Live content – EMG, a leading provider of streaming services and media solutions for sports, entertainment and events. CTO Bevan Gibson talks about the deployment in 4K HDR UHD of the Olympics
“Our group brings together unique expertise and experience that enables it to specialize in the entire value chain, from image creation to distribution. A significant part of our event consists of covering major sporting events”, explains Bevan Gibson, CTO of EMG, where he develops his idea.
Sports programming has always been the driving force behind the development of new technological solutions: indeed, audiences are constantly demanding more cameras, more angles, slower motion, more graphics and better resolution (for example, 4K or HDR UHD). To stay one step ahead, we continually develop solutions that add value while saving money and labor. One of the ways to do this is to use IP networks to centralize control and facilitate remote access.
This is how we created a new completely IP-based fly package called DiPloy. This fully modular production system takes the form of racks of different sizes in standard twelve-foot containers, allowing us to prepare special features for each event. The modules fit in a flight case and can therefore be placed where needed: some close to the action and others quite far.
One of the first major deployments of the DiPloy system was coverage of a major multisport event in Japan in the summer of 2021. For this event, the channel that will broadcast the footage has entrusted us with the responsibility of the great team. to provide the necessary technical infrastructure.
The stadium, where most athletics events are held, also hosted the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. To meet the chain’s needs and ensure full system redundancy during the opening ceremony, we created eight control galleries located in technical rooms five hundred meters from the stadium.
The first of these needs was to transmit the signal from the stadium’s cameras and microphones to the control rooms. For this, a diPloy rack was placed inside the stadium to centralize the captured signals. A fiber optic link then sent the uncompressed IP data to technical rooms, where the images were made ready for production.
While the main cameras were in 4K HDR UHD, some field cameras were shot in other resolutions. Connections used the IP protocol, but diPloy racks also accepted the SDI format. In the control room, most of the work was done in IP; however, we used existing replay servers that are in SDI and therefore need to be converted to SMPTE ST 2110 IP.
diPloy, a flawless system
A key part of DiPloy is the SNP (Selenio Network Processor) developed by Imagine Communications. The powerful and compact SNP is a device that uses software tools to provide a wide variety of functions. Each SNP occupies 1U and is equipped with four independent processors with eight 3G processing paths, each with its own software “personality” ready for any purpose.
This can be, for example, an SDI-IP conversion, resolution, format or color space change, video or audio processing, multi-viewer support and much more. In its current version, SNP provides the interface for high-speed IP connections between different units up to 400 Gbps over optical fiber.
As the industry shifts towards ever higher resolutions, European channels look for ways to adopt 4K and HDR more widely, while US channels are leaning more towards 1080p HD in HDR. SNP allows us to present different images for different destinations with ease and transparency by performing the corresponding transformations. It only takes one click to change the operations of each processing path within the SNP. This combination of power and flexibility is ideal for us and we think this tool is the true heart of diPloy.
In Tokyo this summer, SNPs converted and amplified their input signals before sending them to the control room that other SNPs reserved for production. The process is completely transparent with almost zero latency. From the technical team’s point of view, it was as if SDI cameras were plugged directly into workstations. It would be very inefficient to place eight galleries in the stadium where only certain events of this major multi-sport event are held; so we used other diPloy racks, also equipped with SNPs, to cover events held elsewhere, with production centralized near the stadium.
For the road bike, for example, he had to travel more than a hundred kilometers to the technical room of the stadium, where the footage was edited and mixed. SNPs installed in DiPloy racks then multiplexed all signals to create a single high-speed IP link.
Cameras were also used on motorcycles, helicopters, and even airplanes for coverage of the bike race: so wireless receivers were installed in appropriate locations, and other SNPs were used to communicate with the control room as needed. The delay triggered by the conversion, multiplexing, and transmission of the signal to the production switcher was so low that the director didn’t even notice it.
the future of diPloy
This incident allowed us to demonstrate quite publicly the effectiveness of the diPloy solution in separating the source of images from the source of production. There is great potential here to cover sporting events, even outside the four-year cycle of major international events. We have installed DiPloy in a new control room created at our facilities in the Netherlands, and we are working on similar projects in many major European cities. The overall goal is to centralize manufacturing operations that will reduce both costs and environmental impact.
In a week, a traditional OB van can screen three football games a week in a limited area; A diPloy control room, on the other hand, can support three matches in a single day by centralizing the footage sent by the filming equipment on the field.
Where matches are held is no longer a limiting factor. A single production team and a single director could, for example, cover two league 1 games in one working day: a match in Manchester in the afternoon, followed by a match in Prague in the evening. A director might even work with a production mixer in a Czech studio, while the editing and replay team would be in Amsterdam and the sound manager in London.
This is where diPloy provides an answer to the challenges of remote production of sports programmes. For example, at 3 pm on a winter Saturday, there may be several football and rugby games at the same time, which can put significant pressure on the limited edition OB vans available. By distributing the load among several central production facilities, it not only covers all coverage needs for football and rugby, but even hockey and handball can be added.
Without DiPloy, the equipment would spend most of its time indoors, stored in an OB truck that travels the European highways constantly to get from one stadium to the next. With DiPloy, high-performance production studios can be set up inexpensively, allowing channels to offer more tailored sports programming.
We can also create production studios that are more comfortable set up in an OB truck with enough space for the production team to rest between meetings. Team members are also more satisfied by spending more time on the creative aspect of their work and less time traveling. It can also be emphasized that the system provides less carbon emissions, as there are fewer people and materials to be transported.
Regarding SNP, we have a great working relationship with Imagine Communications. It’s nice to work with a supplier who cares about our business and our needs and takes them into account. We look forward to the implementation of JPEG XS in SNP as it will allow us to transmit even more signals over a fiber optic link with minimal delay. The SNP is an important part of our diPloy architecture: a Swiss army knife creation that offers different “personalities” in a 1U chassis, and we believe diPloy is the future of live sports programming.
The article was published for the first time mediakwest #45, p. 98-100