NEWS - PRODUCTS
Titular noticia Texto noticia
EDITORIAL November 2022 is a key month for the international
To ensure this excitement in a competition of the
broadcasting industry. It is because one of the most
importance of a World Cup, broadcasters around
important sporting events in our current society is
the world make use of many tools. One of the most
taking place. The Qatar World Cup, an event that
notable is graphics. These elements of broadcasting
will be held in these winter months for the first time
help to both inform and embellish the images, but
in its history, will bring together one of the largest audiences that sport can attract. In the broadcast production of such an event, even the smallest details are important. All stages of broadcast production must be assured and guaranteed. One of the most important is the distribution of the signals, a system that must be 100% reliable, as there must be a guarantee that every goal can be enjoyed at the same time all over the world. Vívaro Media, a company based in Canada that belongs to a Mexican communications group, is in charge of this vital task. Daniel González, CEO of Vívaro Media, has shared with us all the details of the fiber network that will be used to ensure that every
they are also capable of amplifying the emotion that the viewer can feel. If you don’t believe it, imagine the added value that an informative graphic can bring at a crucial moment of the broadcast. For example, a graphic reporting that a sprinter is about to break a world record. To find out how these solutions are implemented, we interviewed two international broadcasting heavyweights: Sky Sports and BBC Sports. Beyond the king of sports in Europe, other companies such as Aurora Media have focused on producing and oﬀering very specific sports content. The people who make up this company dare to broadcast the unbroadcastable. Its professionals have captured sports competitions in the remote lands of ice and
minute of all the matches can be enjoyed around
snow in the Arctic Circle or in the scorching, lonely
the world, both in America and Europe. We invite
sands of the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Séan Hughes,
you to get to know every inch of fiber that will bring
Director of Broadcast, gives you all the details to
the excitement of this competition to thousands of
understand how they did it; how they dared to walk
homes around the world.
where others dared not tread.
Editor in chief Javier de Martín firstname.lastname@example.org
Creative Direction Mercedes González
TM Broadcast International #111 November 2022
Key account manager Susana Sampedro email@example.com
Administration Laura de Diego
Editorial staff firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Spain
TM Broadcast International is a magazine published by Daró Media Group SL Centro Empresarial Tartessos Calle Pollensa 2, oficina 14 28290 Las Rozas (Madrid), Spain Phone +34 91 640 46 43
Sports graphics Today we oﬀer you an in-depth look at one of the elements that most help to add quality to the signal, as well as increase the value of the content. The graphics that surround a sporting event add information, but also increase the excitement of the sport to an extent that even surpasses the excitement of watching a sporting final in a stadium full of fans. With
BBC Sports Sky Sports
Qatar 2022 with
Vívaro Media That all the goals of the upcoming Qatar World Cup will be celebrated - or regretted simultaneously around the world is a matter of the utmost importance in keeping up the fast-paced action of a competition like this. This is precisely the job of our interviewee: Vívaro Media.
FAST channels: Fast or Free? The first thing is to make clear that the term FAST does not only refer to linear channels as we all understand them, but to any method for distribution of ‘linear’ content. Those quotation marks can be explained by the fact that this model is supported by advertising as platforms or other models.
Aurora Media Aurora Media is characterized for being a broadcast agency that goes far beyond the established limits. They have specialized in guaranteeing the transmission of extreme sports content and regular sports also. This means that they dare to design, develop and implement broadcast production equipment in the most inaccessible environments on our planet: such as the cold Arctic Circle or the torrid desert of Saudi Arabia.
NEWS - PRODUCTS
LiveU presents Solo Pro portable bonding encoder providing peace of mind for their live streams using proven broadcast-quality technology.” LiveU is introducing an optional add-on streaming tools package, Solo Stream Tools, for faster go-to-live streaming productions. This cloud-based package LiveU has presented its
The encoder is thinking for
next-generation Solo PRO
content creators of all live
portable bonding encoder
platforms, including Twitch,
for live coverage, combining
Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo
professional-grade 4K and
and TikTok. Users can
go live directly from their
Oﬀers streaming experience, combining up to six IP connections – four 4G/5G cellular modems, WiFi and LAN – leveraging
camera/switcher to popular online platforms and any web destination. Dan Pisarski, Chief Technical Oﬃcer, LiveU said, “Our
oﬀers the essential production toolbox, which includes multi-destination, allowing producers to simultaneously go live to multiple social platforms at the click of a button, stream fallback, allowing the switch to a predefined message, and the addition of a logo watermark for enhanced brand visibility.
goal was to deliver a
“Solo Stream Tools can
cutting-edge product that
also be combined with
will service all streaming
Solo Connect, including
needs for years to come,
modems, routers, data
Enabling a streamlined
including 4K, HEVC, and
plans and the LRT™ cloud
cloud production with an
extreme reliability. I firmly
subscription, which means
easy set-up, the LiveU Solo
believe that our users
that you have everything
PRO can be used for any
will find the Solo PRO is a
you need to go live in
type of live event coverage,
one complete hassle-free
both indoors and outdoors.
for their workflow,
package”, added Pisarski.
LiveU’s patented LRT (LiveU Reliable Transport)
NEWS - PRODUCTS
NEWS - PRODUCTS
Bridge Technologies adds VB440 to New Eclipse Production Truck following ST2022-7 for
based layouts that can be
total redundancy, and
configured to meet each
will incorporate both
specific user’s need. This
4K and HDR production
means that the VB440 takes
abilities. At the heart of this
up significantly less rack
powerful production truck is the VB440; facilitating monitoring, analysis, and visualization of all high-
and desk space, as well as maintaining a lower energy draw.
bit rate broadcast media
Amongst the various
Bridge Technologies has
content as defined by
announced that add VB440
the ST2110 and ST2022-
incorporates are a range
to New Eclipse Production
6 standards. The VB440
of audio and video scopes,
Truck. This is a provider of
facilitates HD, 4K, SDR,
including HDR preview on
end-to-end video and audio
HDR and combinations
SDR screens and 5.1/7.1
solutions across the globe.
of immersive audio, thus
audio review across stereo,
allowing AMV’s engineering
along with JPEG XS analysis,
and production teams to
and signal generation for
The powerful IP probe is equipped within new Production Truck ‘Eclipse’, with the sale facilitated by Bridge’s US Business Partner 2110 Solutions, who oﬀer focused consultation and implementation of IPbased production tools for
continuously monitor all layers of media transport, on both redundancy layers, in real time. The VB440 provides particular benefit in applications such as that of the Eclipse truck, because
greater eﬃciency during studio setup. With these functionalities combined, the VB440 ultimately delivers ultra-low latency analytics of compressed and uncompressed data to provide operators and
it facilitates both technical
engineers with the deep
network engineering and
insight they need to ensure
The Eclipse production
creative decisions in-the-
error-free delivery of live
truck operates through
moment, accessible by
and recorded broadcasts
the use of a Cisco leaf-
multiple users from their
on-location, and from any
spine network architecture
own HTML-5 browser-
NEWS - SUCCESS STORIES
NEWS - SUCCESS STORIES
Finnish audiovisual school KPEDU already teaches virtual reality thanks to Broadcast Solutions operations and creating playlist and workflows easy to understand.
KPEDU Media School in Kokkola, Finland, has developed a virtual studio for training future professionals in the world of broadcasting and media. The virtual studio has been implemented by Broadcast Solutions Nordic, a branch of Broadcast Solutions Group. On a broader scale, the virtual studio is part of a EU-funded development program to boost the local community and economy. Broadcast Solutions Nordic designed and delivered a 50 sqm virtual set, covered by four Panasonic UE 150 PTZ cameras. Three PZT
cameras are mounted on Technopoint Totem height elevation columns, one of them running on a 10m floor track, adding even more flexibility to the setup. One PTZ camera is static but also controlled with the same Technopoint centralized control system.
The whole setup focuses on the Reality part and aims to make virtual productions simple and easy to understand, not only to teach staﬀ but to innovate and lead the development. After the system implementation, the Broadcast Solutions engineers trained the KPEDU staﬀ and students to work independently and self-reliant with the system. This took a very short time because of the matter of simplicity that boosted the execution and implementation of the project.
The heart of the setup is two Zero Density Reality Engine AMPERE workstations that do all the processing. Each AMPERE workstation takes care of the complete rendering and compositing workflow of two PTZ cameras. Reality HUB is controlling the whole thing and makes daily
Shortly after finishing the project Zero Density launched their own online learning platform, Zero Density Academy, with the KPEDU teams being one of the first users. Zero Density Academy will be a big help for KPEDU teachers and students to be always upto-date with Reality.
NEWS - SUCCESS STORIES
NEWS - SUCCESS STORIES
Amarin TV 34HD installs an Imagine Communications playout system integrated with its SDI workflows Amarin TV 34HD has recently implemented a HD playout system from Imagine Communications at its headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. It has been built on ADC automation and Nexio+ AMP media server from Imagine Communications. “We had a clear idea of what we needed to achieve with our new playout automation network — both for our operations today, as we develop our workflows, and as a building block towards a more file-based future,” said Cheewapat Nathalang, CTO of Amarin TV. That was the objective, and when the broadcast company looked at the market, they found the Imagine proposal: they provided an end-to-end software-based solution that integrates with the rest of Amarin TV’s SDI-based infrastructure. The ADC software integrates with the Nexio+ AMP channel
playout servers and Nexio® Motion™ asset management software. Motion provides a link between the Nexio onair network and Amarin TV’s existing shared storage. The new workflow reconciles all incoming SDI feeds ingested using the ADC Media Client before being handled as files and transferred to the intermediate and long-term storage as appropriate. The close integration of ADC, Nexio and Motion means that routine operations are automated. Transfers between Imagine’s IOX SAN storage pools are via watch folders,
and ADC can interrogate the system for missing material based on playlists and purge content based on business rules. As all content is handled as files within the playout and asset management system, transfers are swift and secure and can be prioritized for urgent demands. The complete system is fully redundant in a 1+1 configuration. ADC also manages the master control switcher, which supports graphics insertion, and Imagine’s Platinum™ VX SDI router for live feeds.
NEWS - SUCCESS STORIES
NEWS - SUCCESS STORIES
Canal+ Group and EVS partners for IP-based infrastructure in the new Canal+One
Canal+ Group has teamed up with EVS to develop an IP-based infrastructure built on EVS end-to-end solutions in its new CANAL+ ONE headquarters, in Issyles-Moulineaux, near Paris. The installation follows the decision of CANAL+ Group to concentrate its master control room (MCR), playout and production workflows into one building to streamline its operations, reduce redundancies and increase automation.
“Our relocation into the new HQ gave us the opportunity to rethink the way we work and completely transform our workflows,” said Pierre Maillat, Head of Technical Studies & Architecture at Canal+ Group. “The idea was to accelerate our SDI to IP transition, limit as much as possible the use of hardware and move towards more softwaredefined and cloud-based solutions, which oﬀer the scalability and flexibility needed to optimize our
operations while benefitting from future-ready workflows,” he added. EVS teamed up with global media services company Red Bee Media to build a new IP-enabled production infrastructure based on EVS’ LiveCeption, MediaCeption and MediaInfra solutions. The setup consists of several XT-VIA servers for multi-source ingesting and delivering fast turn-around productions in any format and resolution. Supporting
NEWS - SUCCESS STORIES
a high-speed, 100GbE live IP fabric connectivity, the servers work in 1080p with the ability to switch to UHD. This LiveCeption workflow also integrates the IP-based LSM-VIA® replay system, giving operators direct access to all content on the network and allowing them to focus on delivering compelling live replays and highlights much faster. Signal conversion and processing is performed by the EVS Neuron networkconnected processor, which also acts as the main tool for the SDI/IP bridge and as a firewall. Being able to activate a large number of diﬀerent functionalities from the same hardware will help CANAL+ Group reduce rack occupancy and power consumption.Connected to the entire CANAL+ Group infrastructure, the EVS Cerebrum emission monitoring and control system oﬀers advanced visual control for production and flexible orchestration of all devices for engineering teams. Users can remotely access a fully virtualized, multi-site IPDirector® system to navigate, control, edit and playout content from easy-to-use interfaces. IPDirector can be adapted to any production environment and allows for easy integration and media exchange with any third-party system.
NEWS - SUCCESS STORIES
Qatar’s Al Araby TV moves its headquarters from London to Qatar and builds its infrastructure over IP by relying on Telestream
Al Araby is a general public television that operates the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The owner of the TV is a media investment company Fadaat Media. This Qatari company also owns the pan-Arab daily Al Araby alJadeed (“The New Arab”). In 2021, Al Araby’s shareholder committee, in consultation with its board of directors and executive management, decided to move the station’s headquarters to a new building. They decided to relocate broadcaster’s headquarters from London to Lusail City, Qatar.
The new broadcaster center in Lusail City is based on an IP infrastructure, predominantly 25Gb with some 40Gb used in high volume areas. Around 10% of the system still relies on SDI routing. For example, feeds from several of the 35 cities Al Araby. A planned second phase of the relocation project is set to convert these feeds to IP as well. “We are building one of the largest scale IP installations in the Middle East,” says Araby Director of Broadcast Operations & Creative Services Ali Husseini. “Perhaps in Europe and the United States this
type of installation is more commonly implemented, but in the Middle East it is still limited. So it really gives us confidence to have a partner like Telestream in ou infrastructure – and we’ve expanded the use of their solutions to timing, monitoring, video file handling, video archive and content management.” They needed PTP timing, so the broadcaster deployed Telestream SPG8000 Sync Pulse Generators and ECO8000 automatic changeover devices to serve as the Grandmaster and follower timing generators in both their studio and SDI areas. Telestream PRISM waveform monitors are used in every technical area, edit suite, Master Control Room (MCR) and in Transmission at Al Araby. “IP is still new, and it can be complicated,” he says. “We needed waveform monitors that support both IP and SDI, and that
NEWS - SUCCESS STORIES
are flexible enough to be used in diﬀerent locations. PRISM was 100% compliant with our requirements for operational and technical areas: accuracy, reported data, and the flexibility of the profiles.” Content management is a core element of the Al Araby system. There is an existing content archive in London, and this will be migrated to a new onpremise storage system in
Doha. They have trusted in Telestream DIVA for this migration. In the second phase of the relocation project Husseini and his team will tackle the integration of cloud-based services with existing workflows. “We will look at DIVA to migrate existing archives to some kind of cloud storage: both the new local on-premise archive in Doha, which will be migrated from London to
Doha, and then also from Doha as a secondary copy for long-term preservation into the cloud.” Al Araby has also deployed a centralized Telestream Vantage Media Processing platform —three nodes running on Telestream Lightspeed G8 servers—. Vantage services provide media capture, transcoding, media metadata processing, media analysis and content assembly.”
NEWS - BUSINESS & PEOPLE
Red Bee Media introduces Advocado’s solutions in its system to oﬀer better metadata to its clients Red Bee Media has recently announced an agreement with Advocado. This company is a U.S. cross-screen advertising data platform that helps brands, ad agencies, and media organizations to understand consumer behaviors. The agreement was reached through Red Bee’s partner Who’s Watching TV (WWTV). Across this understanding, Red Bee’s costumers will be provided with data of the content consumers are choosing. The data provided by Red Bee consists of a combination of program, station and airing-related metadata across broadcast and cable channels.
schedule and metadata to
consumers are watching.
collect viewership habits
We are hugely proud of
for advertisers and content
our partnership approach
to ultimately help our
In addition, the agreement provides Advocado with direct access to Red Bee’s textual schedule data from thousands of stations. “With so many platforms oﬀering massive choice, accurate and appealing
customers supply and enrich their content to reach the biggest global audience, and this agreement with Advocado enabled through WWTV is a fantastic example.” Jason Marchese, Head of Sales, Americas, Red Bee Media.
WWTV is a partner of Red
engages viewers for
Bee that oﬀers ratings
this: Advocado will ingest
a more personalized
and Schedule solutions.
Red Bee’s data to analyze
The company delivers its
what consumers are
We are delighted to work
services over the web and
watching and match it
with Advocado to help
personnel are responsive to
with the Red Bee linear
customers analyze what
The process will be like
NEWS - BUSINESS & PEOPLE
Quickplay and Vionlabs collaborate to improve user experience and monetization of OTT solutions Quickplay and Vionlabs
translates directly into
have recently announced
and more to deliver video
long-term value for the
joint technology integration.
streaming providers,” said
It uses AI-based analysis
increases activations in
Naveen Narayanan, head of
of video files to increase
OTT providers’ content
sports and data products
viewer engagement and
libraries and boosts
for Quickplay. “With
satisfaction, as well as
catalog activation by 50%.
Vionlabs’ AI technology
ad monetization by OTT
The increased activation
is a direct result of data
and video expertise, we’re
The companies bring together Quickplay’s CMS and Vionlabs’ Fingerprint Plus solution to create actionable media fingerprints and video
coverage for the catalog and personalization algorithms that leverage video descriptors. Using a purpose-built neural network model,
Fingerprint Plus analyzes
Service providers can
asset ingested into the
use the integration to capitalize on several market
and enriches every content Quickplay video platform. Quickplay’s personalization
opportunities: intelligent ad
engine utilizes the enriched
point detection for targeted
assets to create tailored
ads, improved audience
experiences for maximizing
personalization, and deeper
audience engagement. The
engagement across AVOD
solution also identifies the
services and FAST virtual
optimal points in the video
to insert ads so that they
The integration uses AI-derived metadata
complement the viewing experience.
able to ingest high-quality, highly-accurate descriptions of the content that can be used to tailor experiences to specific viewers based on their implicit and explicit preferences.” “According to a recent PWC study, 54 percent of users cite poor ad experience as the main reason for leaving the service,” said Marcus Bergström, CEO of Vionlabs. “Combining the power of Quickplay’s Video CMS with our Fingerprint Plus solution enables ads to be inserted with minimal disruption to the user experience, keeping viewers at the screen and directly
for content moods,
benefiting the bottom line.”
beyond marquee content
Sports graphics Value added to emotion In this era of so much competition, the graphic section that a channel adds to its content is of utmost importance to consolidate the audience that consumes it. Differentiation is essential in order to achieve the prized goal of attracting an ever-increasing audience. Offering a quality service on speciﬁc content is the ﬁrst step and precisely the stage where technology can help us the most. Today we offer you an in-depth look at one of the elements that most help to add quality to the signal, as well as increase the value of the content. The graphics that surround a sporting event add information, but also increase the excitement of the sport to an extent that even surpasses the excitement of watching a sporting ﬁnal in a stadium full of fans. Just imagine a speciﬁc case such as the one described in the following. An ordinary spectator enjoys a soccer match. It is a ﬁnal and the team of which he is a supporter is playing to win the competition. Excitement is guaranteed. But can it be even more intense? How? Simply by using a chart that appears at the right time and provides very speciﬁc information to increase the value of what is going to happen. Let’s imagine now that this spectator witnesses a penalty kick in favor of his team in that same ﬁnal. What would happen if, just before the kick, we knew that the player who is about to take it is living a really important moment in his career? Let’s say that a graph tells us that this athlete has just come back from a very important injury and that the goal he could score would be his ﬁrst goal in many years. Undoubtedly, the emotion that the spectator would feel would be even greater. Graphics provide us with just that, in addition to beautifying, establishing editorial lines or providing information at sporting events. But how are they designed? What technology is behind them? Where are the best techniques? What are the differences between sports? Which events are the most challenging? How will graphics technology and the departments that design and implement them evolve? To answer all these questions, we have interviewed two heavyweights of the international television industry: Ben Wickham, Director of Creative Output at Sky Sports; and John Murphy, Creative Director, Motion at BBC Sport. TM Broadcast International exclusively offers their experience in speciﬁc projects, their opinions on the technology and its evolution, as well as the perception that these two professionals feel about the current and future state of these solutions. A content edited by Javier Tena
The present and future of graphics with
John Murphy, in charge of graphics for BBC Sports has a keen interest in making the best possible use of the technology available on the market. His job is to ensure quality in the design and execution of the graphics surrounding the BBC Sports brand. John does not rule out lesser technology if, in return, he is able to deliver the same quality at a reduced cost and with less effect on the environment. In fact, at BBC Sports, they have embraced the possibilities offered by lesser graphics solutions to develop world-class content if quality is assured. This is the path the BBC is following to bring to life the cutting edge of graphics technology.
Who is John Murphy and what are his responsibilities at BBC Sport? My role is to create, develop and manage all visual presentation and brand for BBC Sport. This includes the searching and implementation of any innovative technology which helps drive an on-screen visual impact. This can be VR, AR or any creative graphics delivery. Regarding BBC Sport, which manufacturers has the company relied on to develop its graphics?
on which is best suited to the project and our suppliers. For the majority of our inhouse projects and events it is Vizrt. But also for other live events it has been ZeroDensity, Brainstorm, Ross and others. Top-level sporting events, let us say a Premier League match for example, require a very high level of infrastructure, but an event that attracts a smaller audience can be solved graphically with HTML tools, for example. Why is this diﬀerence made? What are the advantages
We use various manufacturers to help us
and disadvantages of each solution
drive our studios and graphics. It depends
depending on the content?
There are various reasons. Firstly, the first being that budgets depend on the event or project. We have created a suite of branded
there is a limit to what the simpler graphic systems can deliver and there is still the clear need for heavier rendering platforms.
templates in HTML which
Also everyone has to be
can be utilised on a quick
mindful of the budgets
turnaround basis and
in place and if a simpler
where we do not have the
system can deliver the
budget for extra designers
visual requirements without
to create bespoke content.
it impacting the quality and
Secondly, now that the brand and visual identity of on-screen graphics tends
therefore reducing costs then it should not matter the scale of the production.
to be a more flat and 2D
There is also a question
experience, this allows for
around support and
tools in HTML to deliver
workflows that would have
packages of graphics which
to be answered prior to the
do not require the capacity
event to make sure that
for 3D and heavy rendering.
required redundancies are in place.
Looking ahead, can the use of these simple graphic systems become commonplace at toplevel sporting events? I would say so yes, again due to the fact that the style and brand of onscreen graphics tending to be simpler this will then enable those tools to deliver what is required for the broadcaster. However we have to remember that
“WE USE VARIOUS MANUFACTURERS TO HELP US DRIVE OUR STUDIOS AND GRAPHICS. IT DEPENDS ON WHICH IS BEST SUITED TO THE PROJECT AND OUR SUPPLIERS.“
Looking back, how did the pandemic change your ability to generate graphics? To be honest, for us it did not aﬀect too much. Obviously we had to arrange for systems to be in place so that our designers could work remotely, but we generally had the infrastructure for them to be able to access the tools that they needed. I suppose the requirement for remote production just seemed to accelerate because of the pandemic even though plans and broadcasts had started in this area prior to COVID. It should also be remembered that sporting events were scarce in the first part of the lockdowns, which gave us a little time to plan the work remotely. What pandemicdriven workflows have remained in your company? It would be the remote working and productions from our central base in Media City, Salford on
a more regular basis. Not only does this help to reduce production costs, but it is also a great boost to our sustainability campaign. It’s a very important issue for us at BBC Sport. Has the pandemic accelerated the process of bringing simpler graphics solutions to highly professional broadcast environments? Is this way of working going to stay forever? Yes, I think simpler graphics systems are here to stay. But not just the simplest graphic systems, but the way we use all computer systems and programs. As we all know, game engine technology in the broadcast sector has accelerated greatly. It is now a question of how the industry keeps pace with the constant evolution of these graphics solutions. Being able to utilize the fantastic scope of game engine rendering capabilities while having the operational tools to drive your broadcast needs is a
“BEING ABLE TO UTILIZE THE FANTASTIC SCOPE OF GAME ENGINE RENDERING CAPABILITIES WHILE HAVING THE OPERATIONAL TOOLS TO DRIVE YOUR BROADCAST NEEDS IS A KEY PROCESS, WHETHER FOR VIRTUAL STUDIOS, XR OR ON-SCREEN GRAPHICS.“
key process, whether for
What challenges did you encounter and what solutions did you develop to overcome them?
We had created our own
projects you have been
The most pleasing project
various programmes from
involved in, which one
recently was our virtual
it. However once we knew
would you highlight as
studio for the Beijing Winter
that we were delivering the
Winter Olympics from an 84
virtual studios, XR or onscreen graphics. Talking about recent
internal green screen space at Media City a year previous to the Winter Olympics and had run
metre squared box then we had to be creative in how we gave the programme a presentation space which truly captured the Winter Games. We created seven diﬀerent virtual presenting positions from only two physical positions within the studio through the design of a Winter ski resort. This
virtual backdrops and, Viz
was created in-house by
allowed us to change the
Arc for the data and manual
BBC Sport. It was a very
virtual positions whilst the
control of the studio and it’s
collaborative eﬀort, as
elements within it.
normally at big events
got a diﬀerent landscape
Apart from the virtual
external suppliers to help
at various stages. This was
studio design, which was
us because of the small
all done utilising Unreal
done by Jim Mann and
number of people we have
engine, Viz Engine 4 for the
Toby Kalitowski, everything
in our team.
transmission was on live events so that the viewer
we have to rely on our
Regarding extended reality and augmented reality, what capabilities does BBC Sport have today to generate these graphic contents? Which manufacturers have you relied on?
When we have the time we are also using this space and set-up as a development area. So we can track and trial new technologies as they arise.
I think it’s very important when looking for a new innovative technology to be able to test and trial it in the space itself if possible.
As I have mentioned previously with regards to the Winter Olympics, we have our own green screen studio which is driven by Unreal Engine with Viz 4 integration and Viz Arc and the camera tracking is Mosys.
What do these capabilities bring to the audience? With the advances in real time rendering and improvements in keying/ realism, virtual studios and environments now give us, as broadcasters, the ability to have editorial presentation in virtual locations.
While there’s no pretending or fooling the audience that we’re not in a VR studio, the fact that the quality of the texturing/lighting/ realism makes for at least a question and a talking point. What does this technology need to achieve mass use?
The technology is there for the virtual studios side of production, however it is still about the creative and design. Once everyone is comfortable with the creativity and design they use to make virtual rendering the best it can be, hopefully you will see production cost benefits and sustainability results.
“WITH THE ADVANCES IN REAL TIME RENDERING AND IMPROVEMENTS IN KEYING/REALISM, VIRTUAL STUDIOS AND ENVIRONMENTS NOW GIVE US, AS BROADCASTERS, THE ABILITY TO HAVE EDITORIAL PRESENTATION IN VIRTUAL LOCATIONS.“ adaptable to the diﬀerent distribution windows that the digital world has provided. Apart from this capability, how should the broadcaster adapt its graphic content to digital distribution?
you have your own studio,
My feeling on this is that all broadcast designers should now have the desired knowledge of digital platforms and required output guidelines. Although there is the technology which helps the transformative process from broadcast to digital it is still a requirement for good design practice in the translation of assets across
you have real creative
I think it’s important to understand that virtual studio production and design has a significant upfront cost to get the quality required, but once
flexibility moving forward. We are already talking about graphics
Generally speaking, where is graphics technology headed?
The virtual landscape has changed a lot in the graphics arena, whether it’s virtual studios using game engines or remote graphics operations using HTML rendering tools. Most people are aware of all this and it’s all about making it all work together and to the benefit of the productions. Now it seems that in broadcasting we want more for less money and it has to be as sustainable as possible. This is very important because of the challenges in the world, especially in the last few years, so what we have to do is find the solutions through technology, great design and great minds in our industry.
The present and future of graphics with
Ben Wickham is Director of Creative Output at Sky Sports. He is responsible for keeping connected and in harmony the creative and technical teams that graphically embellish the content of this broadcaster. In an exclusive interview, he gave us his vision on the technological present of the infrastructure that Sky Sport deploys in each sporting event, the differences between the infrastructure that accompanies different sports, as well as the changes that this industry has recently experienced after an event as decisive as the pandemic. Join us for a closer look at the keys that will make remote, accessible and high quality technology become a standard in sports graphics production.
Ben Wickham, Director of Creative Output at Sky Sports
Who is Ben Wickham and what are his responsibilities at Sky Sports? As Director of Creative Output, I work in the content team for Sky Sports, alongside a number of other directors of content. Most of these have a specialisation in one sport, or group of sports, whereas I work across all our output, managing the team of Directors and Directors assistants. I also run the overall creative brief in conjunction with the Sky Creative team. This means my remit is across all our output including studios, on-screen graphics, and innovation in broadcast, along with a
“WE CAN BUILD COMPLEX TEMPLATES THAT ALLOW A HUGE RANGE OF EDITORIAL CONTENT TO BE CREATED WITHOUT COMPROMISE.“ close working relationship with the technical teams who support this. I think it’s the best job in TV, to be perfectly honest! Regarding Sky Sports, which manufacturers has the company relied on to develop its graphics? We generally think of ourselves as platform and supplier agnostic. As you can imagine, with eleven channels, multiple diﬀerent sports contracts, multiple levels of complexity and an increasing diversity of platform to supply and broadcast chains to support, there is no one size fits all.
We are also moving to a group operating model, which means we deploy the creative across all our territories. We evaluate each sport with regard to the most eﬃcient way we can deploy our resources and look for technology and manufacturers who can support this production
chain. The pandemic accelerated this
where there is large volume and similar
process greatly, as we rapidly deployed new
and innovative ways of building a broadcast or digital output, the eﬀects of which are still
Top-level sporting events, let us
very much with us.
say a Premier League match for
Where we have significant economies of
of infrastructure, but an event that
example, require a very high level
scale or opportunities to reduce complexity,
attracts a smaller audience can be
we look to standardise our technology to
solved graphically with HTML tools,
take advantage of this. For example, we
for example. Why is this diﬀerence
use Vizrt extensively across top tier sports,
made? What are the advantages and
disadvantages of each solution depending on the content? It mainly comes down to resilience and flexibility. Established systems in the marketplace are built with multiple levels of backup and redundancy, and mostly built with onprem hardware. We can build complex templates that allow a huge range of editorial content to be created without compromise. In eﬀect, we have all bases covered and the customer will have an experience that is second to none. More lightweight systems, as a rule, come with compromises and less fail-safes. There will be a more limited set of tools, less backup in the event of a fault, and potentially less resilient. Looking ahead, can the use of these simple graphic systems become commonplace at toplevel sporting events? Again, I would open the question up a bit. Do I see simple graphics solutions becoming ubiquitous on top tier broadcast TV? I
would say not for some time. There needs to be a very flexible set-up, multiple layers of resiliency, the ability to update systems quickly whilst remaining onair, and crucially they need to be scalable. All of these tend to be compromised with a lightweight client.
The reputational risk of mistakes is colossal with this level of event, and security is another aspect that we need to consider when we open up our broadcast chains. We will, however, see them move into parts of the ecosystem where the risk is lower, and as broadcasters
and content providers diversify their platforms and operating models, the cost vs benefit calculation will tilt more in the favour of simple systems in a lot of spaces.
The pandemic accelerated
Looking back, how did the pandemic change your ability to generate graphics?
to keep broadcasting. In
a number of remote operations that we had been exploring or testing up until that point. Quite simply, we accepted a higher level of risk in order combination with this we were forced to find new ways to integrate platforms
“THE PANDEMIC ACCELERATED A NUMBER OF REMOTE OPERATIONS THAT WE HAD BEEN EXPLORING OR TESTING UP UNTIL THAT POINT.“ of broadcast and graphics, which opened up a range of options that we are still exploring. We were able to buy in and quickly develop SaaS solutions with our key partners. What pandemicdriven workflows have remained in your company? Sky Sports was broadcasting a small number of sports remotely, with Formula 1 at that time being the most advanced operation in that regard. Overnight, Football, Cricket, Golf and a number of smaller events switched to full remote operations, and remain so. Sky Sports
is now leading the way with remote operations and continues to push the boundaries of what is possible by leaving the eﬃciencies of remote broadcast in place, whilst ensuring the access that customers want at the heart of the action remains. Specifically with on-screen graphics, this means that we are able to deploy the full resources of our Osterley based technology and graphics team to events around the world, with a higher level of support that was possible before. Has the pandemic accelerated the process of bringing simpler graphics solutions to highly professional broadcast environments? Is this way of working going to stay forever? Yes it has. No longer do we need to rely on high end graphics systems for every sport we broadcast. Where it is practical, we can use a more agile, lightweight system and seamlessly integrate these into our
broadcast chain. This means in turn we are able to oﬀer added value to the rights holders and to the customer. We have a range of graphics options to turn to, and are able to match these to the content we produce, rather than a onesize-fits-all approach. This is something that is under continued development. Talking about recent projects you have been involved in, which one would you highlight as particularly challenging? What challenges did you encounter and what solutions did you develop to overcome them? For last year’s Ryder Cup in the States, we were very keen to deploy our Living
Photo graphics on the output. This is something we have worked on with Trackmen (now Pixotope), where two-dimensional video is manipulated using three-dimensional tracking data to make images of people appear to be in 3D. It’s a smart and eﬀective technique that greatly enhances the customer experience and engagement. However, it does rely on a producer and camera operator capturing the players in a bespoke studio, a small number of hours before these assets are shown on air. The video needs to be processed on the system and graded, for which we rely heavily on cloud systems, as this is all carried out in Osterley.
In a remote environment, the vast bulk of the production operation is based in Osterley, including the graphics playout, yet it is based on tracking data that is being sent from the remote site. And just to add some more complexity, the presenter is interacting with a 3D avatar that they are viewing in monitors fed remotely.
out exactly as we planned it, and was a first of broadcast TV.
Before any of the athletes came to the capture studio, we went through a full test shoot end to end to create assets and run them on the system to evaluate the complexity and timescales. When we were rehearsing this, the creative tea, were viewing remotely so they could advise on building the sequence, as well as remotely adjusting the assets to make them work better in the space. In the end, the sequence worked
Cloud technology enables the use of thin clients in on-premises and remote operations, with increasing processing complexity achieved without significant hardware deployment.
Changing the subject slightly, the cloud is an unstoppable train that the entire industry will eventually jump on, how does the cloud aﬀect and what promises does it bring to the graphic tools sector?
This opens up a level of agility we have not seen before in the industry. In the last two years, the promise of being able to “spin up” broadcast-level operations and graphics systems for a limited
“CLOUD TECHNOLOGY ENABLES THE USE OF THIN CLIENTS IN ON-PREMISES AND REMOTE OPERATIONS, WITH INCREASING PROCESSING COMPLEXITY ACHIEVED WITHOUT SIGNIFICANT HARDWARE DEPLOYMENT.“
period of time has become a reality. As this rapidly matures, the resiliency of the systems is also approaching an acceptable level for top-tier events. This, in turn, has led to a change in the approach to hardware purchasing and licensing, which opens up the potential for innovation at speed. I think it’s fair to say that this is something the industry is currently looking for, and it’s a disruptive time in many ways for vendors and broadcasters, but the potential for innovation is great. Also, the simple fact that the potential for collaboration has vastly improved in almost every case means that, as an industry, we have access to more talent and can be inclusive and open in a way that traditional ways of working can’t oﬀer. Regarding extended reality and augmented reality, what capabilities does Sky Sports have today to generate these graphic contents? Which manufacturers have you relied on?
We currently use Vizrt to produce the majority of our AR objects and studios, in conjunction with Unreal. In studio we use NCam and Mo-Sys, and in stadiums we use NCam to provide tracking systems on the ground and collaborate with aerial camera partners for this aspect of AR. Due mainly to the significant investment in resources it takes to produce AR, these are generally only seen on top tier broadcasts, although as the technology becomes simpler and more robust, we are always looking to bring this across our portfolio. Like most broadcasters, we are increasingly using Unreal to create content, as it brings a visual richness unmatched by most traditional systems. That said, we still rely heavily on traditional platforms for graphs, as they have many advantages when it comes to realtime data integration and playback, and this is our main use case. As with everything, it tends to be a
combination of a number of platforms that works the best for us. Integration is key. What do these capabilities bring to the audience? AR is fundamentally a way of giving the customer a deeper level of insight into an event, without taking them away from said event. When we can layer the coverage with insight that exists in the same space as the action, then we can keep the viewer in the heart of the action, whilst still providing the editorial storytelling that they have come to expect from us.
What does this technology need to achieve mass use? It’s a process of incremental gains. As tracking technology becomes cheaper, easier to deploy and more robust, we can use it in more places, with less investment. As data from an event becomes richer, we can find new levels of insight into the game that we want to layer into the editorial. And as processing of the data comes ever closer to real-time, we can begin to merge the graphics and the augmentation seamlessly. Render time is the biggest barrier in a lot of use cases we look at, but this has
Generally speaking, where is graphics technology headed?
fallen dramatically in the last few years. We are already talking about graphics adaptable to the diﬀerent distribution windows that the digital world has provided. Apart from this capability, how should the broadcaster adapt its graphic content to digital distribution? At its most basic level, digital distribution means you often are working across an unknown end point so the content needs to work eﬀectively on multiple devices and screens. What excites me most though is the
potential that digital delivery brings for engagement and personalisation that digital delivery opens up. No longer should we assume a passive acceptance of what we curate, but we can (and should) be delivering rich experiences, that allow customers to access what is most meaningful to them in the moment. Client-side rendering means we need to adapt the system to deliver these rich data feeds. We must challenge ourselves to give the customer the ability to curate their own experience, whilst making sure that experience remains as high-quality as anything we see in a traditional broadcast world.
Specifically in sports, we spend a great deal of our time working out how to create exciting and informative graphic experiences from the increasing level of complex data that we get from sporting events. As the data we get is more complete; and the visuals come closer to reality; augmented graphics and metaverse experiences become ever more attractive to customers. At the other end of the scale, lightweight platforms and broadcast operations mean that we can do more with less and bring the top tier experience to more of our output. And at the consumer end, digital acceleration means that we can re-think entirely how we curate our graphics and put more of the technology in the hands of the customer, so everyone is able to have a personal experience whatever the screen, all the way from Sky Glass to a mobile device.
Vívaro Media The thrill of a World Cup: guaranteed
That all the goals of the upcoming Qatar World Cup will be celebrated - or regretted - simultaneously around the world is a matter of the utmost importance in keeping up the fast-paced action of a competition like this. This is precisely the job of our interviewee: Vívaro Media. This Mexican company based in Canada is in charge of carrying the signals generated in this world event to many countries in the Americas and Europe. For this purpose, according to the company’s CEO, Daniel González, they have revamped their extensive video transport network to unprecedented levels. Remember that when the excitement of a match is experienced simultaneously in Santiago de Chile and Brussels, Belgium, it is thanks to the fiber transmission that Vívaro Media has guaranteed.
What is Vívaro Media? We are a company from Montreal, Canada. The company has more than 20 years of experience as a video transport services operator. We’re part of a Mexican conglomerate in Monterrey. Former Mercatel group, it is now Vívaro. It is a company dedicated to communications. Our division -Vívaro Mediahas a couple of subsidiaries in Chile, from which we make all the fiber video contribution among the first division stadiums and the producers. We also have a sports producer that provides international services and is also based in Chile. Vívaro Media has built a fiber network over the years. This company is a video transport specialist. This network covers more than 20 countries. The events we distribute are sporting events such as the Brazilian league or the Argentinian league. We
also make contributions from many Latin American leagues up to Europe. We also do the reverse service, as we bring European leagues to America. Last, we do the production for the European Champions League in Mexico through the services we oﬀer with our producer.
What is the infrastructure you have deployed in Qatar? Our services for FIFA date back to 2006, the year in which we provided our services for distribution in the World Cup held in Germany. Since then, and as a novelty, we brought the fiber signals to the
Our customers are from the regions of Latin America and Europe. For the particular case of Qatar, we have concluded contracts with 18 broadcasters from places such as Belgium, Netherlands, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico and even Canada. But what we’ve done is create a bespoke product. We have adapted to the amount, form and background of signals each customer needs. How does your Qatari World Cup broadcast work?
production centers of each of the broadcasters instead of by satellite.
the weather, solar flares
This provides many benefits, including latency. Signal transport is much faster than via satellite. It also proides a great deal of confidence and security. With fiber you have no problems associated with
in this type of solutions.
and situations of the sort. Over time we have evolved Back in 2006 transmissions were in SD resolution. In 2010 we started transporting HD video. By 2018 we were already on 4K or UHD resolution.
Equipment is deployed both at source and at destination. These devices are intended for signal coding and administration in order to be able to carry out the transport. For the 18 broadcasters of the event, we put together 44 routcases that contain all the coding, switching, monitoring equipment, etc., designed for each client. All services have been tested before at our Montreal headquarters. A
staging is carried out: we configure the equipment as if it were ready to transmit. We simulate connectivity through fiber and install and test the services for a month and a half, in this particular instance, during August and September. When everything is ready, the routcases are closed and sent out. One of the biggest challenges we are facing is to provide these solutions to the destination sites. You know that logistics and shipment of supplies are now experiencing diﬃcult times. We have anticipated this and, currently, almost all the equipment units are at their respective destinations. The only shipment still in transit is the delivery to Qatar. It’s a much bigger one. When it arrives, the equipment will be installed in each of the oﬃces that these broadcasters have at the IBC in Doha. From this broadcast center highcapacity links are routed to London and Frankfurt. There’s a client who also asked for a connection in
an Asian city. This way of reaching out elsewhere gives us diversity. At these centers we receive the signals and route them throughout our network. We do it all by means of a
fiber core that is doubled, that is, all routes have at least one additional backup route. This way of working is already well established for us. We have very
clear processes: we have teams dedicated to logistics, procurement of accreditations and administration, which turns out to be very strict in Qatar; etc. We have also had to make an eﬀort in the management of our network. This usual deployment is not enough on this occasion, so there is a team that is responsible for hiring dozens of links with dozens of diﬀerent suppliers in order to be able to make all our interconnections. To create this solution, the main technology provider for our network is Netinsigt, and more specifically, Nimbra equipment. All these coding equipment devices are interconnected with their own internally developed management system. We call it NMX. For example, should we want to make a transmission from point A to point B, this software would calculate the route, check for availability and set aside the resources required to make the transmission. The system behind this solution is based on proprietary
cloud microservices with redundancy across multiple servers at diﬀerent sites. Would the cloud, in the future, be able to distribute all these signals instead of the usual fiber? In the case of video solutions, there are currently two main challenges: low latency and high availability. The cloud is not something ethereal, but a data center. In order to successfully address these challenges, when you have to carry out transport, you have to guarantee the capabilities both at origin and destination. If we did this via the public Internet, we would not be able to guarantee security. To solve this, layers of security must be added, thus increasing latency. Therefore, doing so in the cloud would bring some economic benefits, but it also has some disadvantages such as latency, for example. We use the cloud for certain specific applications. For example, we provide a solution that avoids satellite
communications. What we do is place a botcase that sends the signals over the public Internet and the mobile network to make the transmission uninterrupted, thanks to the combination of both networks. It works perfectly for certain matches, especially when you need latency to be less critical. As the World Cup
is distributed around the world, latency is extremely important. What about a private cloud? Our network already functions as a private cloud specializing in video transmission. They’re private large-bandwidth
glitches if one of the routes through which the signal is distributed is aﬀected for some reason. What it does is mix two equal signals, for example, and it always delivers a single signal without artifacts. Merging and restructuring of both signals are done at destination.
links. That network interconnects you with teleports. What innovations have you introduced for this World Cup? We have deployed a solution that customers are increasingly asking for and that originates in
the solution combining the public Internet with the mobile network. It’s called hitless and ensures complete absence of interruptions. In the fiber network there are always alternative ways to carry your transmission. With this solution you maintain a low latency while avoiding transmission
Another solution we have developed is a tool for signal encoding. A camera transmits a signal at 1.5 Gb per second. When we carry that signal, it usually goes through a coding process because that bandwidth is too wide to make it eﬃcient for transmission over long distances. Precisely for this case it is usually necessary to downsize it to 40Mb or 100Mb bandwidths. To achieve such compression, we use the MPEG4 or JPEG 2000 protocols. The former optimizes bandwidth but has a higher latency than the latter, which in turn requires higher bandwidth. We take this into account according to the customer’s requirements. There are ultra-low latency MPEG4 encoders that allow you to encode in three frames,
which turns out to be less
allows you to manage
In the shipment to Doha
than 100 ms.
that I mentioned earlier, the
We are also implementing
We have a management
solutions for 4K and UHD
center in Montreal. We have
the human and technical
infrastructure that will allow us to create another node there is also included.
resources to make all these
There is currently another
What is the
signals flow from the source
network control center or
to the right destination.
node in Mexico City that
serves as a backup for Montreal. Everything is managed through our NMX tool and Nimbra Vision, which is Netinsight’s proprietary system. How have you integrated your solutions with others from third parties? Every new element that reaches our network has to be integrated with our NMX management system. It is a job we do to ensure that the network we have deployed in all these countries works. How have you ensured signal security? This is a proprietary, private network. Therefore, it is isolated. Then, there is no physically possible way for anyone to tamper our signals. Routes are defined and do not go through the Internet. It’s practically like having a wire between Doha and each of the production centers. We have not had to put security systems in place, so we have gained
in speed. An indispensable condition nowadays in the information society.
reaches our customers directly straight through the cloud.
On the other hand, all transmissions are backed up by both links and equipment. Equipment fails. This is a sine qua non condition. What really matters is how quickly you can respond to failures. If one a piece of equipment fails, you rely on the backup. But what if the backup also fails? That’s why we always carry additional equipment. But what about the sites that aren’t connected to us?
In the end it always depends on the needs of our customers. Sometimes they want us to send them the signal in Portuguese, in 720p instead of 1080p or in diﬀerent formats, such as American or European. The equipment that manages these functions is in New York, Miami and Montreal. Both for conversion of standards and audio mapping. Once the signals are in the network, we can take them to each of our equipment units to distribute them to the hubs with the specific features desired. More and more broadcasters have the capabilities to receive signals in SRT, and if they don’t, we can also oﬀer them equipment to receive them.
Those sites that are not connected can be reached through four points, two in America and two in Europe. They are highcapacity Internet hubs with equipment for receiving or transmitting video signals using the SRT protocol. For example, when I mentioned that we were broadcasting the Brazilian league to many customers, we delivered to them through this private cloud. The contribution to these centers comes through our fiber network and then
Is network orchestration done automatically or are human resources allocated? Programming requires human resources and is extremely complex. But we
are working on a version of the NMX so that it is the owner of the rights who schedules reception. We are doing this through an interface that displays a menu and by means of that choice, signal conditions can be chosen. Our goal is to make the extremely complex simple. What capabilities would 5G oﬀer you in this way of working?
deployed anything through this network, but when we have specific needs that are developed little over time, where we cannot get access by fiber and where a satellite is very expensive, we distribute with bonded cellular. In these instances, we guarantee the signal by connecting via the Internet and bonded cellular, as mentioned before. Bonded cellular can be 4G or 5G, of course.
We use it regularly in contributions we make through the Internet. In all the infrastructure related to Qatar we have not
When you want to make a transmission, it is advantageous to do it by satellite, unless it is raining. There’s nothing on the
satellite but two elements in the chain. In a fiber network you have many elements, for them you have to activate two transmission elements. That is, from a stadium, in order to replace the satellite, we always use two transmission means, either the Internet or fiber plus bonded cellular. And if it’s 5G instead of 4G, all the better, because it’s going to give you bandwidth. Another element that we have started to use is the very popular Starlink. Our Santiago-based subsidiary is already using it as another transmission
means. Although we
hire the material required
video mixing, the audio
continue to combine it
for the occasion. Our
mixing, the graphics, etc.
with one more solution for
Our main success story
Vívaro Vídeo, has a close
in this field has been the
The experience so far has
relationship with Sony.
REMI production of the
been very satisfactory, but
These services have nothing
of course the network has
to do with the broadcasting
not yet reached a level
of the matches. Our goal is
of saturation. We have to
to provide them for news
see how it develops in the
What is the future ahead
Are you going to take
of Vívaro Media?
part in the production of content for the World
We continue to work, as
I mentioned earlier, on
We have deployed cameras and backpacks, up to 100
our NMX management software. The goal is to make it more accessible
units available. We are agnostic, but we have a very good relationship
services, such as LiveU, TVU and MobileViewpoint. All these equipment units have diﬀerent features, which
carried out the production of twelve sports at the Pan American Junior Games in Cali. Implementing this way of working has allowed us to merge the production and transmission areas. For the customer, in the end, it is a complete service from the camera to the delivery of the signal. In fact, we
On the other hand, we
implement OTT platforms
that are becoming more
that provide us with these
League. We have also
are working on solutions
with several companies
and more powerful. We’re focusing hard on remote production. Instead of taking a production truck
already oﬀer services to and our goal is always to distribute the content that we now produce, either to other parties, or to our own digital distribution window.
to the stadium, you simply
As future projects, we are
carry a small rack, cameras
going to cover the Pan
and camera operators.
American Games during
All these signals you
2023, which will be held
Regarding the cameras, in
bring to your production
in Chile. Precisely, ou plan
some cases we have sent
center and, from there,
is to carry out remote
our own and, in others, we
you do the intercom, the
allows us to oﬀer diﬀerent solutions for diﬀerent customers.
In broadcasting we are fond of using acronyms and initials for everything, but in this case, it can lead to confusion rather than help. Because when we refer to FAST channels, we do not mean that they are ‘fast’ channels, even if they are fast to create, but Free Ad-supported Streaming Television instead. And wasn’t this the good old linear TV we all know? Not really. Let’s take a look. By Yeray Alfageme, Business Development Manager at Optiva Media an EPAM company
The first thing is to make clear that the term FAST does not only refer to linear channels as we all understand them, but to any method for distribution of ‘linear’ content. Those quotation marks can be explained by the fact that this model is supported by advertising as platforms or other models. Not all content delivery models are the same -this is obvious- so let’s try to delve a little more to understand the FAST model.
AVOD, SVOD, TVOD and FAST The first model, and perhaps the most obvious from a business point of view, is AVOD (Advertising Video On Demand). YouTube. Platforms that oﬀer ‘free’ on-demand content in exchange for watching ads. These quotation marls are explained easily: the thing is that YouTube itself -sorry for resorting such an over-used example, but I think it is the most enlightening one- oﬀers models without advertising, but at a direct cost. And it is important to mention
‘direct’ because, when something is free, even if it is supported by advertising, we are somehow paying for it. The second and also a widespread model for ‘premium’ content is SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand). Netflix, again another widely used, well-known, crystal-clear example. In this model there is no advertising, although now this barrier is going to be knocked down and platforms are going to oﬀer content under subscription with advertising at a lower cost. Will it be called ASVOD? We will find out when implementation starts, and the ‘streaming bubble’ is pricked. In exchange for zero advertising, there is a fixed cost per month regardless of the amount of content displayed. The third model before the arrival of FAST is the TVOD (Transactional Video On Demand). Rental of content. The first service to oﬀer this video-ondemand model was Apple followed by YouTube itself and even console platforms. The content is rented for a certain time, as in traditional video
clubs -such good all timesor for a certain number of views for each payment made. And here comes FAST. “Linear” channels with advertising, oﬀered free of charge. Plain, traditional TV. Well, not exactly. It is clear that in the description of the model itself it is inevitable to mention traditional unidirectional linear television, whether terrestrial TV, cable TV or satellite TV, but there are important diﬀerences that we will now explain.
Channels that are not entirely ‘linear’ For this century’s generations, understanding TV as something linear -where one content follows another inevitably, no possibility to choose- is quite hard to do. This lack of freedom does not fit with their native digital experience, naturally. However, the fact that there is the possibility of varying, even avoiding, a certain part of the content goes
against the business model in which the viewing of advertising was what would pay for the existence of the broadcast itself. If I can skip something, what better than skipping adverting, right? FAST channels oﬀer this type of functionality halfway between a linear channel and VOD, with the possibility to rewind, pause or even jumping from one content to another, either between episodes or blocks. Therefore, the advertising model must be reinvented, since avoiding ads is just too easy. This is why other advertising schemes such as pre-roll, post-roll or interstitial models, are required.
Beyond the traditional advertising model By oﬀering advanced features that allow ads to be skipped -if oﬀered in a pure and simple linear waythere is a need to invent other advertising models. There are mainly three:
Pre-roll: A block of ads that is played at the start of each streaming session.
Post-roll: A block of ads that is played at the end of each streaming session.
Interstitial: A block of ads that is played every few minutes during the streaming session, for example, every 5 minutes.
they tend to accept the advertising better because they find it unintrusive. The interstitial model is also very interesting from a business standpoint, since viewers who surely will be watching the content with interest are then exposed to advertising that they will inevitably see, at least at an early stage. However, acceptance by viewers here is not that broad because we are actually interrupting them to show them soemthing they may not be willing to watch, That is why nearly in all instances a skip option is oﬀered in this type of interstitial advertising.
In all three types, there is the possibility of oﬀering the viewer the opportunity of avoiding advertising after the first few seconds, or forcing viewers watch them through the end. This mainly depends on the relevant commercial agreement in place. The pre-roll model is the most widespread and also the one most accepted by viewers. When viewers have not yet started to watch the chosen content,
For obvious reasons, the post-roll model is the least popular since, once the content is finished, what would force viewers to wacth ads? Even if we don’t allow them to skip ads within a few seconds, they will just shut down their browser, app or device and that’s it. However, on large screens it doesn’t work that badly. We’re lazy and it’s harder to turn them oﬀ. This non-linear advertising model can be implemented in any of AVOD, SVOD, TVOD and FAST. So…
Why FAST? For several reasons which, although not immediately obvious, have been proved right, and also because this is a model that works even better than certain now traditional VOD models.
Wide acceptance by viewers. By creating specific channels around certain themed content, viewers willingly accept to watch some advertising in return. This allows to increase the number viewers of specific content and make the model viable without having to resort to direct payments, which has been shown to be a huge entry barrier.
The channels have a lot of visibility. It’s easy for content aggregators to promote these FAST channels across their platform catalogs in an easier way than on-demand content. By knowing what content and when it will be watched, promotion among viewers more likely to watch such content becomes easier.
They have a better CPT (Cost Per Thousand). In a traditional linear channel, although diﬃcult to measure -and thus the need to resort to specialized companies such as Kantar Media for this- it is estimated that the CPT of advertising, the return of an ad falls between €10 and €25 per thousand viewers who actually watch it. In a FAST channel -this being much easier to measure since it is streaming- we have metrics and comprehensive viewing reports that show that this CPT amounts to €40 or even €50. This is due to the first reason already mentioned: better acceptance by the viewer, and also because advertising is targeted, not everyone watches the same thing, and that makes it more interesting.
They’re easy to generate. FAST channels are sometimes referred to as VOD2Live, live on-demand video. This term is not really correct at all, but it does help to understand why
they’re so easy to generate. Since these are linear channels based on VOD content that we have in our catalog, by using the right technology we can generate as many as we want, with the right advertising and for specific viewers, which makes a real diﬀerence between FAST channels and linear TV.
The real diﬀerence: a two-way channel And here’s what really sets FAST channels apart from free linear television supported by advertising. It does not lie in the fact that it may allow us to skip certain content -including advertising- or pause and resume said content whenever we want, nor that the ad blocks are not positioned at exact times in a so-called broadcast, but in the fact that all this content and advertising are specific to each viewer, or type of viewer. Bidirectionality has a huge acceptance among viewers.
Being channels that can be dynamically generated with the right technology, it is enough to use viewer content consumption metrics and statistics to be able to generate a FAST channel exactly with the content they want to watch, without fail. Viewers access their content platform and, oh magic, find a free channel that shows exactly what they want to see. In addition, the fact that certain specific information has been used to create that channel is not seen
And last, we don’t mind seeing advertising if it is of interest to us and thanks to it, we can see our desired content for free. This wellmanaged bidirectionality in the creation of FAST channels is the great diﬀerentiating factor of this new model. So much so that certain operators of traditional linear channels are beginning to apply new technologies that allow, for example -through HbbTV- replacing ad blocks as something intrusive; on
along with the large amount
broadcast through DTT,
the contrary, it is accepted
of advertising needed to
with others generated
in a good way that we are
make them viable.
specifically thanks to the
oﬀered content that we want to watch, and free of charge as well.
In addition, the streaming boom -we will see how far it goes now that it seems
metrics obtained from the relevant viewer through their Smart TV connected to the Internet.
that the bubble has been procked and watching ads
It looks like the squaring of
Oh, such a magical
in addition to paying for
the circle, and in a way it is.
content is required- makes
even major traditional
It is obvious that traditional
more attractive an oﬀering
broadcasters find this
linear channels are in the
that is also per payment
model attractive -with age
decline due to the lack
but at least allows watching
comes wisdom-, there must
of freedom and the too
what you want whenever
be something to it, for sure.
generic content they oﬀer
Aurora Media is characterized for being a broadcast agency that goes far beyond the established limits. They have specialized in guaranteeing the transmission of extreme sports content and regular sports also. This means that they dare to design, develop and implement broadcast production equipment in the most inaccessible environments on our planet: such as the cold Arctic Circle or the torrid desert of Saudi Arabia. We talked to Séan Hughes, Director of Broadcast at Aurora Media, to share with us what has been the experience of their teams, as well as the infrastructure they have deployed in these remote locations. Here you will find the testimony of those who walk where no one dares to tread. Photos copyright Super League Triathlon
What is Aurora Media and what does it specialize in? Constantly evolving, Aurora is an internationally recognised, multi-award winning media agency specialising in the turnkey production and multiplatform broadcast of global sports properties; including Formula E, Extreme E, Super League Triathlon (SLT), SailGP and Nitro RX (among others). We walk where others fear to tread and accept the challenge of producing live broadcasts from some of the most remote and technically diﬃcult environments in the world.
Superleague Arena Games London 2022.
What are the technical and human resources available to your customers?
external facility companies,
and their associated brands
considered as partners,
and specialised elements
Looking back, what
There is a core team of really talented individuals that reside on staﬀ overlooking all the diﬀerent broadcast components — from client delivery through production, editorial, digital, technical, financial, etc.—. In addition, we draw on a very strong group of 3rd party
of the production; such us
would you say has been
graphics, Outside Broadcast
the most challenging
(OB) facilities and staﬀ,
project you have worked
global technical delivery,
to oversee more bespoke
The nature of Extreme
We capture, edit and
E, which highlights the
produce content, within
problems of climate change
Aurora itself and remotely
in the most remote areas
on-site, for rights holders
of the world, involves
freezing temperatures, etc. Every resource (technical or otherwise) had to be accounted for and brought to site and then —fitting with the ethos of Extreme E— had to be removed without leaving any ecological or climate damage. Everything had to be ‘as it was’ and all produced within a Carbon Neutral environment.
considerable technical challenges in the realization of the outside broadcast. From the Saudi Arabian desert to the first live broadcast from the Arctic Circle, Aurora has taken on the challenge of producing live OBs in the most technically inhospitable, yet visually stunning, areas of the world.
develop to overcome these challenges? There was not only the technical challenge of producing the event (diﬃcult enough in its own right) but also the logistics of producing an event of this magnitude, even to the extent of managing the human resource: getting to location, camping
What solutions did you
on-site, no amenities,
Indeed, supporting the Carbon Neutral pillars that is Extreme E, the added technical challenge was that the final transmission programmes were curated and produced via a remote production solution at NEP’s production Hub in London. The main race cut was captured on-site and delivered to London as well as, via diﬀerent paths, in-car and mini cameras. There was, of course, no WiFi or connectivity on-site in the Arctic Circle, so a technically delivery system had to be designed and implemented —xhausting the brain power of our internal and external technical partners—. A localised mesh network was built and set-up at
various points around the track to capture footage across the (large) terrain of a race-track and this was then delivered to London. Afterwards, the content was augmented with graphics and commentary and, finally, broadcasted around the world.
Superleague Triathlon Arena Games Munich 2022.
It was arguably one of the most challenging OBs ever,
but also a challenge in terms of human resources, weather, logistics, etc. What equipment and manufacturers did you rely on to develop your broadcast strategy on that occasion? Ostensibly, the remote hub brought in the live feeds (race cut and special
cameras) from the event; as well as sporting graphics from Al Kamel systems (Barcelona, Spain) and more bespoke curated ‘special’ graphics from NEP Creative Animal (Hilversum, Netherlands). These were put together to produce the final programme, which was then broadcasted globally via traditional satellite paths.
NEP was the company in charge of the installations, both in terms of on-site capture and international dissemination through its remote production center in London. Al Kamel Systems built and produced the sporting graphics and NEP (Creative Animal) produced the
more specialist graphics overlaid over the live pictures. This included a fully interactive virtual map of the terrain that was produced after extensive drone tracking scanned and captured the landscape to reproduce —like for like, through the Unreal Gaming engine— the landscape for broadcast. This also featured the cars
mapped via GPS and their positioning on the track at any one time, within this virtual composite world. There were also AR drones and chase drones to fully immerse the viewer in the action. Speaking of your projects, are there any others that are particularly noteworthy
to you in terms of the technology you implemented? What are the details? We had the challenge of producing a Super League Triahtlon Arena Games as a remote broadcast production, balancing the synergy between (In Real Life) IRL and virtual Racing. An IRL swim was
Superleague Triathlon Arena Games Munich 2022.
followed by cycling and running races on indoor bikes and treadmills. These were catpured by Zwift (in Edinburgh) and sent back to the OB truck where we put them together with live pictures of athletes (largely picture-in-picture) to create a narrative of elite athletes racing in real-time against each other, but represented as avatars in a virtual world.
Very happy to say the
The actual broadcast
event won a SVG award for
technology required in the
technical innovation, which
broadcast of new sports
is testament to the vision of SLT and the delivery via Aurora and its partners (EMG, Zwift & AE Graphics). You are also in charge of the development of new sports products, is broadcast technology
rights is not one of our primary considerations. The first ever live OB from the Arctic Circle (as well as from the desert of Saudi Arabia) demonstrates the fact that Aurora welcomes and accepts the challenge in the
a determining factor
first instance —and then we
in the design of these
look at how we deliver that
More and more disruptive sports are entering the market and we need to formulate and propose solutions that ensure that the content ambitions of rights holders are met by
Aurora and our broadcast partners. In any case, we encourage world premieres, we encourage ambition and we encourage pushing the box as far as possible. It is much more
Superleague Triathlon Arena Games Munich 2022.
Superleague Arena Games London 2022.
than a challenge at first, but the rewards are equally satisfying for both Aurora and our rights holders, but also, and most importantly, for the public. Looking back, how did the pandemic aﬀect you?
It obviously accelerated the push towards remote production working. This was always going to happen — given the rightful concerns about sustainability and climate change. The pandemic helped push that agenda
quicker than it may otherwise have happened. But this also speaks to modern sports rights holders so —despite the obvious challenges of the pandemic both personally and professionally— one could say it sped up the
remote production process. SLT Arena Games was largely thought up within a pandemic world —no crowds, virtual racing in an enclosed, Covid secure environment. This was a huge, award-
Superleague Arena Games London 2022.
winning, success which demonstrates that even in the most restrictive of times, there are solutions to ensure that great ideas and content can be delivered. What workflows that you implemented at that time have remained in your way of working today? Primarily, I would say remote production models. Remote productions more and more speak to the pillar of sustainability that are at the heart of any new sports IP rights holder.
As mentioned, I think these would have been implemented anyway but the pandemic most definitely sped up the process. There was always a degree of scepticism towards change —which would have slowed down the move to remote production workflow— but the pandemic ensured there was no other option but to adopt and embrace remote working. And it has proven to be a success for a number of reasons. Regarding the sending of signals, have you developed any video
signal communication over 5G frequencies? We are constantly looking at every practical solution, whatever the delivery – traditional point to point satellites or, where this is not possible either technically or commercially, 5G mesh systems that allow delivery and transmission over secure and resilient IP networks. What is the next big revolution in broadcasting? A million dollar question! Invariably there is and will
What is the future of Aurora Media? Aurora continues to grow. We have a reputation for creative broadcast productions —as well as solutions— and welcome the challenge of sports IP rights holders looking to push boundaries. We will continue to innovate and produce content that stands above the norm. And we do this with production teams — and with the help of our partners and clients— that are all on the same page: makign innovative, groundbreaking productions that speak to modern audiences and formatted for multiple platforms and demographics. We enjoy what we do, how we do it and with whom we do it. We ensure our rights holders get results, we get things done and are proud of the recognition we have achieved in the industry. And, again, we enjoy it at the same time. Not a bad way to earn a living…
continue to be a move towards more sustainable methods of content production, delivery and broadcast as more and more productions become remote. Technically, this will become more possible as 5G resilience and redundancy improves and WiFi becomes a global mesh, supporting local economies around the world. In addition I think camera systems —depending on the sport— will become more and more automated as tracking systems develop, which will allow the broadcast of more ‘minor’ sports where OB delivery costs are prohibitive; and the Cloud will also feature heavily given this. Gaming will continue to grow and grow as younger demographics have more and more input into the sports broadcasting world which will increase the synergy between all tiers of sports rights and their gaming formats. From an editorial point of view, I believe that
sports should be adapted to diﬀerent formats that target both young people and established audiences (think cricket and The Hundred for example). Also, all sports need to be coherent with a bespoke multi-platform digital strategy given the proliferation of digital sports rights. I also think social media interaction within and around sports will continue to grow and world feed output will change as more and more territories demand bespoke programmes rather than a ‘one size fits all’ world feed. The demand for sport —particularly evident within the pandemic— has shown that it retains an incredible place as arguably the most dominant genre, particularly in an age of multiple choice and ondemand viewing. The appeal to advertisers and stakeholders of the demand for live sport means that the industry is looking both attractive and strong. Content is king. Live content is [more] king!