a few more pieces to complete HBS's technical jigsaw. Its equipment and team of specialists will be on site providing playout for the TWI-produced features; a continually evolving highlights package of the current game as it plays; and video stills to be used on the Fifa website and as mobile clips. EVS's media servers (a bank of XT2s) will hold all 1,600 hours of World Cup content, which broadcasters will be able to browse and request material from during the tournament.

'Everything has to be absolutely perfect and operational on 9 June. We can't afford any delay,' says Luc Doneux, EVS head of big sport events.

'We have to train an estimated 150 to 200 people [from national broadcasters] in less than eight days in Munich on the media server and refresh and update around 40 people in six different cities working on the main extended stadium feed production.'

Facilities and project management company Gearhouse Broadcast is building technical operations centres at each of the 12 venues in Germany. Its main role, explains technical director Kevin Moorhouse, is to provide 'the interface between [HBS's] world feed and the national broadcasters, who arrive with their own trucks bringing cameras for pitch-side reports and studios at the ground.'

Gearhouse is also providing facilities for the BBC, ESPN and South American broadcaster TYC. The outfit's equipment includes 10 Thomson LDK 6000 HD cameras, six of which will be used by the BBC in its Berlin and Munich studios. 'We've been planning this for a year and a half,' says Moorhouse. 'We've put back-up systems in place because we've got high penalties in our contracts if anything fails.'

Both HBS and the BBC will be using Panasonic's tapeless P2 system, which the corporation tested successfully at the Winter Olympics earlier this year. The BBC is equipping three mobile crews, who will be travelling around Germany reporting from training camps, team hotels and matches, with AJ-SPX900 P2 camcorders. Each crew will consist of a cameraman, soundman/editor, reporter and producer.

'We'll be using the camera as the method of playing out as well as the method of acquisition,' adds Malcolm Cowan, lead editor BBC post-production. 'We've got some software being developed by Kingswood Warren [the BBC's R&D unit], which will allow us to take our finished edits from our Avid Newscutter Xpress laptops editing software and put it back on to a P2 card. It can then be played out on the camera down the line to the IBC. It gives us a whole tapeless workflow.'

The mobile crews travelling around Germany are just one small part of the BBC's coverage, which involves BBC studios, outside broadcasts and post-production supporting the football specialists of BBC sport.

Although the BBC's operation is based at the IBC in Munich, the BBC has built its own studio in the Akademie der Kunst with spectacular views across central Berlin. Presenting its coverage 450 miles away from the IBC, however, 'brings a whole host of problems', says BBC Resources chief technical manager Tony Bate. 'Shipping signals backwards and forwards between Munich and Berlin and then on to London is technically complex.' And, the decision to film from the studio in HD adds to the difficulty.

'HD signals are complex and transporting them is much more difficult in terms of the circuits and bandwidth you need,' say Bate. Because HD signals carry a lot of encoding and decoding a high bit-rate is needed, which requires a high-bandwidth to support transmission.

The main feeds will be transferred between Berlin, Munich and London via fibre, with satellite back-up. The Munich to Berlin fibre capacity comprises an STM-4 with 600mB/s capacity, which carries all HD, standard vision and audio circuits. The Munich to London circuits comprise two STM-1s (300mB/s) on fibre, plus a satellite back-up.

Although it is a new technology, there is a high demand for HD equipment. 'We're covering Wimbledon and the World Cup in HD at the same time, so all the super slo-motion cameras in the world are tied up with those two projects,' says BBC Resources head of technology Andy King.

BBC sport is supplementing HBS's HD feed with its own HD coverage from the Berlin studio and from OB trucks at England and other key matches.

'For England versus Paraguay, for example, we'll add on a few cameras to make it more suitable for our audience. HBS has a very strict directive that they must provide neutral coverage, which they do very well. But if John Motson mentions David Beckham, it gives me the opportunity to cut in shots that are more relevant to our commentary,' says BBC sport executive producer Phil Bigwood.

ITV's coverage of the 2002 World Cup was based in London. This time, the broadcaster is covering most of its games from the stadia in Germany. 'We've got two outside broadcast units [provided by 021], which are leapfrogging around the country,' says ITV Sport senior producer Paul McNamara. 'Germany's a huge country and that makes it difficult. It would be impossible if you were doing it with one production team, one commentator and one set of pundits. By the time you've finished one game, you'd need to be somewhere hundreds of kilometres away.'

ITV is adding to its core Champions League team and taking a crew of more than 100 to the World Cup. One team will be based at the England team hotel in Baden Baden, while another mobile team will criss-cross the country reporting on England's opponents and other teams. But it is McNamara's lot to watch the World Cup, with his fellow producers, on dozens of monitors. 'I've had the pleasure of watching football from some of the great car parks of the world,' he says, ruefully.

There's also a new kid muscling in on the big boys of UK broadcasting this year ??? UKTV. Through a sub-licensing a deal with the BBC, UKTV G2 is showing 31 games live, including the final and all England matches.

Although the digital channel will be using the BBC's sound and pictures, it's adding its own commentary and pundits, including Ron Atkinson - who left ITV after making a racist comment about Chelsea player Marcel Desailly in 2004.

UKTV G2, as befits a channel with a target audience of 16 to 34-year-old men, is gearing its coverage towards the youth market.

'We're offering a real alternative to the BBC and ITV,' says Steve North, channel head of UKTV G2 and UKTV People.

'We're looking to have lots of fun in our build-up, at half time and after the game, but for 90 minutes people want to watch the game.'

World Cup stories: the BBC's interactive coverage

The BBC's interactive coverage of the World Cup will be on all three digital platforms: satellite, cable and Freeview, although the number of video streams may be limited at times on the last of these because of bandwidth constraints.

During live games, viewers can choose between BBC channels or Five Live's commentary or, if they tire of commentator's clichés, the crowd noise from the stadium. Using red button technology, viewers will also be able to replay in full earlier matches, tune into highlights or watch an 'England channel', which offers interviews and press conferences. When two matches are played at the same time, both will be broadcast.

With Wimbledon and the World Cup clashing towards the end of the football tournament, the BBC had to secure extra bandwidth on the digital satellite and cable platforms to enable both events to run with multi-stream applications.

Red Bee, formerly BBC Broadcast, is providing comprehensive playout and operational support for the World Cup interactive systems and services across multiple platforms. The interactive service will be produced live by the BBC sport interactive team in the custom-built Broadcast Interactive Production area (BiP) at Television Centre, which the interactive playout suite has dedicated circuits to and from. The BiP is in effect two separate studio galleries minus the actual studio and is managed by a BBC Resources team. The production team will send Red Bee one video with embedded audio for each of the streams that make up the service.

Playout directors are responsible for overseeing the service and will monitor all the live feeds during transmission. If anything unusual is spotted, there is full talkback facility to the gallery. Interactive engineers will be on call to help with any software problems.

A bespoke website,, will offer player ratings; the news pop-up of commentator John Motson, Mini Motty; and Virtual Replay, 3D animations of key moments from matches. Fans can also take part in a World Cup blog, as they follow the tournament through the eyes of two BBC journalists driving around Germany in a camper van.