Discovery Finland creates sprawling circular virtual set for hockey

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Discovery Finland debuted a “sprawling,” ring-shaped virtual set for its coverage of hockey on Eurosport.

The virtual set is powered by Zero Density’s Reality platform with rendering from the Unreal Engine.

The design has the somewhat unique distinction of having been built natively in Unreal as well — most virtual sets start in 3D software such as Cinema 4D and then get transferred into a rendering system.

“The size of green studios is always a limiting factor in terms of separation and camera positioning.  The Helsinki studio space was a challenge and our ability to continually test camera positions and lenses in Unreal was a vital part of the design process,” said Toby Kalitowski of BK Design Projects, who designed the virtual set with Jim Mann of Lightwell.

“The ability to pull back virtual cameras in Zero Density wasn’t a feature we had used before, but when the team at Suora added a modest camera move for an opening show shot, its impact was immediately obvious. We were able to extend beyond the studio’s physical limits, and show the depth in the virtual sets design,” said Mann.

A birdseye view of the 3D model used for the Discovery Finland hockey virtual set.

The model is circular in shape, with a more traditional studio setup in the middle of what, from above, looks like a giant wheel with spokes. 

This nexus features an anchor desk, interview area and video walls, which can also be used for standups. 

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A primary background of a “video wall” is framed out by two curved elements with shapes that suggest hockey sticks ties into the shape of the desk. 

The Finnish National Men’s Ice Hockey Team’s logo, which uses the Finnish word for Finland, Suomi, is featured prominently throughout the virtual screens, as is the multicolor Discovery+ logo.

Meanwhile, the outer perimeter of the space is used to provide both depth to the scenes depicted in the center space while also serving as additional standup style venues. Topical graphics, as well as 3D “statues” of hockey players in various poses, can be placed in this area.

The outer “wall” of the space is depicted as what is presumably meant to be floor to ceiling video walls, and the network has the ability to change the graphics used here as needed.

Two Panasonic PTZ (AW-UE150) and two Panasonic box cameras (AK-UB300) are used to capture talent, which is paired with four of Zero Density’s Reality Engines

Discovery Finland is a similar but distinct version of the U.S.-based Discovery network, owned by a European division of the company. Discovery also owns Eurosport and produces sports coverage under this co-branding arrangement. 

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