New ZDF-Sport design: Katrin Müller-Hohenstein in the new setting of the “aktuelle sportstudio”

© ZDF/Atelier Markgraph/Alpenblick GmbH

Stadium Feeling in the Studio and at Home

“Das aktuelle sportstudio” is an institution among German soccer fans. But even legends need a fresh look every now and then. Atelier Markgraph has shown how to change an icon without it losing its soul.

“Das aktuelle sportstudio” first aired in 1963, together with the newly created German Bundesliga (national soccer league). For the 2017/2018 season, the studio was completely redesigned to resemble a soccer stadium. “We wanted to make the stadium experience even more intense for the viewers,” explains Sebastian Nüßlein, Architect at Atelier Markgraph and one of the masterminds behind the redesign of the studio.

Let’s get the ball rolling

The new set was not only to be used for all three ZDF sport shows (“das aktuelle sportstudio”, “ZDF SPORTreportage” and “ZDF SPORTextra”), but also to be state-of-the-art, visually and technologically. In order to meet these expectations while also introducing more of a “stadium atmosphere” to the studio, Nüßlein and his team came up with the concept of the multimedia fan curve. “The new design can accommodate a larger audience and allows a 360° feed for the camera image,” explains Ralf Schnürer, Production Manager at Atelier Markgraph. “The atmosphere in the studio is palpable for the viewers at home.”

The fan curve comes to life with PLEXIGLAS®

We decided on PLEXIGLAS® LED Black & White as this material can display both extremely dark and colored image ranges.

Sebastian Nüßlein
Architect at Atelier Markgraph

The main elements of the new design are rectangular, illuminated elements, the design of which was based on the fan scarves of different football clubs. “We wanted to evoke an emotional reaction,” says Schnürer. After all, one of the most distinctive and emotional images from stadiums across the world are those of soccer fans holding the scarf of their club in the air and loudly cheering on their heroes.

The approximately 100 “fan scarves” installed in the studio are made from 3 x 0.5-meter metal boxes with a PLEXIGLAS® front, upon which colors or images are displayed during the show. “We searched for a suitable material for a long time before deciding on the PLEXIGLAS® LED Black & White 9H04 SC plate with single-sided satin coating,” says Nüßlein. “We needed the most consistent backlighting possible for the media elements. And we achieved it thanks to the combination of colored LEDs and the light-scattering properties of PLEXIGLAS®.” An innovative idea that is similar to an LED display in its function and quality. The LED backlights work as a color dot grid. Each individual light dot can change color. Connected in an LED grid, they can create color surfaces, images and even film sequences which are projected onto the PLEXIGLAS® from behind. A lot of development work was required for these specially constructed LED modules, during which it became apparent that PLEXIGLAS® LED Black & White had the required material properties. “We needed a material that appears black when not backlit, but displays intense colors when the LEDs are turned on,” explains Nüßlein. “This was only possible with this special material.”

Assembling and dismantling – once a week

A further challenge for the designers was that the set of the “aktuelle sportstudio” has to be brought from the ZDF warehouse every Friday, assembled in the studio, and then disassembled and stored again every Sunday. “This was just another reason why we chose PLEXIGLAS®. The brand acrylic glass is robust and lightweight,” explains Nüßlein.

An additional challenge was determining the correct distance between the LEDs and the PLEXIGLAS®. The LEDs could not be too close to or too far from the PLEXIGLAS® sheet, as the individual light dots would have either become visible, or the colors would have appeared blurred.

Consistent light scattering and a surface which does not reflect light was also important for the other studio elements made from PLEXIGLAS®. The steps and illuminated edges in the audience area were therefore manufactured from PLEXIGLAS® Satinice. The moderator’s podium was manufactured from anti-reflective PLEXIGLAS® GS which was then also given a matte finish. This is a surefire method to reduce reflections, even on the rounded edges which can quickly appear shiny due to the material being stretched.

Round and square

Two additional legendary elements of the studio also required a gentle redesign: the clock and the goal wall. “We actually wanted to leave these elements as original as possible,” says Nüßlein. “However, over the course of the project, it became apparent that it would be more cohesive if the clock was digitalized and the goal wall medialized.” This also resulted in completely new material requirements, as a ball can travel at up to 120 km/h when struck from a distance of 11 meters. The brand acrylic glass from Evonik proved itself here once again due to its high impact resistance. As every goal should be celebrated with illuminated accents, the extensive electronics installed also had to be constructed as vibration proof. However, Nüßlein and Schnürer could not resist a small hint of nostalgia – when the goal wall is not lit up, it looks almost like its predecessor.

We had great respect for the project, but the joy was even greater.

Ralf Schnürer
Production Manager at Atelier Markgraph

(Sports) world of unlimited possibilities

The new studio design offers a wide array of design possibilities which the production and camera crews are currently testing. “The images are getting better week by week,” says Nüßlein. “Suddenly you can see new camera settings, different background feeds and innovative tracking shots. We are delighted by the versatility of the new studio design and are looking forward to more fantastic sporting moments on ZDF.”