TM Broadcast International #111, November 2023

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NEWS - PRODUCTS

Titular noticia Texto noticia

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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 editor@tmbroadcast.com

Creative Direction Mercedes González

TM Broadcast International #111 November 2022

mercedes.gonzalez@tmbroadcast.com

Key account manager Susana Sampedro ssa@tmbroadcast.com

Administration Laura de Diego

Editorial staff press@tmbroadcast.com

Published in Spain

administration@tmbroadcast.com

ISSN: 2659-5966

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

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SUMMARY 6

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News

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

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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.

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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.

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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

HEVC video.

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

technology.

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,

future-proof investment

one complete hassle-free

both indoors and outdoors.

for their workflow,

package”, added Pisarski. 

LiveU’s patented LRT (LiveU Reliable Transport)

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NEWS - PRODUCTS

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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

functionalities it

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

broadcasters.

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-

remote location. 

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NEWS - SUCCESS STORIES

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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“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. 

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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.

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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.”

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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

owners.

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.

content metadata

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

consumption experience.

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

client needs. 

The process will be like

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NEWS - BUSINESS & PEOPLE

Quickplay and Vionlabs collaborate to improve user experience and monetization of OTT solutions Quickplay and Vionlabs

descriptors, keywords,

translates directly into

have recently announced

and more to deliver video

long-term value for the

joint technology integration.

recommendations. This

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

providers.

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,

descriptors.

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

linear channels.

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,

“Engaging subscribers

benefiting the bottom line.”

micro-genres, story

beyond marquee content

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

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

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

The present and future of graphics with

BBC Sports

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BBC SPORTS

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.

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

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?

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BBC SPORTS

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

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

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

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“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.“


BBC SPORTS

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

particularly challenging?

Olympics 2022.

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

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

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

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we have to rely on our


BBC SPORTS

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.

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

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.

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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.


BBC SPORTS

“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

all platforms.

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. 

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

The present and future of graphics with

Sky Sports

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SKY SPORTS

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.

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

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

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“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


SKY SPORTS

chain. The pandemic accelerated this

where there is large volume and similar

process greatly, as we rapidly deployed new

production chains.

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

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

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

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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


SKY SPORTS

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

37


SPORTS GRAPHICS

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

38

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.


SKY SPORTS

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?

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SPORTS GRAPHICS

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

40

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


SKY SPORTS

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. 

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QATAR 2022

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Sponsored by


VÍVARO MEDIA

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.

Sponsored by

Sponsored by

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QATAR 2022

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

44

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.

Sponsored by

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


VÍVARO MEDIA

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.

Sponsored by

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

45


QATAR 2022

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

46

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

Sponsored by

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


VÍVARO MEDIA

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

Sponsored by

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QATAR 2022

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

48

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

Sponsored by

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


VÍVARO MEDIA

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

Sponsored by

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,

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QATAR 2022

which turns out to be less

allows you to manage

In the shipment to Doha

than 100 ms.

this network?

that I mentioned earlier, the

We are also implementing

We have a management

solutions for 4K and UHD

center in Montreal. We have

resolutions.

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

infrastructure that

to the right destination.

node in Mexico City that

50

Sponsored by


VÍVARO MEDIA

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

Sponsored by

Is network orchestration done automatically or are human resources allocated? Programming requires human resources and is extremely complex. But we

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QATAR 2022

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

52

Sponsored by

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


VÍVARO MEDIA

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

production subsidiary,

Our main success story

simultaneous transmission.

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

reporting.

future.

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

Cup?

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

and friendly.

are working on solutions

with several companies

Professional Basketball

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

production. 

allows us to offer different solutions for different customers.

Sponsored by

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TECHNOLOGY

54


FAST CHANNELS

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

55


TECHNOLOGY

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

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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.


FAST CHANNELS

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.

1

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.

2

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.

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TECHNOLOGY

3

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.

4

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

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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


FAST CHANNELS

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.

Conclusion

that the bubble has been procked and watching ads

It looks like the squaring of

Oh, such a magical

in addition to paying for

bidirectionality. If

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

you want

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SPORTS PRODUCTION

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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. 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

61


SPORTS PRODUCTION

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 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,

on?

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to oversee more bespoke

etc.

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


AURORA MEDIA

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

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SPORTS PRODUCTION

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.

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It was arguably one of the most challenging OBs ever,


AURORA MEDIA

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

65


SPORTS PRODUCTION

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

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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


AURORA MEDIA

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

contents?

challenge.

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SPORTS PRODUCTION

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?

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AURORA MEDIA

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-

69


SPORTS PRODUCTION

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.

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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


AURORA MEDIA

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! 

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