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World Cup Joint Studio

© Matthias Rohde

In the ARD and ZDF joint studio for the FIFA World Cup in Russia, illuminated elements made from PLEXIGLAS® give the live shows their own identity.

At the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014, ARD and ZDF both reported from the Copa Cabana, however, in 2018, the two public broadcasters are not in Russia, but in a joint studio from Südwestrundfunk (SWR, a broadcaster for the South West of Germany) in Baden-Baden. “The studio is the joint platform for the coverage,” explains Matthias Rohde, a freelance stage designer who designed the World Cup studio upon request from SWR. “Each broadcaster also wants to have unique features for their stage, however.”

Joint studio with flexible design

Whether ARD or ZDF is covering a match, the studio has a key element they both share: The “window to Russia”, as described by Rohde, is an 11-meter-long by 3-meter-high LED wall which almost fills the whole room. The LED video wall is even capable of transmitting Ultra HD images. All other backdrops are completely changed in between coverage.

Depending on the broadcaster, the moderator desks are changed, as are the transparent sheets with their illuminated graphical elements at the sides of the studio, which help create the desired atmosphere. Both broadcasters have selected completely different themes for their coverage. For ARD shows, the illuminated panels represent a stylized stadium, an image reminiscent of the opening sequence of ARD’s main sport show, “Sportschau”, while ZDF’s version is reminiscent of the “ZDF Sportstudio”, thanks to the illuminated elements with their large bars.

Bars at ZDF

The main elements of the ZDF studio are a large moderator desk and a second large screen on the right side of the studio. The motifs on the PLEXIGLAS® elements form a subtle frame. Sheets of PLEXIGLAS® GS were printed white and are backlit using spotlights.

© SWR / Photo: Alexander Kluge

Stadium images at ARD

ARD uses two smaller moderator desks, which set the scene together with the illuminated elements at the sides of the studio and the glossy floor.

© SWR / Photo: Alexander Kluge

Both subtle and vibrant

While the design of the ZDF studio is more reserved, the design of the vibrant stadium set used for the ARD studio, with the bars printed on the illuminated elements, almost appears to be floating. This impression is created using a special illumination technology from axis GmbH & Co. KG from Nuremberg, known as Lightgraphic. The technology uses very fine structures which have been lasered into a transparent 8 mm-thick sheet of PLEXIGLAS® GS. The effect: When light is fed into the sheet from above and below, it exits from the laser engravings and the edges of the sheet.

“Thanks to the unique light-conducting properties of PLEXIGLAS®, the light source itself takes a back seat,” says Felix Szak, member of the board at axis. “The acrylic glass itself appears to be almost invisible, while the pattern is illuminated homogeneously and therefore emerges clearly.

A stadium with shadows

14 of these Lightgraphic elements, each over two meters tall, were manufactured for the World Cup studio, an unusual task for the lighting experts at axis: “Lightgraphic elements provide virtually infinite design possibilities,” says Szak. “However, each motif requires a certain amount of development work.” The graphical representation of the stadium was therefore initially only going to be implemented using the outer lines.

“Unfortunately, the stadium was difficult to recognize this way,” says the light expert. Only through fine shadowing does the design become clear. “It was of great importance that PLEXIGLAS® can be lasered very precisely,” explains Szak. “The stadium only became clearly visible after lasering lines in different widths and depths to create different brightness levels.”

Color shift over the course of a day

© Matthias Rohde

The PLEXIGLAS® elements are illuminated from above and below by colored LEDs, which enable color gradients to be displayed. The color of individual elements shifts over the course of a day, with more white being used during the day and warmer colors at night. The color shift creates different lighting atmospheres in the studio.

For studio designer Rohde, brightness was also the decisive factor for using this technology which was previously unknown to him. “The directors also wanted to try out something new,” he says. “We were not sure if it would work, as television studios are very bright. This meant that all elements had to be extremely bright, otherwise they would not be clearly visible.”

Rohde is pleased with the result, describing it as “very impressive” – he was also impressed by the transparency of the PLEXIGLAS® GS sheets: “The PLEXIGLAS® elements provide the studio with an additional image level as the camera can move behind them,” says Rohde. “The sheets have to be completely transparent to enable the audience to have an unimpeded view of the moderators, and this is exactly the case.” A perfect frame for the joint World Cup studio.

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