Blackmagic Design helps Zalando move into a new media era

Powered by Blackmagic Design, Zalando’s groundbreaking new broadcast center redefines fashion storytelling, connecting more than 50 million customers with innovative style and contemporary trends, while overhauling the retailer’s AV systems.

Content creation in the fashion and lifestyle sector? For most, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and other major social media platforms would come to mind. But a retailer with its own broadcast center? Meet Zalando’s broadcasting unit, which in 2023 moved to a newly inaugurated facility in the heart of Berlin.

Eben Olivier, senior broadcast specialist at Zalando, emphasises, “Our work on the broadcast and video production team focuses on building meaningful partnerships with our brand partners and serving our extensive customer base of more than 50 million across Europe, while also supporting all aspects of AV for internal requirements.”

Beyond brick and mortar  

Europe’s leading online retailer is home to more than 7,000 brands and supplies customers in 25 countries across the continent.

To engage with its audiences, Zalando relies on high quality audiovisual content, ranging from livestreams and recording to podcasts.

Recently, and in line with the company’s expansion plans, it has undergone a transition to an end to end audiovisual workflow based on Blackmagic Design.

The company’s headquarters is spread across four campuses in Berlin, one of which is located close to the historic Berlin Wall. Recently, the broadcasting unit moved to a new location, the Zalando Broadcasting Center (BHQ-O).

The facility, which serves as the creative hub, features three studio spaces and a self service area.

In conjunction with establishing this new site, the company has chosen to shift to a Blackmagic Design ecosystem, encompassing acquisition, control, and delivery solutions, all supported by a robust and reliable digital infrastructure.

“Over the years, the technical infrastructure for studios and auditoriums has grown with the company and we had equipment from various manufacturers in use,” recalls Olivier. “This wasn’t ideal and some of the products had reached the natural end of their lifespan, so we began planning to streamline those technologies and systems employed while, at the same time, finding a solution that was flexible and reliable enough to cater to our diverse production needs.”

Blending style with tech

Zalando Broadcasting Center, serving both internal and external stakeholders, produces a wide range of content.

From multicam livestreams to podcasts to designer or sports events and press conferences, the team manages the event spaces and auditoriums from A to Z.

“One day an auditorium is booked by an international brand or designer, the next by the management board. In all these different situations, the output has to be of the same and consistent high quality,” Olivier stated.

For its new audiovisual chain, Zalando employs an end to end video network centered on Cat5 (IP), Optical Fiber and SDI technologies, with the ATEM Constellation 8K live production switchers forming the backbone of all video production. Video playback and recording is facilitated through racks of HyperDeck broadcast decks.

“With the ATEM Constellation at the heart of our production workflow we have a rock solid base that can be operated without the learning curve that comes with other production switchers and is incredibly versatile thanks to its plug and play design,” noted Olivier.

The entire broadcast gallery, which drives all of the building’s AV requirements, is built around a Blackmagic Design solution, spanning cameras, switchers, routers and digital glue, and features upwards of 20 cameras depending on the space or requirements.

Live showroom presentations are a common production scenario, which are recorded with up to five Blackmagic Studio Camera 6K Pros, as required, and always in combination with high quality prerecorded VTs.

Content is produced in both German and English and made available via Zalando’s own VOD platforms.

“Ninety percent of all the assets used in our two auditoriums, which both feature a 10×6 meter 3mm LED wall plus several 40” repeater screens, are remotely accessible on a local network from any control room for added flexibility,” explained Olivier.

Likewise, each has its own dedicated control room workflow, equipped with a mix of Blackmagic Studio Camera 6K Pro and Canon PTZ cameras alongside an ATEM Constellation 8K with ATEM 4 M/E Advanced Panel 40 for vision.

Supporting both HEVC and AVC, Teradek’s Prism cards are used to encode any live streams to 4K.

The company has also recently begun to explore the use of virtual production techniques using Unreal Engine. “If you quickly need a few snowy mountain tops to present a winter collection, virtual sets can be quick and convenient,” confirmed Olivier .

Although Zalando is equipped for resolutions up to 12K, most video content is still produced in 1080p50, aligning with audience viewing habits.

“While we have the capability for 4K and even 12K, we recognize that most of our audience consumes content in 1080p. It’s a balancing act between leveraging high resolution formats and understanding the real world constraints of our viewers.”

The future is now

With the newly established technical backbone and content production solutions, Zalando is well positioned for future developments, including higher resolution content and virtual production techniques, as well as a transition to a fully IP based infrastructure.

“The integration of IP 2110 will make us even more location independent in the future, which is a critical part of our offering,” said Olivier.

Another big project coming in the pipeline is the opening of a new experience center with a giant studio providing a 360 degree view for brand partners and the public, as well as a central control gallery and 15×4 meter LED volume for virtual production.

“With Blackmagic at our core, I feel we are well prepared to scale our broadcasting space while keeping our costs reasonable,” he concluded. “This allows us to concentrate on meeting the requirements of our partners, customers and internal stakeholders while creating the best viewing experience possible.”