In 2019, NVIZ was approached by Yahoo Studios to explore a new production method for their online broadcasts. This resulted in us designing and building two virtual studios and creating in-show graphics for the Fantasy Football League (FFL).
In 2021, Yahoo Studios returned to NVIZ, excited by our previous work and keen to build on what we had created in the last season. This new brief was to build an FFL stadium backdrop, and while initial investigations into a 2D approach were made, it was seen as too limited for the open shooting style that they had built their show around.
After researching and designing the stadium based on references provided by the Yahoo Studio team, NVIZ pitched a scale of design similar to the famous Hard Rock Stadium and the MetLife Stadium. It was decided to make the asset as accessible to the FFL on set team as possible. The goal being to treat the environment as if it were a physical location that their team could recce and shoot anywhere they needed to, albeit virtually.
The huge scale of this stadium, that even included a retractable roof, presented additional technical challenges that we planned to solve using UE4’s powerful Blueprint systems. The detailed parts, everything from big screen displays, banners and flags to seats and lights, broke down into an excess of 90,000 meshes. This called for a precise approach to generating, rendering and organising the assets to ensure optimal performance. NVIZ created a system that utilised some of Unreal Engine’s performance saving tools in interesting ways. This included using a tool intended for foliage, to procedurally fill the bleachers with seats.
It was - as has been a major selling point for Yahoo - important to be able to ‘future proof’ the build for long term use. Outside of the generic features of a stadium, such as bleachers, which needed to be built according to a standard, everything with branding was built with a view to customisation. This means that specific parts of the stadium can be dressed with any branded colour and logos the show chooses.
This was a crucial part of the design, as the pace of content meant that sponsors could change regularly, and with little advance warning of who the next sponsor will be. Stadiums are generally peppered with spaces ideal for advertising and logos, so the show could expand its tie-ins and sponsorships as the season progresses. This is one of the major benefits to building in this complete, all encompassing way.
In addition to this hefty stadium build and dressing, the NVIZ team also created next generation title sequences, incorporating new elements and graphics. These were redesigned to suit the aesthetic of the new set, and create a dramatic reveal of the new stadium as the sequence reaches its finale.
As per the original 2019 sequence, NVIZ delivered a fully real time solution, enabling the production to make changes to sponsors, players and presenters, at speed before hitting ‘play’ and kicking off the sequence on broadcast.
It was great to work with our friends at Yahoo again, and see the vision of the FFL studio carried across and improved upon, in this ambitious project.